Howard secretly promised a $4 million gift to a forestry union group just three days before the last election. This explains why the loggers, with encouragement from the union, rejected an $800 million forest jobs package offered by Mark Latham, for the $70 million package offered by Howard. This and the jubilant response by loggers for the Prime Minister in Launceston just didn’t make sense at the time.
Union boss takes $4m
But now it’s all out. Michael O’Connor, the CFMEU forestry boss, accepted the secret $4 million gift. Why? Because he dominates the advisory board* that scored the money. O’Connor’s union-controlled advisory board scored $4 million but Tasmania lost $730 million in the trade off.
This is pure political corruption and another example of how John Howard has deceived Australian voters. Howard also promised no logger would lose their job but already many have and Gunns continues to cut back work while screwing down surviving contractors to below survival rates.
Bob Brown pointed out that one minute Howard is bashing unions as having no role to play in a modern economy, and the next he is propping up the most backward and anachronistic union in Australia. Bob tried to move a motion for a senate enquiry into this deal but was blocked by the new senate majority.
* The company, Forest and Forest Products Employment Skills Company is an advisory board for the logging industry, with joint union and employer representatives but traditionally dominated by the CFMEU. FAFPESC has a history of sub-contracting work to Forest Industry Employment Training Services, which is wholly controlled by the CFMEU. In 2002, Bracks gave $3.9 million to FAFPESC. The work was sub-contracted to FIETS to provide services that are usually carried out by the union. FIETS operates out of the same building as the Victorian CFMEU forestry division and is regarded as part of the union.