Even though former ACT Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union organiser Halafihi "Fihi" Kivalu did not testify before the union royal commission into unions on Wednesday he was still the centre of attention.
One witness told how he had paid $5000 for tickets to a Tongan community fundraiser to get on Mr Kivalu's good side while the CFMEU revealed it had expelled the troublesome former employee, who is alleged to have solicited and pocketed thousands of dollars in bribes, from its ranks on Tuesday.
Mr Kivalu, who is due to appear before the commission on Thursday, contested one of the allegations against him by having his lawyer put it to a witness that the meeting at which he said the then organiser was given a white envelope believed to contain money "never happened".
Clive Arona, the director of Multi-Crete, also told the commission his and other business had no choice but to agree to above-award redundancy payments, having their books audited by the union and also set rates for work at meetings with the CFMEU.
Firms with CFMEU enterprise bargaining agreements were "left alone" and they needed the EBAs to secure work in any case he said.
Mr Kivalu's union membership was terminated – with a written notification of expulsion couriered to him – on Tuesday after the commission heard two days of allegations that he solicited and collected tens-of- thousands of dollars in cash from Canberra tradesman.
CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan has called for the allegations to be referred to the police, with a pledge that any subsequent investigation would have the co-operation of the union.
Mr Kivalu's lawyer, Mr Madden, put it to Mr Arona that a meeting at which he said he saw formwork subcontractor Elias Taleb give Mr Kivalu a white envelope "never happened".
"It occurred," Mr Arona said.
Mr Madden then put it to Mr Arona that the concreter did not see Mr Taleb give an envelope to Mr Kivalu.
"Yes I did," Mr Arona said.
Mr Taleb told the commission on Monday that he made payments to Mr Kivalu totalling about $135,000 in exchange for support in obtaining contracts.
Mr Arona said that, apart from minor points of detail, everything presented by the union in the negotiation of the 2104 concreting enterprise bargaining agreement was agreed to by the concreting firms and given to Commissioner Deacon at the Fair Work Commission.
Under questioning by Commissioner Dyson Heydon QC, Mr Arona said some clauses had been objected to on the grounds they were too tough.
"Did the union give way on any point?" Commissioner Heydon asked.
"They did give a little on some things, I can't remember, but not a lot of them," Mr Arona said.
Once the EBA, which is believed to have covered all concreting firms operating in the ACT, was signed at the CFMEU office on February 4, 2014, a flat rate of $16.50 a cubic metre for concrete pours and $6.50 a square metre for concrete finishing came into effect on commercial building jobs in the territory.
Mr Arona could not recall how the prices, the result of an agreement between the individual firms and intended to cover costs under the EBA, had first been raised.
"I'm not sure how it was brought up or how the numbers ... came to be on the table," he said.
Counsel assisting the Royal Commission, Jeremy Stoljar, said on Monday there were fears cartels for key trades may have been formed as a result of the CFMEU's alleged pattern bargaining practices.
Other firms involved in the EBA talks included Belconnen Concrete, Canberra Concreters, CPS Concrete, Everlast Concrete, High Rise Concrete, Diverse Concreting and Gungahlin Concrete the commission was told.
CFMEU officials who took part included Garry Hamilton, Johhny Lomax and Jason O'Mara.
with Michael Inman