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Issue No. 142 28 June 2002  

Safety First
This week's Safety Summit, called by the Carr Government, is a timely opportunity for the union movement to put occupational health and safety into a contemporary perspective.


Interview: Safe as Houses
Labor Council secretary John Robertson outlines the union movement's priorities in the lead-up to this week's Safety Summit.

Safety: Ten Steps to Safety
On the eve of the NSW Safety Summit, Workers Online went looking for the ten biggest workplace health issues and what needs to be done to address them.

History: Staying Alive
Neale Towart winds the clock back to discover that contemporary arguments that regulators should stay out of workplace safety and let the market do its business are nothing new.

Unions: Choose Life
While Commissioner Cole struggles with the concept of unions trying to improve workers� wages, out in the real world, bosses daily thumb their noses at safety authorities, as Jim Marr discovers.

International: Seoul Destroyers
The rise and rise of the Korean national football team in the World Cup competition was more than matched by the rise and rise of the number of imprisoned Korean trade unionists.

Corporate: Crash Landing
Did Ansett workers� productivity really crash Ansett? Jim McDonald weighs up the evidence.

Activists: The Refusenik
At 20, Rotem Mor has spent more time analysing how he will live his life than most people twice his age. A month in prison and another 18 serving in the Israeli army saw to that.

Review: Dumb Nation
Michael Moore's new book, 'Stupid White Men' exposes the rorts behind the Bush presidency with bitter humour, writes Mark Hebblewhite.

Poetry: Helping Out The Rich
From proposals to 'deregulate' (ie raise) university fees, to attempts to restrict workers' right to strike in the name of 'genuine' bargaining the Government's rhetoric about helping out the battlers is wearing just a bit thin.


 Redundancy Bonus for Members Only

 Tax Office Backs CFMEU Case

 Lib MP Named in Cole Commission

 Sentencing Guidelines for Safety Breaches

 Revealed: Costello�s Hit List

 Virtual Cold War Over

 Safety Lock-Out Enters Second Week

 Unions Seek Talks With New Airport Owners

 Journos Attacked by NRMA

 Strip Bosses Face Dressing Down

 Beattie Called Into Bargaining Impasse

 Nurses Deliver Largest Ever Petition

 US Braces for its Own Waterfront War

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Back to the Future
McKenzie Wark argues that the future of the book relies on the future of a sphere of public debate.

Chain Reaction
The Big Australian discovers a uranium mine it never knew it had, a corporate fraud sparks a worldwide market plunge and the price of investing ethically.

The Locker Room
Three Colours Blue
After a World Cup that saw post-colonial cultural theorists chanting 'we beat the scum one-nil' on the Terraces of Inchon, it was the natural order of things that prevailed, writes Phil Doyle

Poll Positioning
Unions Tasmania secretary Lynne Fitzgerald gives an overview of the State Election called earlier this week.

Week in Review
The Weight of Office
Apart from the Teflon John, power walking at his own pace, would-be leaders everywhere turned in shockers as Jim Marr discovered.

 Link Wages to CEO Pay
 Voodoo Unionism
 Good News from the Pilbara
 Go Mark, Go
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Tax Office Backs CFMEU Case

The Australian Tax Office has vindicated union claims of widespread building industry tax avoidance, phoenixing and workers comp rorts in a submission to the Cole Royal Commission.

The submission, that directly contradicts assertions by Royal Commission architect Tony Abbott that �there is no evidence that tax evasion is more prevalent in this industry than others� was lodged this week.

In its submission the ATO says the building industry hides up to 40 percent of its income and is twice as likely to have outstanding tax debts as other Australian industries.

After more than 100 days of seemingly partisan Royal Commission evidence from industry participants the Tax Office provides the first substantial, impartial overview of how the industry operates.

It reads like a blow by blow defence of the union case and a slap in the face for highly-paid counsels assisting who have led months of evidence from disgruntled small operators.

At essence, counsels have tried to build a case that the CFMEU uses illegal and innapropriate tactics to stand over minor industry players.

In Sydney, the union has contended it is usually attracted to those companies by the need to defend industry standards from those seeking to cut costs by evading safety, tax and workers comp responsibilities.

Counsel have concentrated questioning on perceived union failings even when witnesses have conceded business failures, phoenixing (rising from the ashes of insolvency in a new guise), and non-compliance with tax or workers compensation obligations.

The ATO goes to the heart of that matter by submitting "there are significant differences in the tax behaviour observed between large clients and the rest of the industry" which it refers to as the "general trade sector".

"The Tax Office view is that levels of non-compliance in the commercial trade services sector are high and widespread when compared with other areas of the Australian community.

"Several promoters of bogus labour hire arrangements have been prosecuted and gaoled. A number of promoters of phoenix arrangements, who are tax professionals, are now under investigation."

It lists the following as "significant" tax compliance issues amongst smaller operators ...

- cash payments not disclosed on summaries

- payments to contractors, and others, not returned as income

- fraudulent claims for GST credits

- the use of bogus labour hire arrangements

- "phoenix arrangements used to evade payment of tax liabilities through deliberate and systematic liquidation of trading entities.

The tax office has 220 staff dedicated to monitoring building and construction and will add another 50 workers to that total during the next financial year. In addition, it has more than 30 staff undertaking casework on its special Phoenix Project.

The latter group has finalised 400 cases in four years and has another 150 pending. Already it has "raised" or "collected" $200 million in taxes and penalties.

According to the ATO, formwork, steelfixing, scaffolding and plastering are "high risk sub-industries" and each is subject to targeted audits.

Under-pressure Builder Changes Story

Meanwhile, Sydney builder Joe Chebaia appears to have been pressured into recanting a claim that hit at the Royal Commission's credibility.

Chebaia, a director of Excell Building Corporation, was the builder nominated by the CFMEU for a safety inspection last week at Commissioner Cole's invitation.

The Commissioner eventually declined to visit the Flemington site, saying the builder had refused permission and, in those circumstances, he had no greater entry rights than an average citizen.

On Tuesday, Chebaia insisted he had never turned the Commission away.

"No way, I told them they were welcome," he told Workers Online. "I was more than happy for the Royal Commission to come onto the site.

Chebaia said the only way he could understand the Commissioner's statement was that "there must have been some mis-communication".

Reports that Chebaia was speaking out sparked a flurry of activity from Melbourne-based commission secretary, Colin Thatcher.

Media manager Rick Willis told Workers Online that Thatcher had flown to Sydney for a meeting with Chebaia, spoken to him by phone and written outlining the Commission's version of events.

Today, Willis rang Workers Online to say Thatcher had finally secured Chebaia's agreement with the Commission's understanding of how events unfolded.


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