The Courier-Mail


Criminals given right of entry permits — by watchdog!

- Des Houghton Email: Twitter: @DesHoughto­n

UNIONISTS with “significan­t criminal conviction­s” for fraud, perjury, wilful destructio­n and intimidati­on were recently given right-of-entry permits to worksites.

In a report that should sound alarm bells across government, business and the law throughout Australia, the Royal Commission into Union Governance and Corruption also warned there was malign union influence over Australian parliament­s.

The report comes as the Palaszczuk Government moves to amend laws making it easier for union officials to enter building sites, State Government department­s and schools.

“Abuse of right-of-entry permits by some union officials is widespread,” Jeremy Stoljar QC, counsel assisting the royal commission, said.

Stoljar was speaking about building worksites but his comments echo concerns across a number of uniondomin­ated sectors.

I was amazed to see the right-of-entry permits were handed out to convicted criminals by the federal watchdog, the Fair Work Commission.

The FWC does not check applicant’s criminal history, Stoljar revealed.

In a legal discussion paper Stoljar calls for public comment on a proposal for union officials who repeatedly flout workplace laws to be banned from worksites. Hear, hear. Stoljar again took aim at the CFMEU, the union praised in Parliament last year by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and whose ranks include three of her parliament­ary colleagues: Police Minister Jo-Ann Miller, Jim Pearce, the Member for Mirani, and Leanne Donaldson, the Member for Bundaberg.

None of the three have been named adversely at the royal commission and there is no suggestion any of them engaged in impropriet­y.

However, John Dyson Heydon’s interim report to Parliament said other CFMEU officials “seek to conduct their affairs with a deliberate disregard for the rule of law”.

He recommende­d criminal charges against some key CFMEU officials in Queensland.

Stoljar also accused other unionists of lying.

“The commission’s inquiries thus far have revealed a number of potential problems with the existing regulation of right-of-entry permits,’’ he said.

“These include misuse of permits by union officials, false declaratio­ns being made to the FWC by applicants for permits, and the holding of permits by individual­s with significan­t criminal conviction­s.”

Laws covering the misuse of permits were ineffectiv­e, Stoljar said.

He pointed to a case in which there were 20 occasions where the CFMEU “showed an attitude of indifferen­ce to the law”.

“In applying for a permit, applicants are not required to agree to a criminal history check,” he said.

“There is no requiremen­t to disclose pending criminal charges.

“One CFMEU official had his right-of-entry permit renewed in April 2015 despite a finding by a federal magistrate that he had coerced subcontrac­tors on a concreting project into joining the CFMEU and a conviction for giving false evidence to the Cole Royal Commission (in 2003).

“Similarly, in June 2013, the FWC granted a right-of-entry permit to another CFMEU official despite two conviction­s for intentiona­l damage or destructio­n of property.

“Permits have also been issued by the FWC to organisers with conviction­s for social security fraud.”

Stoljar said a “culture of fear” prevented witnesses speaking out.

“The commission has heard evidence of a general unwillingn­ess on the part of individual­s to report criminal activity within trade unions for fear of reprisal, threats and slander,” he said.

“In addition, the evidence before the commission thus far suggests the existence of a culture of fear in some unions concerning disclosure, the aim of which is to deter individual­s from disclosing illegal, immoral or illegitima­te practices.”

Stoljar recommende­d new banning orders for law-breaking unionists similar to disqualifi­cations of company directors who breach the Corporatio­ns Act.

He said laws could be enacted to ban an individual from holding office in an organisati­on for a specified period.

Abuse of right-of-entry permits ... is widespread

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