Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Bill Shorten before the Union Royal Commission

I was totally sidetracked this morning by the live feed coming from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's appearance at the Union Royal Commission. It's not what I meant to do, but I am glad that I have watched. I will continue watching once it comes back on, but I wanted to give an instance response.

My first reaction in watching was just how much I would hate to go through something like that. My second reaction was interest in the theatre of it all. As part of this, I acquired an instinctive dislike of the Counsel assisting the Commission.

This morning's hearing centered on two main things.

The first were the terms and conditions of the employment of Mr Shorten's campaign director. This was funded directly or indirectly by Unibilt. Bit confusing here, for there were two companies with similar names. From this emerged the fact that a declaration for this contribution had only been recently lodged. Clearly, the Commission was attempting to establish that there was something shonky about either the the donation or that it was in some way linked to favours.

The second was the nature of an enterprise agreement with a cleaning company. Here the apparent aim is to establish that workers were disadvantaged  in some way with benefit to the Australian Worker's Union.

Following the morning's hearings, I checked on media reaction. I must have been watching a different spectacle from reporters present, especially those in the Murdoch press. Obviously the failure to declare the 40k donation is important, although I can see how it might have happened because you have both electoral and consolidated party returns.

I went into the hearing with an open mind. It provided quite fascinating insights into the way processes work. However, and in the absence of new material this afternoon, nothing has been revealed that might (or should) provide that smoking gun. I went into the hearing with a relatively low opinion of Mr Shorten. Even though by lunchtime Mr Shorten was losing his cool, I would have collapsed long before this, I went through a total attitude shift. I really had no understanding of the man's strengths.

We will see what come out this afternoon and in later hearings. Clearly, it will do some political damage. The press reaction shows that. However, the live streaming allows someone like me to make my own judgments before seeing the press reporting.

Afternoon Session

My main reaction this afternoon was to thank heaven that I am not a current politician. My second reaction was to wonder how many deals I negotiated could stand up to that type of scrutiny. The main focus was on the Clearevent enterprise agreement.. Mr Shorten clearly became uncomfortable in discussion on internal company documents providing information that he was not aware of. His evidence will resume tomorrow.

Postscript

 Looking at media coverage. This is Andrew Bolt in Melbourne's Herald Sun; news.com.au; Mr Bolt also appears in the Courier Mail; Sky: the Government thinks that Mr Shorten is a bit like Craig Thompson; I'm not able to give you the Australian's covereage for it's all behind paywalls, but the headlines are universally negative; Michelle Grattan in the Conversation; Michael Gordon in the SMH (and other Fairfax media as well); finally, the Guardian.      

.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

At the Beaconsfield mine collapse not one Government member came to the scene but AWU leader Bill Shorten was there for the full ordeal - tells something of the character of the man I feel

Jim Belshaw said...

Thank you, anon. I had forgotten that, although I was very impressed at the time.

Anonymous said...

Definition of irony:

Arthur Sinodinos on Sky News commenting upon Shorten's failure to remember/declare a $40k donation to his election funds.

What is that word I'm searching for? Oh yes - LOL

kvd

Jim Belshaw said...

Oh dear, kvd. See your point!

marcellous said...

I watched a little bit yesterday. It was agonising. Consensus with a fellow lawyer was that although undoubtedly he would have been told, Shorten was treating it still like question time or a press conference rather than like a cross-examination. He should have kept his answers shorter and more minimalist but making sure he either answered the question or forthrightly said why he was unable to(eg: unable to recall where he was on 9 November 2006) or did not accept an assumption behind the question. Then there would have been less time for nervous shifting in the witness box or drinking water etc.

Jim Belshaw said...

That's a fair comment, marcellous. It was agonising at time. The more detailed explanations were intended for public consumption, but created their own problems in what is effectively a court. There are some interesting issues in all this.

marcellous said...

Dyson Heydon gave "ex gratia" advice to Shorten about the manner of his answers which has since been given some media airing. The bit that got the headlines was about his being concerned with Shorten's "credibility" but it was really the textbook advice to a witness being cross-examined. It included the point that by answering in the way he was answering he was protracting the hearing time and likely to have to come back for more than the more he was originally anticipated to have to come back for on a later occasion.

Anonymous said...

Really pleased to read your last two comments marcellous; I thought I must have been seriously out of step in my understanding of Commissioner Heydon's comments.

He must be livid at the misinterpretation of his advice to Mr Shorten - some of the left commentary has been very close to defamatory, I believe.

kvd

marcellous said...

KVD,I don't know what left commentary you mean. However, rest assured that Heydon will be as tough on the unions as he can be on the evidence before him and within the terms of reference. He wouldn't have taken or been offered the gig otherwise.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi marcellous and kvd. Marcellous, perhaps Mr Shorten should have read your comment! kvd, can you give me an example of the left commentary? Not challenging, just interested.

Anonymous said...

Jim, I will not sully your blog by repeating such awful offal waffle :)

Suffice to say the (keyboard) warriors of the left and right are equally capable of taking plain words and bending them to their own ends.

kvd

Jim Belshaw said...

That's certainly true enough, kvd. I was just wondering about patterns. Unless I make myself, I tend not to read stuff emanating from far "left" and far "right". I actually think that's a weakness. There are some funny fault lines around at the moment.