Trade Union Royal Commission a Waste of Time and Money

Below is the audio from yesterday's doorstops on the morning of and following the Trade Union Royal Commission.

The National Secretary outside the Trade Union Royal Commission. Picture: Andrew Casey

Transcripts Below:


Paddy Crumlin: [The Trade Union Royal Commission] looks like a waste of time and money. The whole thing really seems to be about attacking the MUA because we want to train Australians to work in an Australian industry - the hydro- carbon industry - and any employer that's co-operating with us to deliver that training is being called into the witness box. We're co-operating fully, we've got nothing to hide. The MUA's never operated a slush fund now or previously. Every dollar that's ever been put into training has gone to train Australians and that's been made clear up there. So again, we're co-operating, but this is really part of the Australian Mines and Metals [Association (AMMA)] and the Abbott Government's desire and determination to remove Australians from an Australian industry and replace them with foreign workers and they're using this Royal Commission as a vehicle to that political end.

Reporter: Because there's been absolutely no suggestion at all of any financial impropriety there, has there?

Paddy Crumlin: None whatsoever. This is a Royal Commission which has obviously been referred to them by Abbott and AMMA who have had a jihad against Australians working in their own country. They’ve used the Royal Commission and taxpayers' money for no other reason to destroy Australian workers' rights to work in their own country. It's a disgrace that Mines and Metals should be party to that, and it's a disgrace that the Abbott Government is party to a process to allow that.

Reporter: That’s one way of looking at it. You could say the union did [indistinct] as well. It did negotiate and got money for a professional training organisation. Much of that was going into training Australian workers?

Paddy Crumlin: Well, these projects are here for six months. It takes two to three years to train an Australian rating, ten years to train an Australian officer. Who's going to train them? Are they going to come out of nowhere? Are they going to pull a rabbit out of a hat every time an Australian construction starts to drill Australian oil in Australian territory? It's a nonsense. Mines and Metals don't want to train Australians and again, they're using the Royal Commission to intimidate employers that do want to work with the union, are co-operating in the long-term delivery of training, because they don't want Australians working in an Australian industry.

It's that clear, and the Royal Commission is wasting its time, its money, and its energy on the MUA on this. Like I said, we have never operated a slush fund. All of our finances are transparent. It all goes to the interests of the membership, and every dollar that came out of the negotiations with these employers trained young Australian men and women to work in their own country.

Reporter: Just what will you say if you are called to evidence today. Do you want to say anything?

Paddy Crumlin: What I just said.


Paddy Crumlin: Because the big multi-national hydrocarbon companies represented by Mines and Metals in this country won't train Australian ratings, as all the evidence indicated. So, they come out here for short periods, short projects, won't train any Australians, won't put any money up and then use that as an excuse to bring in foreign labour to man the Australian vessels, taking Australian hydrocarbons out of Australian territory without paying tax, without paying any Australian labour rights - that's what this is about.

The Abbott Government and [AMMA] have shut down Australians working in the hydrocarbon industry. All of the evidence - my witness statement went to that, it is a disgrace. This is nothing to do with the Royal Commission. There is no slush funds, every dollar that was collected off employers was given willingly to train young Australians to work on those short-term contract jobs and other jobs in the industry and for us to be dragged here because of a campaign by the Abbott Government and by [AMMA] to shut down the rights of Australian workers to work in this country, they need to be held to account.

Question: We've heard the suggestion in there that money was paid under duress and was the price paid for industrial peace. Just going off what you've said at the start multi-national companies are interested in improving the value of the Australian workforce, perhaps but they're also not really going to pay you money unless you're holding something over them. So are those monies paid under duress and are they the price of industrial peace?

Paddy Crumlin:  They're not. In fact, the only employers that were called up there today were the ones that willingly entered into a relationship to train Australians in the industry. The employers that don't want to pay that money, the employers that refuse to train Australians to work in their own country are all there out on [AMMA's] campaign. They drag these employers in and all of their evidence indicated there was no duress. All our evidence and my statement was there was no duress, there has been no duress. This has been a co-operative commitment by unions and constructive employers to ensure that young Australian men and women and Australian men and women of all ages have got an opportunity to work in an Australian industry and there was no evidence to say there was coercion whatsoever.

Question: So, why do they pay?

Paddy Crumlin: They pay because they're committed to having a proper dialogue with an Australian workforce because they are good employers, because they do what good employers do, they work in a co-operative fashion with trade unions to ensure that there are sufficient trained people to meet their needs on this project. But you've got to remember these projects run for three months. It takes two years, three years to train an integrated rating. It takes 10 years to train captain of a vessel or an engineer. Someone has to pay and they're willing to make that contribution and there has been no coercion whatsoever and there was nothing in any of the evidence, notwithstanding, the questioning by the Royal Commission that indicated that there was any coercion.

The only coercion here was [AMMA] that are seeking to use the Royal Commission to shut down an Australian industry employing Australians in it and it's a part of the Abbott Government regime, a political attack on the rights of Australians to work in their own country because it's cheaper to bring in foreign labour because they pay no tax and they get paid foreign rates of pay, far lower than Australians earn. That's all it's about.

Question: [Indistinct] 

Paddy Crumlin: There's no industrial muscle. We sit down, we want to work in our own country, it's a robust debate. You want to work in this country. You want to work in this country, you're Australian journalists, I bet it's close to your heart. Of course it's robust. But we entered into legal processes of negotiation, EBAs. We have never taken any unprotected action. We've never broken the law. We have never had a slush fund. We have never collected a dollar that didn't go to training. All of that is transparent and acknowledged up there in the Royal Commission.

We have done nothing but act legally and in the interest of our members and in the interest of all Australians to work in their own country. It is [AMMA] and the Abbott Government that want to use whatever mechanism they can to stop that, to put in an alternate workforce that aren't Australian. That was the evidence. That is the outcome. This is an absolute waste of taxpayers' money because all it is is a vehicle for an Abbott agenda of industrial relations and an [AMMA] agenda not to employ Australian workers and that's it, and that's what was set up there.

Question: [Indistinct] what was the difference in cost between foreign labour and Australian workers?

Paddy Crumlin: It's obviously substantial because if you've got a Filipino seafarer living on poverty wages who doesn't pay any tax, that that is a fair bit lower, just like a journalist's rate of pay or a truck driver's rate of pay or a miner's rate of pay or a policeman's rate of pay. It is substantially less. It is a form of tax evasion. That's why it's cheaper.

In the overall scope of things, you know when you think of the massive capital productivity of these jobs, very little. Very little. This is about an industrial relations agenda. That's why these employers up there are prepared to enter into bona fide agreements to employ Australians because it doesn't impede the cost of the contract, because they can deliver a productive contract, because it is good and they want to employ Australians.

It is [AMMA] that want to replace an Australian workforce for a whole lot of political reasons. They don't like trade unions. This is a jihad against trade unions, nothing else. It's got nothing to do with money. Australians have got a right to work in their own country, to pay tax and to operate under legally binding enterprise agreements and that's all maritime workers do. Nothing more and nothing less and we should have never been called here and it's a disgrace that [AMMA] and the Abbott Government have created the circumstances for a union like mine to be called here today.

Question: Are you disappointed you weren't called to give evidence?

Paddy Crumlin: I sat there all day. I flew across from London where I was dealing with a high level superannuation on worker's capital infrastructure that convinced international people to invest in our ports and our national interests, I flew all over weekend to come along to say exactly what I'm saying now and was not given the opportunity. Well, that says it all, doesn't it? Just more wastage without an outcome.