Justin Sheridan in Canberra

Tim Noonan of Today Tonight has struck a real blow for justice with his earlier report on Justin Sheridan, an unemployed man from Byron Bay. Such is the seriousness of Noonan’s crusading act of investigative journalism, questions have been raised in Federal Parliament — by University drop-out and Nationals Senator Joe Williams — surrounding the circumstances in which Justin receives the colossal sum of of $427 per fortnight from the Government.

Joe Ludwig provides the following answers.

They, they always try to blame it on the blacks
But it’s really those in power that stab you in the back

Senate debates : Thursday, 17 September 2009

Questions without Notice: Additional Answers


3:10 pm

I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an answer to a question from Senator Williams asked of the Minister representing the Minister for Human Services on 15 September 2009.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows—


Senator Williams asked the Minister Assisting the Minister for Human Services, in Parliament, on 15 September 2009:

(a) Will the minister inform the Senate how many people were detected breaching their obligation to look for work last financial year?

(b) Given that the Labor government has forecast a massive increase in the number of people seeking to claim unemployment benefits, will the minister explain why the government has not increased the resources to assess and audit these claims? Doesn’t this failure mean that the number of Justin Sheridans in our community is likely to increase?

(c) Will the minister reassure the Australian taxpayers that the subject of last night’s television program, Justin Sheridan, will be fully investigated by Centrelink for his wanton disregard of welfare payment rules?


SENATOR LUDWIG – The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(a) In the 2008-09 financial year, 628,987 participation reports were investigated by Centrelink regarding potential breaches of job seeker obligations. This is made up of 562,777 participation failures and 66,210 serious failures.

(b) Under the Centrelink funding model the funding Centrelink receives varies in line with movements in customer numbers and is calculated using Government forecasts in the budget. This is later reconciled with actual customer numbers.

(c) Yes. Centrelink conducts investigations into any customers who come to their attention as potentially failing to meet the rules governing their entitlements.

Senator Joe Ludwig

Australian Labor Party Senator for Queensland
Special Minister of State (since June 9, 2009)
Cabinet Secretary (since June 9, 2009)
Manager of Government Business in the Senate (since December 3, 2007)
Became a Senator on July 1, 1999

Ludwig (July 21, 1959–) is a law-talking guy, a former Reservist, and a former employee of Australia’s Worst Union (AWU). (Other law-talking guys and girls on the twenty-member ALP front bench include Garrett, Gillard, McLelland, Roxon, Smith, Tanner and Wong.) Joe comes from Labor aristocracy: his father Bill is currently National President of the AWU, and is boss of the Labor Forum, the AWU faction which dominates the Queensland branch of the Party.

As for Labor in Queensland: “Former Queensland Labor cabinet minister Gordon Nuttall was sentenced to seven years jail on July 17. He was found guilty of corruptly receiving secret payments from two Queensland businessmen” (Gordon Nuttall: tip of the corruption iceberg, Mike Crook, Green Left Weekly, August 2, 2009). According to Crook (a member of the ALP for 20 years who joined the Socialist Alliance in 2008):

The Labor Unity faction, the smallest of the 3 factions in the Queensland ALP, has attracted some of the most opportunist careerists due to its “balance of power” position between the other two factions — the AWU/Labor Forum and the Left faction.

Along with Nuttall, Labor Unity included former deputy premier Terry Mackenroth who has been referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission for alleged corruption.

Several former Labor Unity-aligned ministers were part of the “net bet” fiasco in 1999, where the first internet betting license in Queensland was given to a company in which ALP officials had interests.

Meanwhile, former AWU faction ministers have gone on to work as highly paid business lobbyists.

Factions own positions and seats. Factional hacks are parachuted into seats without reference to the local membership. In Sandgate, Vicki Darling was appointed overnight by the party head office as Nuttall’s heir — despite having done no work within the local branch, and with no consultation of the local ALP members.

In reality, all decisions are made by a relatively small number of factional warlords, with no pretence at having a democratic process. Under this system, party membership has dropped from over 12,000 when I joined in 1989 to less than 6000 and falling.

The AWU faction has control over the ALP state government. The ALP objectives and policies are now ignored. Almost 20 years of Labor government in Queensland have been a missed opportunity.

Instead of the state becoming a more equitable, fairer place to live, the public service has been attacked, a bureaucracy has been cultivated, and the government’s own workforce has been treated in an unjust manner.

