Yesterday, Australia’s Royal Commission into Trade union corruption and slush funds revealed that yet another Labor man, Cesar Melhem MP, has been accused of rorting AWU members at the Spotless cleaning company when he was AWU Secretary.
The Royal Commission has heard that Melhem while Secretary of the Australian Workers Union (2006-2013) had extended an outdated Howard WorkChoices enterprise bargaining agreement to save Spotless subsidiary company, Cleanevent, some $2 million in labour costs.
Whose interests was Melhem looking after?
Melhem has admitted under questioning, that he was aware most of casual workers at Cleanevent were being disadvantaged by the outdated agreement, where the industry rate was $50 and hour, but were being paid $22 and hour, so being underpaid by millions.
Melhem was also aware of the AWU slush fund receiving $25,000 a year to ensure the union allowed the company to rip off the workers. But Melhem has tried to point the finger at former AWU delegate, John-Paul Blandthorn, who just happens to have been promoted to advising Labor’s Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Melhem’s version is that the slush fund deal had been negotiated by Blandthorn out of the AWU’s national office in Sussex Street Sydney, not out of Melhem Victorian branch in West Melbourne.
In any case the AWU dudded the workers by signing off on the contentious enterprise bargaining agreement in return for receiving annual slush fund payments from Cleanevent of $25,000.
The union recorded these as “service fees”, which is what you do in Lebanon, but in Australia it is called bribery and corruption.
So sack both of them!
Given that the AWU’s national office at 377-383 Sussex Street, Sydney is on level 10 and the NSW Labor Council is on level 9, it would be inconceivable that the Labor Party apparatchiks were not aware of the union’s slush funds for campaigning purposes. This building is the heart of ALP power and influence in Australia. ASIO should bug the place.
Counsel assisting the Royal Commission inquiry, Jeremy Stoljar, said the benefits to Cleanevent, a subsidiary of Spotless, included about $2 million in savings, which it would otherwise have paid its employees in wages and penalty rates.
He said the AWU also benefited under the deal by artificially inflating its membership numbers, which, in turn, gave it a greater level of representation on the Labor Party conference floor. “In short, the benefits to Cleanevent and the AWU are obvious,” Mr Stoljar said. “The persons who miss out are the workers.”
Union delegates selling out workers? Nice.
Logo: “We’ll take care of it!“
Not a spotless history
Spotless has a record of dudding its employees. In December 2013, back paid more than $90,000 in entitlements it had failed to pay 1000 of its workers at its subsidiary companies Spotless Services Limited and Berkeley Challenge Pty Ltd.
Only after workers complained to the Fair Work Ombudsman, did Spotless reimburse $42,544 in underpayments to 275 employees and former employees, and then another 21 complaints resulted in a further $49,889 in underpayments being reimbursed.
Spotless entered into the Proactive Compliance Deed last year after the Fair Work Ombudsman received 200 complaints from employees of its companies over a six-year period resulting in back-payments of $200,000, and an investigation found hundreds of its casual employees at Paterson’s Stadium in Perth had been underpaid almost $85,000 on Anzac Day in 2009 and 2010.
Cesar Melhem as AWU Secretary in 2010, with his Leb mates
Labor cronyism, corruption and self-interest is rife.
As for Labor and Unions representing ordinary Australian workers – yeah right.
The Labor MP repeatedly denied accusations that the arrangement was struck as a trade-off for the payments and a list of casual cleaning staff that the union used to artificially inflate the union’s membership base.
Cesar Melhem (a Lebanese) is Labor’s upper house representative in Victoria for the safe Labor seat of Western Metropolitan Region. He is Government Whip in the Legislative Council.
The Labor Party apparatchiks parachuted Melhem into the Victorian Parliament two years ago on May 9, 2013. Labor sourced Melhem from the union ranks of the Australian Workers Union (AWU). Melhem had muscled his way up union officialdom to replace Bill Shorten in 2006 as State Secretary.
