Union bullies pressure Shorten on boat turn backs
POWERFUL union leaders are set to demand Bill Shorten stops turning back people-smuggling operations at sea and ends offshore detention, putting pressure on the politician they helped elevate into the leadership.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal the final policy document of the ACTU, the unions' peak body, voted on by all of its affiliated unions on Wednesday, calls for "an end to offshore solutions" that breach Australia's international obligations under the UN Refugee Convention, along with stopping the practice of turning around boats full of illegal arrivals.
The ACTU confirmed this policy document will form the basis of a list of demands the unions will make on Mr Shorten at the ALP National Conference in December, ahead of the federal election.
"The offshore 'processing' system of asylum seekers in Nauru and Manus Island is discriminatory, and lacks transparency and independent oversight," the ACTU congress policy document states.
"Congress rejects other policies of 'deterrence' implemented alongside offshore detention, especially intercepting and turning back boats at sea, or transferring refugees to other vessels for immediate return to their countries of origin without a proper assessment of their claims for protection."
SHARRI MARKSON: WHY SHORTEN IS BEHOLDEN TO UNIONS
Mr Shorten's alliance with several powerful unions, including the CFMMEU, Transport Workers Union, Health Services Union, Australian Workers Union and the Shoppies Union was a political strength that helped secure him the leadership.
But there are now growing concerns from Labor MPs, particularly from the Right faction, that Mr Shorten is under pressure to adopt left-wing social and economic policies to appease the unions that backed him into the leadership - and that will see him at odds with the Australian electorate.
Already, ALP sources say Mr Shorten's rhetoric of bashing the "top end of town" was language used by the union movement.
"The concern is that Bill doesn't stand up enough to the unions and the real worry is that the caucus and the ministry are going to be beholden to arrangements or deals on policy that have been made without them being at the table," a source said.
The CFMMEU passed a motion at the NSW Labor conference calling on the party to introduce a labour hire licensing scheme to "eliminate labour hire practices which undermine industry standards, job security and exploitation of vulnerable workers".
On Wednesday, Mr Shorten announced labour hire changes to ensure contract workers are paid the same as permanent employees.
The TWU, which supported Mr Shorten into the leadership and whose head Tony Sheldon is taking the number one spot on the NSW Labor Senate ticket at the next election, has called for regulation of the on-demand economy, like Uber and Air BnB, to stop "old fashioned exploitation at play in modern Australia".
Just this week at the ACTU congress, Mr Shorten spoke about his concerns over people who work several jobs to make ends meet, referring in part to the share economy.
"I do not want creeping casualization and insecure work, the so-called 'gig economy' which means people and their labour are treated as mere commodities," he said.
The practice of Mr Shorten giving in to demands made by the unions dates back as far as 2013, ahead of the leadership ballot against Anthony Albanese.
The national secretary of the CFMMEU is Michael O'Conner, whose brother, Brendan O'Connor, is Mr Shorten's workplace relations shadow minister, wrote Mr Shorten a letter dated September 19, 2013 that asked for his view on a range of policy positions, from climate change to workplace relations.
"Your answers to these questions will be vital in helping CFMMEU members decide who they will support for the position of leader," it stated.
In the reply letter from Mr Shorten dated 24 September, 2013, the Labor leader makes very detailed commitments to oppose the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, to support in Parliament measures to stop mining companies from hiring fly in-fly out workers and on climate change.
Mr Shorten committed to oppose moves by the Liberal Government to "abolish carbon pricing and unwind reforms to address climate change."
CFMMEU official John Setka recently attacked the Rudd and Gillard Government for achieving "nothing" for workers, indicating he would be applying pressure on current Labor leadership.
"Some of the same people who ere in charge then now have a chance to redeem themselves," he said.
Asked whether Mr Shorten was beholden to the unions, his spokesman said the story was a "joke". "It's not breaking news that Labor consults with representatives of working people, just like we talk to other sections of the community," he said.
"Bill's focus is on delivering a fair go for all Australians, not tax breaks for the top end of town."