The Guardian October 25,2000


Reith of the ruling class

by Marcus Browning

Peter Reith. He's a real class act  the ruling class, that is. This is 
the man who slandered trade unionists, using the mass media to publicly 
denigrate waterside workers and accuse them of all manner of rorts as part 
of his drive to destroy the Maritime Union of Australia. In that dispute he 
illegally conspired with employer Patrick Stevedoring to lock out workers 
and bring in Dubai-trained scabs.

If Reith is not the actual architect of the ant-union Workplace Relations 
Act, he's certainly its chief executioner. In this role of union 
exterminator he has served the ruling class with unstinting loyalty and 
ruthlessness.

This is why, despite all the revelations showing obvious misuse of his 
taxpayer-funded Telecard, Reith has thus far not been sacked or faced legal 
action.

In a recent article in The Australian Financial Review, Peter 
Holding  a barrister specialising in unfair dismissal law  wrote about 
a Telstra salesman who withdrew cash advances of $10,000 with his Telstra 
credit card, highlighting the class bias of the law and the legal system.

Even though the salesman claimed not to have known his action was against 
Telstra policy, he was sacked. When he took his unfair dismissal case to 
the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, the Commission dismissed 
it, saying: "It is beyond comprehension in my view that he could have held 
this position for so long and not realised the significance of using the 
credit card for private use."

The employee told Telstra he would immediately repay the $10,000, but he 
was sacked any way.

The United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia noted that Reith 
knew that allowing his son to use his phone card was against Government 
guidelines, yet he has not been dismissed.

The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, which covers workers in 
the communications sector, asked if there has been an attempt to cover up 
Reith's Telecard misuse.

The union understands that immediately following the discovery by Telstra 
investigating officer/s of potential Telecard fraud by Reith, the case was 
taken over by higher management. Soon after there was a major 
reorganisation and the investigating officer or officers were moved out of 
that particular area.

Then, on October 18 a strict gag on information relating to the affair was 
placed on certain Telstra staff by management.

"Further, we do know that there is a particularly close relationship 
between some senior managers at Telstra and some senior members of the 
Federal Government", said the Secretary of the union's Victorian Branch, 
Len Cooper.

"This is clearly on the record, for those who wish to inquire."

The union has called for a Senate enquiry into the reasons for the delay in 
bringing the issue to light so many months after it was raised by the 
Department of Finance and Telstra staff.

The union also asks why only three cases of apparent misuse of the card, by 
Reith's son, Ms X and Mr Y, are the focus of investigation when it is clear 
their activities don't account for the total misuse.

"Our members are suffering unbelievable harassment, pressure and even job 
loss over what has been in some instances the most minor of alleged 
indiscretions, and even for being involved in union activity", said Len 
Cooper.

"Why should those who are powerful and influential not face at least equal 
monitoring and investigation of their apparently less than satisfactory 
activities."

There are clearly powerful class forces at work. For them the law is a 
means to an end, a tool to manipulate, threaten and beat down all who 
hinder the ultimate aim of increasing profits. Reith is their man.

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