My son’s legacy is at risk

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - JOHN FLINT

THE fa­ther of a hero trade union­ist who fell to his death try­ing to shut down an un­safe Perth de­mo­li­tion site has at­tacked the CFMEU for leav­ing his son’s memo­rial fund in the lurch.

Frank Allen claims the con­struc­tion union is ob­struct­ing moves to en­sure the fu­ture vi­a­bil­ity of the Mark Allen Memo­rial Fund as a char­ity pro­mot­ing work­place safety.

Mark Allen was just 23 when he died at an East Perth de­mo­li­tion site in Septem­ber 1996. The “Work­ers’ Em­bassy”, built near Par­lia­ment House one year later, was ded­i­cated to Mark’s mem­ory. A plaque states that he “lost his life try­ing to pro­tect the safety of work­ers”.

The memo­rial fund was es­tab­lished to pro­mote safety on build­ing sites. The trustees in­cluded mem­bers of the Allen fam­ily and union rep­re­sen­ta­tives, in­clud­ing one from the CFMEU and one from Unions WA.

In re­cent years, the fund has handed out awards for ex­cel­lence in work­place health and safety.

But funds are be­ing whit­tled by high in­ter­est fees payable to the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice af­ter its char­ity reg­is­tra­tion lapsed due to re­newal forms be­ing sent to an old ad­dress.

When the fund sought re-reg­is­tra­tion, it was alerted to a prob­lem which hadn’t been picked up dur­ing the ini­tial reg­is­tra­tion.

The trust deed cites the fund’s sec­ondary pur­pose as pro­mot­ing “union mem­ber­ship and col­lec­tive ac­tiv­ity in the work­place”.

In early 2016, the Aus­tralian Char­i­ties and Not-for-Profits Com­mis­sion said the fund couldn’t re-reg­is­ter as a char­ity while it had pur­poses that weren’t “ex­clu­sively char­i­ta­ble”.

The easy fix was a deed of vari­a­tion to re­move these pro­vi­sions. But that re­quires the ap­proval of all the trustees and the CFMEU has said no, Mr Allen says.

Mr Allen said he’d spent the past two years try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate with the union.

“I have sent that many let­ters and I’ve had meet­ings with the CFMEU, all to no avail.”

Mr Allen said the irony was the trust had not pro­moted union mem­ber­ship or col­lec­tive ac­tiv­ity.

“When the Char­i­ties Com­mis­sion said it wasn’t ac­cept­able to pro­mote trade union­ism, I ex­plained we hadn’t done that, we had only pro­moted safety,” he said.

Mr Allen said Unions WA had been “very good” and had recog­nised why the deed of vari­a­tion was vi­tal to en­sure the fund’s money doesn’t run out.

“That way we’re not taxed on the in­ter­est,” he Allen said. “The in­ter­est on the money we have in the bank is pay­ing for these awards . . . Ei­ther the CFMEU sign it or they should re­sign as a trustee and have noth­ing more to do with the fund.”

CFMEU State sec­re­tary Mick Buchan was un­avail­able this week. As­sis­tant State sec­re­tary Cam McCul­lough said he didn’t know enough about the is­sue to com­ment.

An­gry: Frank Allen at the memo­rial erected for his son. Pic­ture: Ross Swan­bor­ough

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