Saturday, November 22, 2008

Machine culture rotten to core

Is the NSW Government totally dysfunctional or is it just suffering from a series of disconnected unfortunate events?  The list of events is long and often reads like a series of episodes from a television soap drama.

A minister is jailed for being a pedophile.  He abused boys in his ministerial office yet his closest staff members deny any inkling of his behaviour.  Another minister is stood down over allegations of abusing restaurant workers and another for abusing his staff.

These are just some stories emerging from the NSW Government at its highest level.

Below this level, other stories constantly appear.

A transport union safety fund receives about $700,000 from the Government.  The transport union gives a similar amount to the Australian Labor Party.

A senior union official demands and receives from the Education Department lists of apprentices and employers in breach of privacy laws.  The union then approaches employers demanding apprentices become union members.

Senior judges caught for traffic offences pervert the course of justice to hide their offences.

At the local government level bribery and sexual favours determine who receives town planning approval for development projects.  The developers see this as normal business requirements in NSW.  Systemic bribery is revealed in a state transport department.  People caught paying the bribes plead that if they didn't bribe, they wouldn't win jobs.

Maybe there's just a lot of bad people doing bad things in NSW.  Surely we can assume the system of government remains solid and honest?  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  The overload of scandal is in fact endemic and reflects the functioning of government itself.

The problem is bigger than just bad individuals.  It's a problem created by the culture of the labour grouping that runs NSW.

It's embedded in the institutions and processes that administer NSW.  It's enforced by the laws of NSW.  It affects everyone living in NSW.  It's the factor causing NSWto descend into deepening economic recession when the rest of Australia is managing reasonably well.

Before the problem can be fixed, it needs to be understood.

NSW Labor is not just a political organisation.  It's a bigger machine than the ALP and elected parliamentarians.  It is a complex web of interconnecting, personal relationships built around families, friends and associates.  Its obvious core membership comes from unions.  But it extends to selected lawyers, academics, business representative bodies, investors and business people.  It's a large but tight group.

Ordinarily, extended networks are the lifeblood of political groups in healthy democracies.  But there's something special about how NSW Labor has institutionalised its network, which makes it uniquely powerful and corrupt.

First is the culture.  NSW Labor networkers live in a time warp, obsessed with the idea of class warfare.  They imagine that employers are evil by nature.  They fantasise that they are the guardians of good against evil.  This bonds them, giving them their justification for power.

They allow business to function but only those businesses that comply with the Labor machine.  They relentlessly try to crush businesses that are defiant.

What makes this culture so powerful is that it's given legal sanction through the NSW industrial relations system, which is unique in Australia.  Orders of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission cannot be appealed.  It overrides the authority of the High Court and NSW civil and criminal courts.  Unions are its authorised enforcers, with search, seizure and prosecution powers exceeding that of the police, tax and business regulation authorities.  This is the law in NSW.

The legal powers are all reaching beyond normal industrial relations matters to controlling commercial prices in the transport sector, overriding commercial leases and dictating who can tender for government work.  It controls construction work through agreement setting and links into town planning processes.

What is alleged to be an industrial relations system is in reality a legal mask for the delivery of power to NSW Labor.  It's awesome in its reach.

It's so powerful that it part-neuters Australia's competition watchdog, causing the competitive business environment in NSW to be corrupted.

Normal business regulation is overridden by the necessity to conform to the Labor machine.

It has taken total control of the administration of government in NSW, such that the parliamentary ALP is a government in name only.  This was demonstrated by the effective sackings of premier Morris Iemma and treasurer Michael Costa.  More significantly, the public service is controlled through a vast number of oversight committees on which only NSW Labor machine members sit.

The Labor committee and network process effectively controls the NSW government budget.  Reforms to the transport, education and health systems are frozen because any reform threatens vested labour interests within the organisations.

Great wealth has been delivered to some inside players.  Important NSW-based businesses depend on the system for their market power.  Individual fortunes have been built on it.

It's a power frequently reflected in the arrogant behaviour and even swagger of those at the top of the system.

This was demonstrated by the recent union raid on the desalination plant construction site under the cover of ministerial inspection.  Here the Labor machine is furious that a government-funded construction site is not NSW union controlled.  The site is subject to federal, not NSW, industrial relations laws.

This entrenched and unelected power structure in NSW assaults the very fundamentals of good society.  The failure to prosecute a union-owned labour hire company following the work-site deaths of three of its employees demonstrates how destructive of justice is this labour network.

What's happening in NSW is that many individual acts of corruption are being exposed.  The state's Independent Commission Against Corruption is swamped with work.  But the ICAC's powers do not extend to the systemic cause of the problem.

Corruption, dysfunctional government and the declining economy of NSW are all products of a Labor culture disconnected from normal moral reasoning.

Its extreme power is made possible because it has a mask of legal authority.


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