||Issue No. 199||10 October 2003|
Interview: No Ifs, No Butts
Unions: National Focus
Industrial: Fools Gold
Bad Boss: Bones of Contention
History: The Gong Show
Politics: The Hawke Legacy
International: Sick Nation
Economics: Closed Minds
Review: Mixing Pop and Politics
Poetry: One Size Fits All
The Locker Room
An Honest Job
Letter From America
Royal Con on Tape
In one convoluted sentence the head investigator gives the lie to claims the $60 million inquiry was an open, even-handed investigation of all sectors of the construction industry.
"I'll tell you what we're about," he tells contractors on a building site out of Adelaide. "The Royal Commission is investigating lots of activities in the building industry where coercion is used to make people join unions, or where subbies have to pay slings, and all that sort of stuff."
That's it. There is no mention, much less question, of key employer rorts - safety, underpayments or tax evasion - in a sector which claims 50 Australian lives a year, has coughed up more than $10 million in back pay claims, and is said by the ATO to "hide" billions of dollars.
The tape reveals strong anti-union prejudice amongst those the Federal Government paid to gather and present evidence.
The head investigator, whose identity is being kept secret for legal reasons, characterises union concern for ripped off workers as self-serving.
"The reason that unions don't like all-in rates is that subbies don't want to join unions, you know, and it affects their membership base, that's all. Quite honestly, they don't give a rat's arse, in 40 years, whether you have any super in the bank," he says.
He also dishes out advice to the trio, all CFMEU members, on how they can quit the union.
"When you resign, you have to do it by registered post so you can prove you resigned because they will dud you every time," the investigator warns.
"In the eastern states, they chase the shit out of people for fees, you know, back fees, but you can often deal with it. Say you owe three or four years you can often do a deal with them and pay six months more in advance and they will write off the debt.
"Then you resign properly.
"It's a bit red hot, isn't it? It's in their rules."
The tape also lends weight to claims the whole Cole Commission process was crook.
Commentators and union spokespeople have repeatedly claimed key witnesses were either never interviewed or not called by the Commission because their evidence would not have been prejudicial to the CFMEU.
The three Adelaide contractors were interviewed on tape about allegations the CFMEU had coerced Sydney-based ceiling fixers into joining the union in South Australia on a job on which the contractors had been employed.
Investigators repeatedly tried to get endorsement of their claims, without success.
"The CFMEU said you weren't allowed to bring people from other parts of the world, you know, as if it was another country?" one investigator says.
"The union guys demanded that the Sydney guys had to finish first, before anyone else could finish.
"Were you aware of any of this stuff?"
"Not really," one contractor responds, " I did know that when the Sydney guys came down the unions tried to get them a living away allowance.
"All the other stuff about they had to leave first," another says, "I think a lot of guys probably finished before they did."
"Did they?" an investigator interjects.
"We left before they did as well," the contractor confirms.
During the Royal Commission three ceiling fixers gave evidence they hadn't been allowed onto the site until they joined the South Australian branch of the CFMEU.
In his final report, Commissioner Terence Cole found the CFMEU had coerced the building company, Chadwicks, into forcing interstate ceiling fixers to join its South Australian branch.
"No reason was advanced not to accept it (the ceiling fixer's evidence)," Cole said.
None of the men spoken to on the tape was asked to give evidence to the Royal Commission.
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