Shorten had been parachuted by Labor from the AWU in 2006 to Labor’s safe federal seat of Maribyrnong.
According to Mr Melhem’s previous public statements, the fund was set up as an election fighting fund and to back “progressive” causes. But Mr Melhem was grilled at the commission last month about whether the slush fund was, in fact, used to back his Labor factional allies, to propel his own career or for personal spending.
Parachuting and branch stacking is how Labor works.
Opposition industrial relations spokesman Robert Clark said Mr Melhem had failed to adequately explain how penalty rates were apparently sold out for payments to union coffers, and called on Labor to stand him down until the allegations were resolved.
This is because Melham has form.
Another Union Slush Fund Exposed
After the royal commission last year heard evidence he spent almost $30,000 from the union slush fund account, called ‘Industry 2020‘, on personal expenses without reimbursement. Melham set up the slush fund two years to his job as AWU Secretary in 2008, generating more than $500,000 in contributions from other unions and employers, including building giants Grocon, John Holland and Thiess.
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was a guest speaker at two of three Industry 2020 fund-raising events. In fact Shorten was a star drawcard at two of the three Industry 2020 fundraisers held between 2008 and 2012.
Documents tabled at the commission also revealed how the AWU reminded one big employer that the purchase of tickets to AWU-linked fund-raisers helped ensure a “good working relationship”.
Melhem is accused of using the slush fund money to fund his election campaign to get into Victorian Parliament. Labor told him to be ready for when a vacancy arose. This is where he could do bigger deals for his Lebanese familia.
Counsel Stoljar, at a previous inquiry has accused Melhem of “improperly” using his position and breaching the duties he owed his former union by raising more than $500,000 for a slush fund that was later spent on political donations and himself.
In October 2014, Fairfax Media identified 55 transactions involving apparent personal spending by Mr Melhem from a credit card linked to Industry 2020, which Mr Melhem shut down prior to his entering State Parliament. Records of Mr Melhem’s spending between 2009 and 2013, when he was AWU secretary, reveal outlays on what appear to be luxury items, including restaurants or accommodation at hotels in Singapore, Britain, Lebanon, France and Denmark. In Melbourne, Mr Melham spent $1300 at the Red Emperor restaurant in Southbank, $1225 at Scusami restaurant at Southbank, $4500 at Dan Murphy’s and First Choice Liquor, and more than $5000 at JB Hi-Fi.
The commission quizzed Melhem about $842 spent on cigars from Habanos Singapore. He told the inquiry the cigars were a gift and that he had later reimbursed the fund.
At the same time that Melhem got the plum job as AWU Secretary in 2006, Labor parachuted Lebanese Khalil Eideh (61) to its safe Victorian upper house seat of Western Metropolitan, replacing Martin Philip Pakula of Polish immigrant descent.Melbourne Western Metropolitan Region is traditional Australian working class heartland. It includes suburbs of Altona, Essendon, Footscray, Kororoit, Niddrie, St Albans, Sunbury, Sydenham, Tarneit, Werribee and Williamstown. This region has long been allocated to immigrant workers, which are now Labor’s main voter base.
Eideh is a member of the Alawi sect of Islam. The muslim demographic is another voter base Labor is courting, especially after Rudd-Gillard let in tens of thousands of them.
So when Labor installed Melhem to Western Metropolitan, Labor’s Lebs were running Melbourne West, and Lebs back in the home country are notorious for deal making.
So who has Lebanese Melhem been deal making with?
Melhem has doled out more than $100,000 from a controversial slush fund to a string of community and sporting groups linked to Labor factional dogfights and branch-stacking, and in one case to a community association secretly run by a senior Labor MP.
Melhem spent as much as $100,000 on elections with the disgraced Health Services Union including tens of thousands of dollars to factional chieftain David Asmar, husband of current HSU Victorian secretary Diana Asmar (a Lebanese).
