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CFMEU instructed staff to delete emails, royal commission hears

Date

Anna Patty

Kylie Wray, who directed staff to delete the emails.

Kylie Wray, who directed staff to delete the emails. Photo: AAP

The construction workers union directed all staff and officials to clean out their emails despite being issued with an order to produce electronic documents to the royal commission on union corruption, an inquiry has heard.

Kylie Wray, general manager of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's NSW branch, told the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption on Tuesday that she instructed staff to clean out their emails to free up disk space.

The email server had not been backed up in four years, but she had not considered saving the emails to an external source. 

Sydney crime figure George Alex.

Sydney crime figure George Alex.

Ms Wray directed staff to delete emails on June 24, less than a month after the royal commission issued the union with an order to produce documents, including electronic records.

She said she personally cleaned out CFMEU secretary Brian Parker's emails and denied suggestions she was seeking to avoid compliance with the commission's notice.

Counsel assisting, Jeremy Stoljar, suggested Ms Wray was deleting emails knowing some would have to be produced before the commission.

Ms Wray said the mailbox store was full and "the only way to free up the disk space was to delete emails".

She said it had not occurred to her that she should back them up externally.

"You wished to delete emails which would otherwise be produced to the commission in answer to notices to produce, is that right?" Mr Stoljar said.

"No, that's not right," Ms Wray replied.

When issuing the direction, Ms Wray knew the email server had not been backed up since May 2010, when there had been a fire.  

In an email to staff, she said the CFMEU was not receiving external emails because the mailbox store was full.

"As we are days away from the royal commission kicking off and there is a lot going on, we need everyone to make this a priority please," she wrote.

CFMEU barrister John Agius, SC, said there was no evidence that any deleted emails were caught by the royal commission's notices to produce. "There had been compliance with those notices to produce before June 23," he said.

Outside the royal commission, the CFMEU national secretary for the construction division, Dave Noonan, said the union had complied with the commission's requests.

"What ought to be clear is that the union had already complied with a very substantial notice to produce before ... the inboxes became filled up. IT things do happen," Mr Noonan said.

"We have attempted to comply in good faith with all notices issued by the commission as we are legally obliged to do."

The royal commission also received evidence from Fair Work building inspectors that CFMEU officials had abused and intimidated them at Sydney's Barangaroo building site on July 28.

Matthew Barr said one union official spat at his feet and said "lick it up, you f---ing dog".

A female inspector reported that she had been called a "slut".

Another inspector, Seamus Flynn, said he had been physically and verbally assaulted by CFMEU officials at the Ibis hotel construction site in Grenfell Street, Adelaide, in May.

After Mr Flynn took photos of officials to help identify them, one allegedly used his stomach to push him backwards while saying: "You want a photo, you f---ing piece of shit."

Mr Flynn said the official then said: " 'You f---ing piece of shit, your f---ing breath smells, you piece of shit,' again pushing me with his stomach."

Mr Noonan said the royal commission had merely proven that swearing occurred on building sites.

"No one was assaulted, and if they were, it's a matter for police," he said. "You don't need a $53 million royal commission to deal with someone swearing on a building site."

Mr Noonan said the union was concerned about a group of labour hire companies linked to Sydney crime figure George Alex.

He said they owed more than $1 million in entitlements to construction workers, and was critical of the Fair Work regulator doing nothing to ensure the workers were paid according to their legal entitlements.

"The only organisation that got off its backside and chased those workers' entitlements is the CFMEU," he said. 

Mr Noonan said there was no evidence suggesting CFMEU officials had received kickbacks from companies linked to Mr Alex, adding that if any evidence emerged linking them with illegal payments, he would deal with it "ruthlessly". 

"Our union doesn't take bribes. Any officer of our union that engages in corruption will be sacked and dealt with by the authorities," he said.

On Monday, the royal commission heard that companies associated with Mr Alex allegedly made a weekly "union payment" of $2500.

When cross-examined, Elite Access Scaffolding director Michael Cohen said he understood the payment was to be given to the CFMEU.

The commission heard that CFMEU officials Brian Parker and Darren Greenfield were seen at meetings in Mr Alex's home.

It also heard that construction worker Jose Barrios received a threatening phone call from Mr Alex on August 20, a day after he told senior CFMEU officials about his concerns that the union was dealing with Mr Alex's companies.

Mr Barrios said he first contacted CFMEU NSW state president Rita Mallia, who told him: "You have to talk to Brian Parker, it's got nothing to do with me."

He then called Mr Parker, who said, "George Alex has nothing to do with this company."

The following day, Mr Alex called Mr Barrios and said: "I want to know why you're talking so much shit about me."

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