Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has called on the federal government to investigate “mounting allegations of corruption and collusion with criminal gangs”.
Mr Bleijie said the revelations of the joint investigation between Fairfax Media and the ABC into corrupt deals between Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union officials and building companies linked to organised crime and bikie gangs needed to be further examined.
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CFMEU deny corruption allegations
The CFMEU says any members caught doing the wrong thing will be forced out following allegations of corruption and bribery.
He called on the Commonwealth to expand its planned inquiry into union conduct to “also investigate mounting allegations of corruption and collusion with criminal gangs” and said he didn’t believe Queensland was “immune”.
“We have heard reports of extortion, blackmail and bribery occurring on Queensland construction worksites, but the victims have been too afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals,” he said in a statement.
“Construction is one of the four pillars of Queensland’s economy and this government would, as should the unions, welcome any initiative to ensure integrity is maintained in such an important industry.”
Mr Bleijie said the NSW and Victoria cases were an example of why the government was attempting to “clean up the industry in Queensland”.
“The Crime and Misconduct Commission, police and industry bodies told us certain types of businesses were being used as either fronts or vehicles for further criminal activity,” he said, referencing the industries where employees will now be cross checked for links to proscribed groups before being granted a work licence.
But Queensland Council of Unions boss John Battams said he was “not aware” of any similar cases or evidence of similar activities in Queensland.
The QCU held a meeting early on Tuesday morning to discuss the reports into CFMEU corruption in Victoria and New South Wales and Mr Battams said the conduct of those involved union officials was a “betrayal of everything unions stand for”.
He said he supported corrupt conduct being rooted out, exposed and dealt with by the proper authorities.
“I think the union has made it clear that any matter that involves this type of conduct or corruption should be reported to police,” he said.
“This sort of conduct needs to be stamped out. Such conduct is a betrayal of everything unions stand for, that being a fair go for workers, honesty and integrity.
“My personal view is corruption can exist in any part of society, from clubs to unions to politics, and now that we have these reports coming out of NSW and Victoria, it needs to be dealt with.”
Even before these revelations, the government had its eye on the perceived relationship between Queensland unions and bikie gangs, after News Corp reported last week the Maritime Union of Australia and a group aligned with the Electrical Trades Union had donated to the United Motorcycle Council’s court challenge fighting fund.
The ETU, which has not contributed directly to the UMC challenge, is planning its own High Court action, to tackle the section of the government legislation which will potentially see tradies, who have links to proscribed groups, lose their work licences.
Brisbane firm Irish Bentley Lawyers will lead the planned challenge on behalf of the Australian Motorcycle Council and United Motorcycle Council Queensland. Lawyer Zeke Bentley said they had not decided whether to go through the state court system to the High Court on behalf of a person affected by the law or to directly challenge the law in the High Court on constitutional and humanitarian grounds.
The ETU hopes to have its challenge hit the courts by March.