The Premier of South Australia (SA) has come out and expressed his Labor government's support for and faith in beleaguered Shop Workers Union secretary Bob Down.
Mr Down was recently the focus of a Royal Commission into union corruption in SA. The Royal Commission found that there is evidence that Mr Down has been using threats, intimidation and bribery while conducting his union duties.
The Royal Commission handed the evidence to the SA Police to investigate further and to bring charges against Mr Down. The Police found that there was sufficient evidence to charge Mr Down with a number of offenses including intimidation, threatening behaviour and bribery. The SA Director for Public Prosecutions declined to proceed with the case saying that "the evidence is inconclusive and insufficient and it is not possible to be totally sure of a conviction." He denied that there was any untoward influence on his decision.
During the time of the Police investigation it was revealed that the Union was informed of a pending Police raid, to gather evidence, on their headquarters. This raid is believed to have been discussed, in confidence, prior to the raid, with the Police Minister, Ms Sharp. It is known that the information given to the Union originated in the Minister's office.
The Minister declined to comment and said that there would be no investigation into the leak. A few days later, the Minister's secretary, Ms Underling, resigned, accepting responsibility for the leak. No action was taken against Ms Underling. The next day the Minister was temporarily removed from her position by the Premier.
It was at this point that the Premier made his statement of his Labor government's support of the Union secretary, Mr Down, adding that they would do all they can to see him cleared of all suspicion. "He's a good bloke and a credit to the union movement." the Premier added.
Mr Down said that he would be taking legal advice and action to defend his honour. He said that he would be suing the SA Police for defamation and wrongfully accusing him of crimes of which he is not guilty. The Premier said that his government would be supporting Mr Down's action and hoping to see justice done.
As an indication of support for Mr Down and the Shop Workers Union, the government has given the Union the right to veto shop licenses. This action means that the Union will now be able to stop employers with whom that are having trouble negotiating, from opening shops or building shopping centres.
Mr Down said that the Shop Workers Union appreciated the SA Labor Government's support, adding that the unions and Labor governments have always worked well together for the benefit of the workers.
No shop owner, or intending owner, was available for comment, citing 'business commitments'.