||Issue No. 284||07 October 2005|
Age of Consent
Interview: Under Fire
Politics: And the Winners Are ...
Economics: The Common Wealth
History: Walking for Justice
International: Deja Vu
Legal: The Rights Stuff
Review: That Cinderella Fella
Poetry: Is Howard Kidding?
The Locker Room
Make Ads Not Law
Nice One, Workers!
Dog Eat Dog
Secret Policemen's Balls-Up
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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