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Labor needs to tame or expel its corrupt union affiliates

By Graham Young - posted Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Since the Rum Rebellion of 1808, corruption in public life has been a serious problem in Australia.

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme," and in Queensland its meter seems to be 14 years. In 1987 the Fitzgerald Inquiry laid bare corruption and abuse of power in the Bjelke-Petersen government. 14 years later it was Labor and the Shepherdson Inquiry in 2001.

Now in 2015 the Dyson Royal Commission has revealed widespread wrong-doing including extortion, blackmail and assault amongst some of the trade unions that control the ALP.


But the tune has changed.

In 1987 it was good men and women within Bjelke-Petersen's Queensland National Party that eventually toppled Petersen.

In 2001 it was Premier Beattie who instituted Shepherdson, eventually forcing the resignation or expulsion of 3 of his own MLAs.

Where are the good men and women in the party now? The ALP has been doing its best to excuse and defend these instances of criminality.

The only Labor member who appears at all concerned about the latest revelations is very-former Premier Beattie, who called for the CFMEU, to show cause why it shouldn't be disaffiliated from the ALP.

The rotten Bjelke-Petersen culture festered and prospered because of a widespread feeling "that's just the way it is".


Brothel owners and illegal casino operators have always paid-off police, and politicians have always been partial to bribes, so the argument went, and anyway, these guys are no worse than their Labor predecessors.

Now the argument appears to be that unions will be unions, and that's OK, because they stand up for the worker.

Well the "boys will be boys" syllogism wasn't OK 30 years ago, and it isn't now. And arguably the infection of the political realm by union corruption is a more serious threat to democracy than anything that happened in the Petersen years.

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An edited version of this article was published in the Courier Mail.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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