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Issue No. 284 07 October 2005  
E D I T O R I A L

Age of Consent
After more than five years of debating, cajoling and at times pleading, NSW workers have secured a set of cyber work rights worth celebrating.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Under Fire
Michael Crosby outlines his agenda to save the movement – and explains why Australians have nothing to fear from the SEIU.

Politics: And the Winners Are ...
Wal King, Allan Moss, Roger Corbett, Chip Goodyear, Michael Chaney and David Murray have lots in common, writes Jim Marr.

Industrial: Un-Australian
Labour lawyer Clive Thompson argues the changes to IR are fundamentally at odds with the national tradition of consesensus.

Economics: The Common Wealth
As the policy wonks debate the future of our cities, Neale Towart mounts a simple argument: It’s the real people in a society, stupid

History: Walking for Justice
The Eight Hour Day, a very Australian celebration, had its origins in New Zealand it seems, writes Neale Towart.

International: Deja Vu
A group of trade unions have walked away from America's peak council, again. Labourstart's Eric Lee was there.

Legal: The Rights Stuff
Terror laws have sparked a fresh debate on a Bill of Rights - and workers have a bigger stake than ever before, writes Rachael Osman-Chin.

Review: That Cinderella Fella
Russell trades the phone for mitts in an inspiring cinematic slug-fest. Nathan Brown is ringside

Poetry: Is Howard Kidding?
Mel Cheal asks who Howard thinks he is kidding to the tune of the ‘Dad’s Army’ theme song.

N E W S

 Secret Policemen's Balls-Up

 Centrelink Breaches Cyber Law

 Examiner Pulps Cadet

 Food Truck Flattens Woman

 Will They Know It's Christmas?

 Death By Nestle

 Taskforce On Safety Charges

 Archbishop Preaches End Of Civilisation

 Union Drives Tassie Train

 PM Cold on Lunch Date

 Seafarers Scupper Sell Off

 Fraser Terror-fied

 Tribute to HT Lee

 Activist's What's On!

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
No Place For A Woman!
Doreen Borrow spoke to the Public Service Association’s women’s conference in September about her experiences of working life that span seven decades.

Postcard
North By Northwest
Phil Doyle returns from up north, where he survived on nothing but goodwill, good people and a great big orange bus.

The Locker Room
Disaster
In which Whatsisname slams the recent poor form of Thingummyjig.

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West MLC, gets all casual in his latest missive from the Bear Pit.

L E T T E R S
 Rat’s Army
 Kev's Confusion
 Make Ads Not Law
 Nice One, Workers!
 Dog Eat Dog
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Secret Policemen's Balls-Up


Powers bestowed on a secret building industry police force have been labelled “sneaky” and “devious” by a Melbourne court.

Justice Shane Marshall made the comments about covertly-recorded conversations at the centre of a Building Industry Taskforce prosecution against Multiplex.

Marshall ruled the Taskforce's case that Multiplex had tried to coerce a subcontractor to negotiate an agreement with the CFMEU was "without foundation".

However, he said, that secret electronic recordings made by a subbie, using a Taskforce investigator's recording device and in his company, were legal and admissible as evidence.

Justice Marshall conceded that reasonable people might view such conduct as "devious" and "under-handed".

The Building Industry Taskforce was supplanted, last week, by a permanent Building and Construction Commission with extpanded coercive powers.

Taskforce officers, who have drawn repeated judicial censure for their tactics, have been transferred to the beefed-up Commission to be headed by anti-worker activist, John Lloyd, a former staffer with Howard Government Minister, Peter Reith.

CFMEU Victorian official, Jesse Madisson, said the Commission was continuing the "secret squirrel" tactics adopted by its predecessor.

It refuses to disclose its address and continues to record conversations.

Madisson said building companies like Multiplex were "collateral damage" in the Taskforce's war on building workers' wages and conditions.

"They are out to get workers and their unions, nobody else," Madisson says.

"Despite deaths in our industry and chronic underpayments there has not been a single prosecution of any employer on those grounds. The only time they go after a building company is if they suspect they are co-operating with the union.

"The Taskforce attitude to employers has been - if you don't attack the union we will treat you the same as them. This was a classic example."

Groundwork for the Taskforce was laid by the federal government's $65 million Cole Royal Commission. It rejected level playing field arguments in favour of unbridled competition where employers that cut safety standards and cheated on tax or workers compensation could be used to deliver cheaper jobs.

The Cole Commission heard evidence from the ATO that bodgey sub-contractors were costing taxpayers billions of dollars, every year, through widespread non-compliance but chose to target industry unions, instead.

Prior to the Royal Commission, enterprise bargaining agreements had been an effective compliance guideline for head contractors because unions wouldn't sign off with operators that openly rorted the system.

After a year of hearings, it brought down findings that reworked political themes advanced by former Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Abbott.

On the basis of those findings, the Howard Government has legislated to block effective union organisers from building sites; outlaw industrial action; proscribe safety-related action; and make it illegal to give preference to contractors who pay negotiated rates.

It has also made it unlawful for workers on different jobs to ask for the same wages and conditions.

These laws will be policed by the Building and Construction Commission. It uses lawyers and former policemen to rove building sites with the power to tape conversations and can order workers to hand over documents, attend secret interrogations and dob-in workmates.

The Commission can bar workers from informing anyone, other than their lawyers, what transpired during an interrogation session.

Building workers who breach any of those Commission instructions can be gaoled or fined thousands of dollars.

Unions found to have been party to industrial action, or to have tried to block bodgey operators, faces fines $110,000 fines for each breach.

CFMEU national secretary, John Sutton, said the assault on building workers was a threat to the democratic rights of all Australians.

He said the government had given officials the green light to spy on his members, build secret files on their industrial activities and, even gaol them, for sticking up for one another.

"Every Australian should be concerned because the government has made it clear these laws are their blueprint for the whole workforce," Sutton said.

Interestingly, the Building Industry Taskforce, went out of existence much the same way as it entered - losing in court with a judge expressing strong reservations about its tactics.


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