|Issue No. 230
|23 July 2004
Kill the Lawyers
Interview: Power and the Passion
Unions: Tackling the Heavy Hitters
Industrial: Seeing the Forest For The Wood
Housing: Home Truths
International: Boycott Busters
Economics: Ideology and Free Trade
History: Long Shadow of a Forgotten Man
Review: Chewing the Fat
Poetry: Dear John
The Locker Room
The Agony Of The Refugee
Wollongong’s $4000 Hamberger
Francois Philippe Sebastian, managing director of Wollongong-based Sebastian Builders and Developers, swore an affidavit to the court that an officer of the OEA, forerunner of the Building Industry Taskforce, had advised him a CFMEU safety notice "doesn't mean anything"
Sebastian said, as the result of involvement with OEA legal action against the CFMEU, subsequently withdrawn, he had not been "very co-operative" when the union tried to draw electrical faults to his company's attention.
The OEA had unsuccessfully moved to have CFMEU officials barred from a Sebastian site in Wollongong in 2001.
The matter was further canvassed at the Building Industry Royal Commission which heard that CFMEU organiser, Dave Kelly, had been assaulted by a sub-contractor on the site.
In an agreed statement of facts, last week, Sebastian conceded his company had "failed to ensure the health and safety of its employees at work", during November and December, 2001. Each of four specified instances related to dangerous wiring or electrical cables.
In the statement, it was agreed the defendant had three prior health and safety convictions in the name of Sebastian Builders and Development, and 11 as F&F Sebastian Builders, dating back to 1996.
CFMEU secretary, Andrew Ferguson, said the public could "draw its own conclusions" about why taxpayers money had been used to support an employer in those circumstances.
The Wollongong revelations revive memories of the OEA's lead role in the federal government's war against the CFMEU, since assumed by the Building Industry Taskforce.
Activist bureaucrat Jonathan Hamberger was in charge when an OEA case against the CFMEU was described by a Federal Court judge as "manufactured".
Justice Marshall found the Advocate's case had rested on secret tape recordings and lies. He awarded costs against the Advocate's witnesses of $96,000 which the federal government decided the taxpayer should foot.
Later, Hamberger admitted to a Senate Estimates hearing, that while his office had used the discredited witnesses against the CFMEU it hadn't passed information to the ATO that at least one of them was a tax evader.
It was an 11-page report, penned by Hamberger, that then Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Abbott, used to establish his controversial Cole Royal Commission into the Building Industry.
The Commission chewed up another $65 million of taxpayer funds before issuing a report that led to the establishment of the Building Industry Task Force.
The Task Force is running a number of legal actions aimed at blocking union representatives from workplaces.
When it was established, at the cost of another $13 million, it employed several officers who had served under Hamberger at the OEA. The Howard Government, meanwhile, appointed Hamberger to the bench of the Industrial Relations Commission.
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