Monday, August 29, 2011

Unions and the ALP, and the integrity of politicians - updated

There is an old adage that one should learn from one's mistakes.

The ALP, Federally and in NSW, needs to take the opportunity to do so. The nonsense about Craig Thomson and his credit card is now simply ludicrous.

I hope everyone realises that an employee misusing their employers credit card isn't normally a criminal offence. It is normally a civil matter that would involve dismissal and recompense. We still don't know what the expenditure on Craig Thomson's credit card was, it may have been legitimate "entertainment expenses" of other people. But even if it isn't legitimate the misuse isn't necessarily "criminal". There may be other bits I'm not aware of like the question of falsely swearing statements or some specific rules governing unions.

The Australian today withdrew a story filed by Glenn Milne that was grubby in the extreme. The story itself was triggered by a post on Andrew Bolt's blog in which some old well known matters are rehashed and dressed up as a "smoking gun" for the PM while wrapped up in suggestions that no suggestion of impropriety is being made. (see note).

The issue here is the damage being done to Labor by association with Unions that have become hot beds of intrigue, if not outright corruption. It is extraordinary for Milne to claim as he does that an outbreak of Union thuggery (the shovel incident) is evidence that the unions have given up on the Gillard government.

This is to ascribe to the unions a monolithic existence akin to descriptions of "the Left" or "The Right" used to join everyone associated with it into a single stance.

Bolt in his column on Saturday also referred to the theme of "cover-up". In it he also tried to harrangue the ALP for raising Senator Fisher's problems with the law. Tony Abbott has now defended the Senator because she has "serious mental health issues".

Both Abbott and Bolt miss the point of the PMs statement - which was that the standard in Australia is innocent until proven guilty. Accusations are not a reason to resign. Indeed the constitution is very clear, even guilt and imprisonment for less than a year is not a reason to resign.

The ALP is probably right not to ask Thomson to resign from the party. It wouldn't achieve much now.

And while there is some surprise that the PM is pursuing the role of a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner the reality is that if such a position existed Mr Thomson's position would be likely to be more not less secure. The allegations have nothing to do with his integrity as an MP.

There has been a great history in the labour movement in general of concern about control from the outside. The party in the 20s and 30s struggled between communist influence and "tammany" - that is the exercise of power for the benefits it can deliver. The concern crystallised in the 40s with concerted efforts to reduce communist control in unions. But these efforts themselves became controlled from outside (by the Catholic Church based Movement).

It is time the ALP finally broke free from its industrial base and instead proudly exclaimed itself to be a democratic socialist party. In doing so it can distance itself from the grubby conduct that befalls it all too often.

Note: Mark Antony's famous soliloquy"I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him." is a classic speech in which the audience is meant to "decode" that when the speaker uses a negative it is indeed a hidden way of saying the positive.

News reports of the variety "It has been reported that John Smith brutally beat his wife. No accusation is being made that Mr Smith acted in any way other than as a caring and loving husband concerned for his life partner's well-being." clearly are designed for us to believe the first part. Why else would they be published?

Update: For a good explanation on the legal issues on Thomson and Parliament see this column by George Williams.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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