“It's about the passion”

From the Desk of the Executive Director

Ken Phillips is co-founder and Executive Director of Independent Contractors of Australia. He is a published authority on independent contractor issues and directs research on related commercial and trade practices issues. Through his numerous articles in newspapers and think-tank and academic journals, Ken is known for approaching issues from outside normal perspectives and is frequently sought out for media comment.

At last a fair deal for hard-working subbies

Saturday, December 10, 2016

In the commercial construction sector the people who always get it in the neck are the small subcontractors — the subbies — the people who actually do the real work on the ground.

This newspaper, The West Australian, has run a long and deserved campaign demanding action. But where’s the State Government response?

Well, finally, we have seen some action. More...


Safe super depends on total disclosure

Friday, January 29, 2016

One of the most arrogant aspects of Australia’s industrial relations system is the treatment of workers as if they are stupid and cannot make decisions for themselves.

The existing superannuation system takes this assumption to high levels. It assumes that workers are so dumb that they must not be allowed to decide where their retirement superannuation money is parked. More...


How Turnbull can push through corruption reforms

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

On current form, the Turnbull Government won’t have the numbers in the Senate to pass the reforms recommended by the Heydon Royal Commission into union corruption. This predicted failure is of the government’s own making.

The cause is as I’ve explained in articles over the last two days (here and here). The government is presenting the Heydon report as a union condemnation report. It is not. It is a report exposing corruption in Australian unions and businesses and recommends reforms to fix this. More...


The Coalition must heed Heydon’s powerful message

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Coalition parties have a history of failing whenever they attempt workplace reform. Yesterday I explained that the Turnbull government is positioning itself for a fall by promoting the Heydon report as being anti-union.

The report isn’t anti-union; it’s anti-corruption. But by focusing on the report as if it is anti-union, the Coalition presumably believes this will give it political advantage. Wrong! More...


The government’s misstep on the Heydon corruption report is a gift for Labor

Monday, January 04, 2016

The Turnbull government’s response to the Heydon Royal Commission Report into union corruption sets the scene for policy and political failure. It has responded just as the union movement and Labor hoped they would.

Further, Labor and the unions have already started their process of a slow and steady ‘kill’ of the Coalition on the issue. They have a surprisingly high chance of success. For the government, my perspective is probably a counterintuitive unsettling of their obvious glee over the Heydon report. More...


The ACCC needs to try harder on collective bargaining

Thursday, December 17, 2015

It’s illegal to smoke marijuana but it’s okay to use a bong! That seems to be the type of message the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission is sending in its latest decision to allow the Transport Workers Union to collectively bargain with the giant Japanese-owned transport company Toll.

Collective bargaining under industrial relations laws gives unions the legal authority to bargain collectively for employees, frankly whether employees agree to that or not. It’s the union that owns and controls the process, not the employees.  More...


Union corruption shows why we need transparency in super

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Around 20 years ago, when I was writing for another news outlet, I received out of the blue a large cardboard box in the post. It contained the true financial records, including source documents, of a high-profile union. My suspicion was that it had come from a senior union official who’d just been kicked out of the union. When I checked the real records with the union’s officially declared financial returns, nothing matched. The official returns were a fabrication.  

On Monday the Victorian boss of the construction the CFMEU, John Setka, and his deputy, Shaun Reardon, were arrested and charged with blackmail. The blackmail charges relate to the CFMEU putting pressure on concrete company Boral to stop supplying the CFMEUs hated construction firm Grocon. More...


Turnbull's corruption fix

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Some months ago I happened by chance to find myself sitting at a dinner function next to a senior company executive of a large firm named in the Royal Commission into Union Corruption. Evidence at the Commission revealed that his company had made secret payments to a union in return for certain ‘favours’. He was one of the executives involved in decisions to make the payments.

The discussion between he and I was somewhat explosive to the extent he stood up and left just as entrée was being served. (I think it was rather fine slices of ham with melon.) More...


Making sense of the CFMEU-MUA merger

Monday, October 19, 2015

There’s considerable reason to speculate over why Australia’s two most militant and powerful unions are merging. The construction union, the CFMEU with 90,000 members and the maritime union, the MUA with 15,000 members, are to become ‘one’.

The explanation for the merger given by the National Secretary of the MUA Paddy Crumlin on ABC News is that unions are facing great threats. The whole ‘business’ (of unionism), he says, has become a legal minefield. Better financial and legal resources can be achieved through economies of scale. More...


The ACCC opens its eyes to Australia's dirty IR secret

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a big warning to corporate executives involved in doing deals with unions. They are now under a ‘watch’ notice.

Executives doing normal industrial relations negotiations over enterprise agreements and the like should not have cause to worry. But where the deals move into shady areas that could arguably have the effect of harming competition it’s now time to become ultra-careful! More...



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