Union fines ‘lower un­der ALP’

The Australian - - THE NATION - GREG BROWN

Busi­ness and the build­ing in­dus­try yes­ter­day crit­i­cised fed­eral La­bor af­ter the party con­firmed the CFMEU would face lesser penal­ties for un­law­ful block­ades un­der Bill Shorten’s poli­cies.

Op­po­si­tion in­dus­trial re­la­tions spokesman Bren­dan O’Con­nor yes­ter­day con­ceded the mil­i­tant con­struc­tion union and its of­fi­cials would not have been slapped with a record $2.4 mil­lion fine for a block­ade of Syd­ney’s Baranga­roo if La­bor were in gov­ern­ment.

He said the Con­struc­tion For- es­try Min­ing and En­ergy Union would have been fined at a lower level due to La­bor’s op­po­si­tion to the Aus­tralian Build­ing and Con­struc­tion Com­mis­sion and the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment’s build­ing code. “The penalty may have been dif­fer­ent,” Mr O’Con­nor told Sky News yes­ter­day.

“Of course there would be penal­ties for un­law­ful be­hav­iour, the fact is we don’t ac­cept un­law­ful be­hav­iour by any­body, we have never de­fended un­law­ful be­hav­iour, peo­ple have to suf­fer the con­se­quences of break­ing the law.”

Last week the Fed­eral Court found it was “not pos­si­ble to en­vis- age worse union be­hav­iour” when it handed the union and its of­fi­cials record fines over un­law­ful in­dus­trial ac­tion by 1000 work­ers at Baranga­roo in Syd­ney in 2014.

Mas­ter Builders Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Denita Wawn said the fines needed to be sub­stan­tial to de­ter union law­less­ness.

“It’s good to hear a La­bor gov­ern­ment will en­force the rule of law on con­struc­tion sites, but the re­al­ity is that the size of penal­ties do mat­ter,” Ms Wawn said.

“The ABCC and the build­ing code are about chang­ing the cul­ture of unions that think they are above the com­mu­nity’s laws.’’

Aus­tralian Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try chief ex­ec­u­tive James Pear­son said wa­ter­ing down fines sent the wrong mes­sage to unions.

“It sends the wrong sig­nal at the wrong time to speak of wa­ter­ing down fines in the face of wide­spread and de­lib­er­ate law­less­ness, and courts ex­press­ing grave con­cerns for the ob­ser­vance of the rule of law,” Mr Pear­son said.

“We have al­ready seen the dam­age when en­force­ment in this area is de­lib­er­ately wa­tered down. The com­mu­nity needs as­sur­ance from the al­ter­na­tive gov­ern­ment this will not hap­pen again.”

Em­ploy­ment Min­is­ter Michaelia Cash yes­ter­day ques­tioned whether the CFMEU would have re­ceived any penal­ties for il­le­gal block­ades if La­bor were in power.

“At a time when the Fed­eral Court has im­posed a record fine on his union and con­cluded that even this penalty is not a suf­fi­cient de­ter­rent, it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine a more ir­re­spon­si­ble pol­icy than La­bor’s pol­icy to give the green light to the CFMEU to break the law with im­punity,” a spokesman for Sen­a­tor Cash said.

Mr O’Con­nor turned the heat back on Sen­a­tor Cash yes­ter­day over the res­ig­na­tion of Nigel Hadgkiss as Aus­tralian Build­ing and Con­struc­tion com­mis­sioner.

Mr Hadgkiss re­signed af­ter ad­mit­ting to breach­ing the law by di­rect­ing that loom­ing right-of-en­try changes that were ben­e­fi­cial to unions not be pub­lished on his agency’s web­site.

Mr O’Con­nor said it would be “quite re­mark­able” for her to have not known about the breaches be­fore they be­come pub­lic.

“It is a lit­tle rich for the min­is­ter to start lec­tur­ing on the rule of law when she presided over, ef­fec­tively, a vig­i­lante agency that de­lib­er­ately and wil­fully broke the law for 2½ years,” he said.

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