A former union organiser will fight allegations of blackmail after he told a royal commission he accepted payments of $60,000 from a Canberra formwork contractor.
Halafihi "Fihi" Kivalu was taken into custody after admitting under questioning on Thursday he had accepted $60,000 in payments from formwork contractor Elias Taleb to help him with contacts in the industry.
Mr Kivalu said the money had been offered to him voluntarily and not paid in his capacity as a union official.
Mr Kivalu is the first witness at the royal commission into unions to be arrested since hearings began in April last year.
The former organiser with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and a former ALP Dickson-Morning sub-branch president, was charged with two counts of blackmail.
He entered pleas of not guilty to both charges and did not apply for bail when he faced the ACT Magistrates Court on Friday morning.
His lawyer, Uelenitoni Tu'ulakitau, indicated he could make a bail application when he faces court again next week.
In a statement outside court, Mr Tu'ulakitau said his client maintained his innocence and would fight the allegations.
"We'll just wait until we're provided with paperwork by police in respect to those charges and will go from there," Mr Tu'ulakitau said.
"It's all over the media, so … we'll do the best we can to ensure he gets a fair trial."
Mr Tu'ulakitau said the accused's family were staying positive in the face of adversity.
The CFMEU released a statement on Friday morning distancing itself from Mr Kivalu, saying there had been no evidence that the union or any other official had been aware of the payments.
"The CFMEU urges any employer that is asked for a bribe to go to the police," the statement said.
"The leadership commends all the honest, hardworking officials and delegates who represent the union in their workplaces.
"We want them to know that we won't allow the good work they do and the reputation of the union to be tarnished and undone by corruption."
Mr Kivalu is the first witness at the royal commission into unions to be arrested since hearings began in April last year, a commission spokesman said on Friday.
The commission, which will hear from more than 40 witnesses in Canberra, was established in early 2014.
Members of the Queensland police taskforce attached to the commission arrested a man in relation to an alleged common assault on a Brisbane building site in May this year.
That individual was not a royal commission witness the spokesman said.
Mr Kivalu's arrest was made by members of the ACT/Australian Federal Police task force attached to the commission.
Friday's commission hearing is expected to be brief with only one witness, a Sydney building company executive whose name has not yet been made public, expected to appear in the morning.
On Thursday the commission heard evidence about a confrontation involving Mr Kivalu at an AMP Builders (Leemhuis) building site in Beaconsfield St in Fyshwick on December 12, 2012.
Union officials had cited a safety breach and refused to allow a concrete truck to be moved.
Mr Darrell Leemhuis said the concrete had been spoiled at a cost of $25,000 to $30,000 to his company.
Also on Thursday, Pietro Marcantonio, of Gungahlin Concrete Services, testified he was not aware of price fixing involving concreting firms and the CFMEU in the wake of an enterprise bargaining agreement signed in February 2014.
"I don't need anybody to tell me what I have to charge out," he said. "What I do in my business is my business."
Clive Arona, the director of Multi-Crete, told the commission on Wednesday Canberra concreters had agreed to a flat rate for commercial work of $16.50 a cubic metre for pours and $6.50 a square metre for finishing after signing the CFMEU enterprise bargaining agreement on February 4, 2014.
Counsel assisting the commission, Jeremy Stoljar, said on Monday there were fears cartels for key trades may have been formed as part of alleged pattern bargaining by the CFMEU.
Mr Marcantonio said he had attended two of the meetings to discuss the concreting EBA.
Mr Stoljar asked him: "Were you happy to sign the EBA?"
Mr Marcantonio replied: "No".
Asked why he had signed, Mr Marcantonio said he believed he didn't have a choice.
"When you've got five or six other concreters in there that are all going to sign it, well everyone follows the leader, don't they?" he said.