ACT News

ACT government rejects call to cut ties with CFMEU

The ACT government has rejected a call from the Liberals to cut ties with the CFMEU after the royal commission findings of bullying and intimidation on worksites around the country.

Labor has strong ties with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, a powerful player in the party's ACT branch, and on Wednesday Industrial Relations Minister Mick Gentleman strongly defended the union. 

The ACT Liberals' Andrew Wall attacked the influence of the CFMEU in ACT Labor.
The ACT Liberals' Andrew Wall attacked the influence of the CFMEU in ACT Labor.  Photo: Karleen Minney

The royal commission had been a Liberal "mud-slinging exercise" and its findings were "shabby", Mr Gentleman told the ACT Parliament.

While charges had been laid against "a couple" of members, to date no one from the ACT branch had been found guilty of any crimes, and "Johnny Lomax has had his case dismissed entirely".

Industrial Relations Minister Mick Gentleman described the royal commission into unions as 'shabby'.
Industrial Relations Minister Mick Gentleman described the royal commission into unions as 'shabby'.  Photo: Kate Leith

One employee who had admitted to offences in the commission had been "promptly sacked and expelled" from the union, he said, referring to Halafihi 'Fihi' Kivalu. 

Blackmail charges against Mr Lomax were dropped in October. 


The royal commission also referred the actions of CFMEU ACT boss Dean Hall to the ACT Chief Minister's directorate to assess whether he should be charged with intimidating a site inspector.

The royal commission recently referred information about the allegations of a breach of ACT law by Dean Hall from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union to the ACT government.

A spokeswoman for Access Canberra said the agency had not received the supporting material from the commission until late January. Worksafe was now reviewing the material "to determine whether there is evidence of a breach against section 190 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and that the evidence is beyond reasonable doubt".

The spokeswoman said the commission hearings were not bound by the rules of evidence nor did the commission make a finding beyond reasonable doubt as the agency must do.

If WorkSafe determines that a breach of the law had occurred, it will recommend that the Office of the Director of the Director of Public Prosecutions pursue a prosecution.

Mr Gentleman said the royal commission had been a political tool designed to drain resources and strength from the union movement, but "thanks to the campaign from the Canberra Liberals", the ACT branch of the CFMEU was growing stronger every day.

The Liberals' Andrew Wall brought on a debate about Labor's ties to the CFMEU in the Assembly on Wednesday, saying the royal commission had uncovered a culture of intimidation, bribery, thuggery and cartel behaviour in the ACT branch of the CFMEU.

The union had raised $1.2 million in the 2014 year from undisclosed payments in enterprise bargaining agreements in Canberra alone, according to the royal commission, Mr Wall said. The flow-on effect was felt across the city, increasing the cost of building by as much as 20 or 30 per cent.

Mr Wall also pointed to the current police investigation into contact between the office of Joy Burch and the CFMEU, with Ms Burch's former chief of staff accused of passing information from a confidential police briefing to Mr Hall. 

And he said Labor's pre-selections last year had demonstrated the excessive influence of the unions, when deputy leader Simon Corbell was dumped to an unwinnable spot on the Left's preselection ticket in a decision widely believed to have been controlled by the Left unions.

Unions ACT secretary Alex White accused the Liberals of using "coward's castle to attack working people and unions" with "smear and slander".

With 42 construction workers injured in Canberra every month, the CFMEU prevented injuries and deaths every day, he said.


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