Shorten: Royal Commission a 'rite of passage' in Opposition

BILL Shorten has assured a media scrum his record is intact after facing two days of questioning from "Tony Abbott's royal commission".

The Labor leader said it was all part of the game as a member of the Opposition.

"I think it's part of the rite of passage for a Labor leader that in Mr Abbott's government, you get called before a Royal Commission," he said.

Mr Shorten rejected the idea the inquest had harmed his integrity, after admitting yesterday he failed to declare a $40,000 donation when he was first campaigning for federal politics in 2007.

"I said before Tony Abbott's royal commission that I would relish the opportunity to put my record of standing up for workers in Australia against Tony Abbott's, any day of the week," he said.

"What happened in the Royal Commission is that I answered hundreds of questions… until the commission finished earlier than expected today," he said.

When asked if Commissioner Dyson Heydon "overstepped the mark" in criticising his credibility as a witness, Mr Shorten said he appreciated the commissioner had "a job to do".

He made it clear he had no plans to take former ALP national secretary Bob Hogg's advice and resign.

"Mr Hogg's advice, I put somewhere between Tony Abbott's, Senator Abetz's and probably even Christopher Pine's," he said.

The commission will resume in Canberra at 10am tomorrow to investigate the dealings of the CFMEU. 

12:26pm Shorten warned not to showboat at union royal commission

BILL Shorten has been warned to act like a credible witness at the union royal commission rather than showboating for onlooking media.

Commissioner Dyson Heydon said the Labor leader's evidence had been expected to finish today.

At its current longwinded rate, an extra day of questioning may be required.

"Mr Shorten, I think Mr Stoljar-whatever else can be said about him - has been very indulgent about your style of answering some of his questions," Commissioner Heydon said.

"You, if I can be frank about it, have been criticised in the newspapers in the past few weeks, and I think it's generally believed that you have come here in the hope that you will be able to rebut that criticism, or a lot of it.

Commissioner Heydon added: "What I am concerned about more is your credibility as a witness, and perhaps your self-interest as a witness as well.

"A witness who answers each question 'yes', 'no', 'I don't remember' or clarifies the question and so on, gives the cross-examiner very little to work with.

"It's in your interest to curb these, to some extent extraneous, answers."

Mr Shorten denied knowledge of an agreement between Thiess John Holland and the AWU for payment of $100,000 a year plus GST over the three-year life span of the Eastlink road project in Melbourne from 2005.

Counsel-assisting Jeremy Stoljar suggested dodgy invoices were drawn up for AWU services either never delivered or totally unnecessary, just to make up the numbers.

One such bill included a $10,000 payment for health and safety "red card" training.

"It says: 'We've paid, among other things, $10,000-odd in respect to red card. Red card would have cost us nothing because John Holland run it'," Mr Stoljar said.

"I'm not suggesting it didn't happen, or it's not a valuable provision of training in this event.

"But the point here is that John Holland ran it, they don't have to pay for it, and yet the AWU was charging them for it - the reason being that they're getting up to the $100,000 agreed instalment."

Mr Shorten explained he knew nothing about the invoice because it was issued after he finished at the union and had entered federal politics.

"Two: the training I believe, although I don't have a line of sight, would have been occurring," he said.

"Three: this was a company keen to engage with the AWU generally. We had negotiated outstanding rates.

"To the best of my understanding in these three years, a civil construction labourer was earning $125,000 a year.

"I think a tower crane operator would have been earning north of $150,000 a year."

The commission will return after lunch.

Watch the live feed of the hearing here
 

Earlier: BILL Shorten has been handed a bundle of tax invoices showing the Australian Workers Union Victoria received more than $300,000 from construction group Thiess John Holland from early-2005.

Counsel assisting the union royal commission Jeremy Stoljar pointed to one invoice purportedly for research into back strain on work sites, issued from the AWU to Thiess John Holland in January 2006.

Mr Stoljar said the money man in charge of approving the payments at Thiess John Holland had no knowledge of the research ever taking place.

STOLJAR: "The royal commission has issued a notice to produce, seeking records relating to this research from the AWU VIC and nothing has been produced."

SHORTEN: "If that's what's happened, that's what's happened."

STOLJAR: "Well, does that suggest to you that if any research was done, it didn't culminate in a report or the like?"

SHORTEN: "No, it just suggests to me that the AWU can't find the research."

Mr Stoljar then cut to the chase and asked: "Is this a bogus invoice that's claiming payment for work that wasn't ever done?"

"I would never be party to issuing any bogus invoices full-stop," Mr Shorten responded.

The Labor leader is now being grilled over whether the AWU accepted $100,000 a year from the group over the three-year life of the Eastlink construction - a $2.6 billion project involving 45km of freeway, 88 bridges and twin 1.6km tunnels being built in Melbourne.

-APN NEWSDESK


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