||Issue No. 138||31 May 2002|
Interview: The Star Chamber
Politics: The Odd Couple
Media: Audiences Before Politics
International: The Off-Side Rule
Economics: The Fake Persuaders
History: Terror Tactics
Poetry: Food, Modified Food
Review: Spiderman Spins Out the US
Satire: England's World Cup Disaster: Star Hooligan Breaks Foot
The Locker Room
Week in Review
In Defence of Latham
Swans A Pathetic Con-Job
Cole Suffers Credibility Crisis
Sixty six percent of CFMEU respondents told Melbourne-based pollsters they believed the Royal Commission into the Building Industry was ï¿½politically motivatedï¿½, while 55 percent said it was established to ï¿½crush unionsï¿½.
The rank and file sentiment reflects concern across the union movement that the commission is a one-trick pony, driven by the anti-CFMEU sentiments of Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott and his controversial Office of the Employment Advocate.
National secretary John Sutton says while the Commission has been set up to examine serious criminality and corruption in the industry, it has spent no time getting to the bottom of any of those kinds of allegations.
"Ninety-Nine per cent of the public resources used to date have been used on largely irrelevant petty disputes in the industry," Sutton says.
"From what I've seen of their allegations, very few of them would even get a hearing in the Industrial Relations Commission, let alone be the substance of a Royal Commission."
Under the carpet
Sutton spoke after commissioner Terrence Cole announced that while he would continue to air anti-union claims in open court, wider issues would be diverted to discussion and issues papers.
- Health and Safety: "The Commission proposes to address this critical issue otherwise than through public hearings."
- Security of Payments to Sub-Contractors: "The Commission will seek to draw together the work of the various state governments ... it is likely the commission will invite interested particpants to confer to see if agreement can be reached on best practice."
- Tax Rorts and Phoenix Companies: "The Commission expects to receive a report and submission from the Taxation Office in the near future. This will be tendered as an exhibit..."
- Workers Comp Avoidance:
- Avoidance and Underpayment of Worker Entitlements:
- Abuse of Migrant Labour: "On the avialable information to date, it would appear to be insignificant... The Commission is seeking the advice of DIMA."
While the above issue were being removed, by and large, from public exposure, the CFMEU NSW branch was served with an 11-page discovery order, requiring everything from financial records to the personal diaries of clerical staff.
It has hired two additional fulltime workers to comply with the commission's demand.
Hunt For Anti-Union Witnesses
Sources close to the Office of the Employment Advocate say its staff numbers have been boosted in a drive to get anti-CFMEU witnesses before the commission.
Commissioner Cole sparked further controversy last week when he decided to relitigate claims dismissed by the Federal Court in 1999.
In that case Employment Advocate, Jonathan Hamberger, was blasted by a judge who ruled a CFMEU organiser had been "set-up and illegally taped" by two "untrustworthy" businessmen.
The commission's review of the case will be conducted by government solicitor, Craig Rawson, who represented Hamberger in the 1999 proceedings.
The counsel briefed by Rawson in that case, Nicholas Green, QC, is also attached to the Cole Commission.
Government enriching of high-profile legal operators has raised Parliamentary scrutiny.
The Senate Estimates Committee revealed that $60 million dollars has been set aside for the Cole Commission, compared with $29 million for investigations into the HIH collapse, Australia's largest.
The Committee also heard the Howard Government had committed $19.1 million for lawyers fees and expenses, headed by the $660,000 salary being paid to Cole.
The commission employs 135 fulltime workers with Cole's earn just pipping the $613,000 it is paying a media adviser.
Cole is on record saying workers would be happy to earn 14 or 15 percent less than they are receiving now.
Woman Offers DNA Test
Meanwhile, a Sydney solo mother has volunteered to take a DNA test after learning the commission would hear a backpay claim she brought against a cleaning contractor was motivated by her "relationship" to the Chilean wife of CFMEU NSW secretary Andrew Ferguson.
The allegation has been made by former Hi Lo Cleaning boss, Ed Wallace, one of dozens of employers and contractors interviewed in preparation for the Commission's Sydney hearings.
Chilean immigrant Patricia Silva was backpaid more than $2000 two years ago. She said she was "amazed" by the claim going before the commission.
"I knew I was being ripped off so I went to the union. I was a member, I paid my ticket," she said.
"This man got very, very angry because I told other women they weren't getting what they were entitled to either. Some of them went to the union as well and I think he had to backpay 10 or 12 of us.
"I am not related to Andrew Ferguson or his wife and I will take a DNA test to prove it. All we knew about Mr Ferguson is that he was good for the workers."
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