The ALP’s shady dealings with business and its refusal to allow scrutiny indicates graft is out of control. The brown paper bag days are back. Peter Beattie repeatedly used “commercial in confidence” to shield the murkiest business deals from scrutiny…

The Inaugural Griffith University – Tony Fitzgerald Lecture was held on Tuesday 28 July [2009] at the State Library of Queensland [PDF]:

…I propose to speak bluntly. Every generation has a duty to historical truth.

At the end of 1989, in the aftermath of my inquiry, Queenslanders decided they had had enough of the systemic corruption & repression of Bjelke-Petersen & some of his cronies and voted in a new government. Wayne Goss, Matt Foley & others were elected in a spirit of renewal & reform. The Electoral & Administrative Review Commission & the Criminal Justice Commission (after a slow start) did some sterling work, Glyn Davis & Peter Coaldrake set out to redesign & energise the public sector, there was an attempt to modernise the court system & revitalise a moribund judiciary by the establishment of a Court of Appeal & a Litigation Reform Commission & subsequently, when Matt Foley became Attorney-General, the welcome, long overdue, appointment of female judges.

However, by the mid-1990s, Australia generally had wearied of change and moved to the right & Queensland, where a long period of conservative government had consolidated a predisposition to conservative thought, moved right with the rest of the country. The Pauline Hanson/One Nation phenomenon would soon emerge, again in Queensland, & a coalition of Nationals & so-called Liberals, including relics of the Bjelke-Petersen era, regained power in Queensland with the help of the Police Union.

The Connolly-Ryan inquiry was soon set up to discredit the reforms which had been introduced on my recommendation so that they could be dismantled with minimum community disquiet, but that exercise failed when the Supreme Court stopped the farce because of Connolly’s manifest bias.

It soon became apparent to Queenslanders that the Coalition was at that time still not fit to govern but it had succeeded in interrupting & damaging the reform process. By the end of the Coalition’s term in power in 1998, the political situation in Queensland was volatile, Wayne Goss had departed from politics, the Labor Party was led by Peter Beattie & much of the principled willingness to confront Queensland’s dark past had been lost & with it the momentum for reform. I had always known that I might have to leave Queensland to work elsewhere as a consequence of my inquiry, & in 1998 I accepted that that time had come, resigned & took up a position in NSW.

Labor regained power in Queensland in 1998 and has retained it ever since. Perhaps, on its assessment, that is all that matters. Perhaps, to it, the adverse consequences of its political tactics are just collateral damage.

Under Beattie, Labor decided that there were votes to be obtained from Bjelke-Petersen’s remaining adherents in glossing over his repressive and corrupt misconduct. Tacitly at least, Queenslanders were encouraged to forget the repression & corruption which had occurred & the social upheaval which had been involved in eradicating those injustices. Younger Queenslanders know little of that era & are largely ignorant of the possibility that history might be repeated.

Ethics are always tested by incumbency. Secrecy was re-established by sham claims that voluminous documents were “Cabinet-in-confidence”. Access can now be purchased, patronage is dispensed, mates & supporters are appointed & retired politicians exploit their connections to obtain “success fees” for deals between business & government. Neither side of politics is interested in these issues except for short-term political advantage as each enjoys or plots impatiently for its turn at the privileges & opportunities which accompany power.

Unfortunately, cynical, short-sighted political attitudes adopted for the benefit of particular politicians & their parties commonly have adverse consequences for the general community. The current concerns about political and police misconduct are a predictable result of attitudes adopted in Queensland since the mid-1990s. Despite their protestations of high standards of probity, which personally might well be correct, & irrespective of what they intend, political leaders who gloss over corruption risk being perceived by their colleagues & the electorate as regarding it of little importance. Even if incorrect, that is a disastrous perception. Greed, power and opportunity in combination provide an almost irresistible temptation for many which can only be countered by the near-certainty of exposure and severe punishment.

Even if we cannot rely on politicians to voluntarily curb their excesses or tell the truth, a well-informed community which is committed to doing so can influence the way it is governed, just as Queenslanders did in 1989. Matters are much better than they were but it is a mistake to take that for granted. Universities which inform & increase community awareness & understanding provide one of our best defences against historical amnesia and revisionism by speaking truth to power & assisting us to confront, acknowledge and learn from the past…


About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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2 Responses to Justin Sheridan in Canberra

  1. Odin H says:

    i met Justin Sheridan, he is one of the nicest guys i have ever met in my life… and he does do part time work around byron bay and has worked plenty of jobs in his life… his story was cut and chopped in a massive way to make him look like a bludger.

  2. s. says:

    Tim Noonan has messed up on this story — wouldn’t want to be showing your face in Byron again.

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