||Issue No. 269||24 June 2005|
Truth In Advertising
Interview: The Baby Drought
Industrial: Lies, AWAs and Statistics
Workplace: The Invisible Parents
History: Bruce’s Big Blunder
Politics: All God's Children
Economics: Spun Out
International: Shakey Trials
Legal: Civil Distrubance
Review: Crash Course In Racism
Poetry: You're Fired
The Locker Room
Stuck for words
More care, less scare
Do or die time
China throws in Mao’s towel
Don’t strike out strikes
Feds Invoke Feared Beard
The Building Industry Improvement Bill makes illegal virtually all forms of industrial action, including meetings, and opens up individual workers to $22,000 fines and their unions to $110,000 slugs for breaches.
It gives courts the ability to order workers' organisations to pay unlimited amounts of compensation, or to sequester their assets.
The new laws will be enforced by a permanent Building Industry Commission, formerly the Building Industry Taskforce, that has the power to interrogate individual workers.
The Commission, headed by controversial former federal policeman Nigel Hadgkiss, can deny building workers the right to silence and deprive them of the common law right not to incriminate themselves.
It can order building workers not to reveal the contents of any interrogation to family or friends.
Failure to comply with any of these requirements can render workers liable for fines or imprisonment.
CFMEU national secretary, John Sutton, warned the federal government had already flagged its intention to spread these power beyond the construction sector.
"While Australians may be prepared to give up legal protections to fight terrorism, few would support forgoing their rights to support the Federal Government's war on unions," Sutton said.
"It would be a tragedy for this country if these powers were allowed to pass into law without any community debate."
The new regime is based on the findings of the discredited Cole Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry. The Commission was established after Howard Government ministers claimed the industry was a hot bed of illegal activity.
Cole claimed to have identified hundreds of "improper" incidents which were passed to Hadgkiss for action.
Hadgkiss admitted to Senate Estimates, last month, that these had resulted in just one prosecution nationwide.
Hadgkiss, himself, has been the subject of adverse evidence to Parliamentary Inquiries from former police officers.
The new legislation turns his interim Taskforce into a permanent Commission with beefed-up coercive powers.
The Taskforce, while in operation, copped repeated judicial censure for its methods and some of the cases it chose to pursue with taxpayers' chequebook.
A Melbourne federal court judge described its methods as "undemocratic" and "authoritarian", while a Sydney counterpart ruled it had prosecuted the CFMEU "without reasonable cause".
Hadgkiss admitted, under Senate questioning, his Taskforce had splurged more than a quarter of a million dollars on the latter case.
Another NSW judge found there had been an "element of provocation" by Taskforce officers in a case against union members and was highly critical of one of Hadgkiss' officers who gave sworn evidence, then changed his testimony after being contradicted by a company witness.
Nigel Kicks Tin
Meanwhile, CFMEU NSW branch secretary, Andrew Ferguson, has pledged $50,000 of Taskforce money to the campaign against Howard's IR changes.
The cheque was the first installment of substantial costs awarded against the Building Industry Taskforce after Justice Wilcox, in the Federal Court, ruled a case brought against the CFMEU had been "hopeless".
Ferguson said the Taskforce had spent millions of dollars in an effort to block CFMEU entry to building sites. He noted that Hadgkiss had conceded, publicly, his organisation did not seek to prosecute employers who ripped building workers off.
Earlier this year, the Taskforce was in the middle of another controversy when it said it had lost interview notes at the heart of a former Detective Sergeant's claim that he had been the victim of "payback" and "victimisation".
Michael McGann, holder of the NSW Police's highest bravery award, sought the notes under freedom of information provisions after alleging he had been punted from the Taskforce because of a Hadgkiss "vendetta".
In 2003, McGann told a Parliamentary Inquiry, investigators under Hadgkiss' control had fabricated evidence to the Wood Royal Commission.
"As soon as I came onto his radar at the building Industry Taskforce I was a marked man," McGann said in February.
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|