An election vote buying deal made three days before the federal elections last year, which effectively won the support of Tasmanian timber workers has
been exposed, involving Australia's Prime Minister John Howard. A taxpayer funded deal between the leader of the forestry union Michael O'Conner and
the PM, ensured the support of the timber industry's blue collar labour voters with an agreement by the prime minister to pay 4 Million Australian
dollars to a union controlled company. The money was earmarked for skills and training.
Officially signed-off by Mr Howard after the election, the money will flow to an advisory board dominated by Mr O'Connor's union, the
financially-strapped forestry division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.
The left-wing CFMEU is the sworn enemy of Mr Howard, but its renegade forestry division, led by Mr O'Connor, formed a special relationship with the
Prime Minister in the last days of the election campaign.
Labor leader Mark Latham had shunned the union proposals.
In a turning point in the election, Mr Howard was cheered by several hundred timber workers when he unveiled the package to preserve 170,000 hectares
of Tasmanian old-growth forest with no job losses, three days before the October poll.
According to documents obtained by The Australian, Mr Howard agreed during pre-election negotiations, as part of the package, to commit $4 million
over four years to the Forest and Forest Products Employment Skills Company. The company, known as FAFPESC, is an advisory board for the timber
industry, with joint union and employer representatives but traditionally dominated by the CFMEU.
It is chaired by the CFMEU's forestry division national secretary, Trevor Smith, and Mr O'Connor, his deputy, is also a director and prime lobbyist
for FAFPESC's interests.
FAFPESC has a history of sub-contracting work to another organisation that is wholly controlled by the CFMEU, called Forest Industry Employment
Training Services, or FIET.
In 2002, the Bracks Labor Government in Victoria gave $3.9 million over three years to FAFPESC to provide worker support and training services. The
work was sub-contracted to the CFMEU-owned FIETS to provide advice, site visits, identification of job vacancies, counselling, financial planning
advice and worker support. Most of these tasks are normally 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.
Hundreds of workers had been mobilised to greet Mr Howard on the day. "We didn't warm them up but I made clear to the workers that we had timber
industry coverage and represented all timber workers and should behave accordingly," Mr O'Connor said.
The union leader confirmed that the $4 million in Government funding was to go to FAFPESC, although he did not believe it would flow to FIETS.
In May, Mr Howard said, after reaching formal agreement with the Tasmanian Government, that he wanted to "especially thank" the contribution made to
negotiations by Mr O'Connor and his CFMEU colleagues. According to minutes of a FAFPESC board meeting last December, Mr O'Connor reported that "a
commitment of $4 million over four years was achieved and the Prime Minister is aware that the commitment needs to be implemented".
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Shame Shame Shame. Using tax payers money to buy votes and give away cash is despicable and low. But John Howard continues to do what he wants
without regard for the Australian people and what they wanted.
The turning point in the election came for John Howard when he secured the votes of the forestry workers in Tasmania who are usually staunch labour
blue collar supporters.
I too could become Prime Minister and secure and election victory by throwing cash around and using tax payers funds to ensure my party a victory. Why
is this allowed to continue?
Daily John Howard gets more smug and secure and totally scorns and disregards his constituents. His attitude of not giving a damn what people think
and barrelling through his policies to make into laws is making many Australians unhappy and disappointed in the leadership but how far will it go
before everyone says enough?
The labour party could not acess the same taxpayer funds funds and therefore were disadvantaged during the elections.
[edit on 6-10-2005 by Mayet]