Among the fund’s political beneficiaries was Victorian lower house whip and western suburban MP Marlene Kairouz (a Lebanese) and signatory to accounts for the little-known ‘Labor Community Alliance Association‘ (slush) fund. Kairouz is now Cabinet Secretary in Daniel Andrew’s Labor Government in Victoria. The fund’s primary stated purpose is: “To encourage and provide support for persons for involvement in the political life of Victoria.” Melhem gave the association $20,000 in May 2013 as he wound up Industry 2020 and prepared to take his safe seat in the Victorian upper house.
Kairouz also has another slush fund, ‘AB Hinc‘, which received funds from former Health Services Union leader Kathy Jackson in 2010.
Melhem also donated $700 to Lebanese Forcez Inc Victoria-Australia, a group that appears to have links to a Lebanese political party and former Christian militia. A Christian, Mr Melhem fought in the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s.
And ASIO let him in?
In May 2013 Mr Melhem gave $40,000 to an AWU-controlled fund, the ‘Victoria Office Policy and Social Club‘ (a front for what?).
Confidential minutes seen by Fairfax Media show that Melhem’s donation was conditional on $9000 being given to the Cairnlea Football (soccer) Club, which is closely associated with Natalie Suleyman and her Turkish father, Hakki, a factional heavyweight who works in the electoral office of federal Labor frontbencher Stephen Conroy. Natalie Suleyman was former mayor for western Melbourne’s Brimbank and yes ex-AWU delegate and of Labor’s feminazi Emily’s List faction. She’s now in Victorian State Parliament in one of those safe Labor seats. Perhaps the $40,000 helped somewhat.
But Ms Suleyman, who has since been preselected for the Victorian state seat of St Albans in the upcoming state election, also appears to have won support from Melhem’s convenient union slush fund.
Mr Melhem in being questioned last September by the royal commission about a separate Industry 2020 payment of $5000 to Cairnlea soccer club in 2012, said he believed the payment was for an ALP fundraiser held at the club. Perhaps this helped Natalie Suleyman MP.
In September 2014, the commission heard how up to $100,000 was spent by Industry 2020 on elections in the Health Services Union, and of Mr Melhem’s payment of cash cheques from the fund to Labor factional players.
At the Royal Commission hearing into union corruption back in October 2014, Cesar Melhem a month prior had used $9,600 from a union slush fund to donate to a think tank, just days before his first commission appearance last month. Apparently the undisclosed think tank refused to bank Melhem’s donation without an assurance it wasn’t from a controversial slush fund overseen by him, or any other suspect source being probed by the commission. No such assurance has been given.
So Melhams ‘Industry 2020‘ AWU slush fund was clearly far more lucrative than the AWU’s ‘Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association’ (slush fund), which managed to pay $5000 for some private renos in Fitzroy.
Such has become union values with so many foreign ethnics of lesser values in their ranks. Such has become Labor values as they promote foreign union delegates into safe Labor seats so that Labor can hold on to power. Labor values only its own and foreigners these days. What workers?
It has also been revealed that AWU membership numbers increased year on year under Melhem’s power and influence, with allegations Melhem inflated the numbers to boost AWU delegate numbers at ALP conferences and, therefore, a greater say in crucial decisions including around ALP candidate pre-selection. Strangely, when Melhem got the MP gig, his successor, Ben Davis, saw AWU membership suddenly collapes by 30%.
Labor’s patriarch Graham Richardson has always said that the Labor Party was about whatever it takes to seize power then to stay in power. That is why it parachutes its corrupt union delegates into safe Labor seats. More so these days Labor’s candidate pool comes from locally influential immigrants. It’s the power and influence strategy to get votes whatever it takes.
Lebanese Proverb: “If you conduct yourself properly, fear no one.“
More importantly, Australian Citizenship Pledge:
“From this time forward, under God,
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect, and
whose laws I will uphold and obey.”