TREASURER’S ‘OUTRAGEOUS’ NEW LAW TO HELP KEY FACTIONAL UNION ALLY EXPOSES LABOR’S...
STATE Labor is split over a move by Treasurer Curtis Pitt to introduce new laws designed to help a key factional ally in a fight for control of the Plumbers Union. One senior party figure accused Mr Pitt of “an outrageous abuse of power” over the laws, that would mean only licensed plumbers could install new water meters – a key union demand.
TREASURER Curtis Pitt has been accused of fast-tracking new laws allowing only plumbers to install water meters to aid a key union boss and factional ally.
The Courier-Mail can reveal the law, due to be debated this week, has driven a rift through Labor and come amid a heated battle for control of the Plumbers Union of Queensland.
Secreted into payroll legislation changes, the law will overturn Newman government reforms that gave water utilities a green light to use trained staff to install meters.
Mr Pitt had claimed licensed plumbers would restore high standards, however, government departments had previously found installers did not present any new risks.
The legislation has been championed by Brad O’Carroll, who heads the Plumbers Union, the only Queenslandbased union remaining in Mr Pitt’s Labor Unity or “Old Guard” faction.
Mr O’Carroll is being challenged by assistant secretary Gary O’Halloran and some believe the union will switch to Labor’s Left faction, threatening the existence of Mr Pitt’s faction.
Labor insiders have accused Mr Pitt of trying to pass the laws in time to boost Mr O’Carroll’s re- election prospects before the ballot closes this weekend.
“It is an outrageous abuse of power to favour one side in an internal union ballot and prop up his own faction,’’ one senior party figure told The CourierMail. Mr O’Carroll confirmed he held talks with Mr Pitt but the legislation’s timing was a coincidence.
“Yes we did get what we wanted,’’ he said. “These timing things happen, I suppose.”
Mr Pitt said Labor promised in 2014 to allow only plumbers to install water meters.
“We want to deliver higher professional standards and stronger consumer protection in the plumbing industry and that’s what these laws are all about,’’ Mr Pitt said.
Water utilities have been given two years to phase out installers.
Queensland Water has accused the Government of introducing laws under a “false premise of improvement to public safety”.
“The policy objective clearly supports the re-establishment of a protected market for plumbers,’’ it said in a submission.
The Local Government Association of Queensland said the laws would require indigenous communities, such as Wujal Wujal, to fly in plumbers.
“For example, a threeday visit for a total of 24 hours would cost approximately $2900, including travel, meals and accommodation,’’ the group said.