||Issue No. 242||15 October 2004|
Interview: The Last Bastian
Unions: High and Dry
Security: Liquid Borders
Industrial: No Bully For You
History: Radical Brisbane
International: No Vacancies
Economics: Life After Capitalism
Technology: Cyber Winners
Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Locker Room
Invest in Dignity Part III
You Need Help
Whose Party Is It Anyway?
"Undemocractic" Taskforce Court Out
Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, said the Coalition would not resile from regulations that would compel people to give evidence or produce documents to Nigel Hadgkiss’ Building Industry Taskforce, under threat of imprisonment.
He was speaking after Justice Marshall the Taskforce did not have the right to access the personal bank accounts of CFMEU members on Melbourne's Concept Blue site.
Marshall was critical of the Taskforce's failure to disclose the purpose of its investigation when it ordered Multiplex employees to produce the documentation.
"Such notices are foreign to the workplace relations of civilised societies, as distinct from undemocratic and authoritarian states," Justice Marshall ruled.
He challenged the Taskforce's approach after it admitted in court that it "might not have suspicion of anything".
Current penalties for breach of Taskforce monitored building industry laws, rushed through after the Cole Royal Commission, include five-figure fines for unions and fines of up to $2000, and possible imprisonment, for individual members.
The Concept Blue case arose out of a Taskforce investigation of a safety audit, following the death of a Melbourne building worker in August, 2003.
Andrews is expected to refloat elements of the Building Industry Improvement Bill, knocked back after an exhaustive inquiry by the outgoing Senate.
The Bill seeks to further bolster Taskforce powers, including giving it the nod to investigate union activities with a view to facilitating potentially crippling damages claims on behalf of third parties. It would also remove the right to silence, during Taskforce interviews.
CFMEU Victorian secretary, Martin Kingham, called on the Howard Government to heed Justice Marshall's warning "and not journey down the path to an authoritarian state".
"This kind of intrusive behaviour into workers private lives should have no place in Australian society. Workers should not be subjected to this intrusion purely because they want to make sure their work environment is safe," he said.
Kingham said the decision reflected the union's contention that Hadgkiss' organisation was doing a "political job".
He said Taskforce officers gave no indication of interest in unsafe conditions that threatened workers lives or underpayments or contractual breaches by employers.
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