National Council Vote - Response To Accusations On Social Media

The Maritime Union of Australia National Council has unanimously endorsed the attached council vote in response to accusations on social media. 

National Council Vote 1 of 2017 - response to accusations on social media  Click Here

COUNCIL VOTE No. 01/2017


In Response to Accusation on Social Media



Update on Social Media Policy


Facebook and other forms of social media are an increasingly important way of sharing information and staying in touch with family, friends and colleagues.

But as with all forms of communication, there needs to be a set of rules to ensure everyone behaves within the acceptable norms of society for debate.

That’s why responsible and accountable groups, including the MUA, have guidelines for web content and social media use.

The union, consistent with its long history of progressive and democratic values, has its own rules and a Mutual Respect Policy endorsed by the membership.

Therefore, when social media is used in a deliberately offensive manner outside of the acceptable norms and union rules as a tool to insult, abuse or threaten members or officials, to spread false statements and make or imply accusations calculated to injure the union, these social media sites become a tool for spreading toxic bile that is not only false and highly offensive, but a form of anti collectivism and anti-unionism.

As working men and women we are committed to and aspire for the highest standards of respect for each other.

While text messages tend to be a more limited form of communication, there are also dangers in spreading misleading and incorrect information, particularly when the primary aim is to damage the reputation of the union, its officials and its members. 

In recent months there has been an increasing number of these insulting, abusive, threatening or intimidating emails and texts sent to numerous officials or similar posts made on Facebook.  

As advised in the Resolution posted on the MUA website on 23rd December 2016 the Union is in the process of looking at how our rules and policies can best deal with the increasing misuse of social media:

In the interim, there have been some inaccurate statements and accusations in posts and text messages that need to be corrected or responded to for the benefit of members and to those public, commercial and political interests and institutions that follow Facebook in particular.

In italics are some of those statements or accusations to make the membership aware of this type of misrepresentation while withholding names.

On Friday, 9th December 2016 an MUA member sent the below text message to numerous officials around the country stating:

            Within 2 months (MUA national official) will have lost his position in the mua & the itf & possibly facing criminal charges, most national officials gone, the officials that sat idle by and watch (MUA national official) destroy our shipping industry and never lifted a finger to stop him, gone, the union is being purged the members are taking there union back, spoke to a liberal politician today his eyes lit up like the scg.

We as a union do not and will not abide corruption. It is the basic responsibility of every member of this union if they are in receipt of factual proof of corruption at any level within this union to present that evidence and have it dealt with through the proper and transparent processes of the union and the law.

It is worth noting that over the years, the MUA and its predecessor unions have been the target of numerous royal commissions that were designed to bring this union down.

With all of the millions of dollars of investigative resources and judicial powers made available to them, not one of those royal commissions has presented any evidence of corruption or breaches of corporate governance within the MUA.

That said, any member that casts unfounded aspersions against other members, officials or the union or that unilaterally contacts hostile politicians with the express aim of spreading misinformation and bringing down the union is in clear breach of the rules of the union.

Our processes of debating issues and finding consensus or majority decisions is outlined in the union rules and policies as through orderly and transparent participation and governance, whether it be through ship or site committees or meetings, monthly meetings, branch conferences the National Council and Executive and ultimately the Quadrennial Conference of members that was held in February last year.  

That is how we find our voice and make our decisions.

Part of the attack on trade unions by the Federal Government has been instigated by their proposition that the trade union movement is corrupt as a whole.

This is a disgraceful political position against a fundamental Australian social political and industrial organization that has secured many of the things Australians value in the quality of their working, family and retirement lives.

 On 14 December 2016 the below was posted on Facebook by an MUA member:

·           what does concern me is (MUA national official) being able to lend (MUA and ITF National Officials) 800 thousand each to bye there houses, (MUA national official) came over from the west to go into national office, (ITF national official) has nothing to do with the MUA he works for the ITF why didn't they give him the money for his dwelling, so does that mean [MUA national official] can lend money from union funds to anyone he likes, something is wrong there, the changes to our elections , every national officials, every Sydney official, the Newcastle, Port Kembla, Adelaide sec have all been appointed every single one of them,

·         (MUA member) stood against (MUA national official) and got the second most votes out of any rank/ file member in over a 120 years

Fact 1: Any member from any state or branch that stands at an election for a national officer position and is successful has traditionally had to relocate their family to reside in Sydney.

The Sydney housing market has been the most expensive in the country, and to ensure that the cost of relocation would not present an impediment that would prevent any member that wished to stand from doing so and to assist with those relocating housing costs those successful candidates are provided with a housing loan at up to 2 per cent below the average prevailing market rate and are subject to the normal repayment structure that applies to any loan.

These loans are formally arranged through lawyers, are audited accordingly, reported on every year in our audited reports and are not granted other than through these transparent processes signed off on each year by our membership at Our Annual General Meetings

Since 1994, the recipients of these loans have been; Mick O’Leary, Jim Tannock, Rick Newlyn, Mick Doleman, Ian Bray and Dean Summers. The two loans mentioned in the in the Facebook posting were not $800,000 each loan but $300,000 and $135,000 respectively and of those the $300,000 loan has been repaid in full.

There is only one of these loans current with the rest having been paid in full and closed out, while the ITF covers the differential in loans applicable to them.

Fact 2: There has been no change to the MUA election process.

Fact 3: The reference to every National Official, and the Sydney, Newcastle, Port Kembla and Adelaide Branch Secretaries having all been appointed is clearly wrong with each of those positions being open for contesting at each quadrennial national election. 

Fact 4: In the election cited, the MUA Member received just over one third of the vote and the result was not contested.

The MUA has had to respond to these primary allegations of serious corruption and misconduct because they are designed to bring the union into public disrepute.

Some of those involved in spreading these factually incorrect and baseless allegations have indicated in various correspondence, of which we have records and which is outlined above in the first text, have gone and spoken to Liberal National Party politicians about their claims.

At different times some members of this group have actually copied in Michaelia Cash (Minister for Employment and the architect of the attacks on unions and specifically Australian seafarers in the Offshore and Bluewater) and anti-union columnists from the press, alleging misconduct.

This is conduct designed to benefit the political enemies of the MUA and destroy the union itself.

There have also been instances where posts have been made, and text messages sent, purporting to be from MUA members or retired members who have no knowledge of the messages being sent.

A statement from retired Sydney Branch Deputy Secretary Glenton Wood rejecting these actions can be read here:

This type of behaviour is directed at damaging this union and will be dealt with on that basis. 

This union will not continue to accept this type of anti-union attack on the union generally nor on the elected officials or officers.

Unionism must reflect the highest values of mutual respect and transparent process and accountability in order to protect and construct both individual and collective rights.

This sits at the heart of the MUA historically, today and into the future.

What this report does not go into is the intimidation and personal abuse aimed at officials and their families that are a constant on the Facebook posts and in texts from these same individuals, partly because much of the language used and the bile and abuse are not fit for posting on our official MUA site but also because although it is equally designed to damage this union as well as those it is directed against such abuse cannot simply be answered with facts as can be done with baseless accusations.

We will however be reporting these abuses directly to our membership through the union structures identified in this statement.

Suffice to say that the vast majority of MUA members would join with current and past members who have posted on Facebook and have sent messages of support condemning the scurrilous attacks on our officials and their families. We have historically taken a firm and clear hand against these abuses and will continue to do so in the interest of the whole of the membership.

MUA here to stay!