RC Update – Counsel assisting submissions

The Royal Commission’s own lawyer has called for wide ranging reforms to laws covering union governance and the conduct of union officials.

Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, Jeremy Stoljar QC, provided written submissions on 31 October 2014. The submissions reveal that the Royal Commission will call for wide ranging reforms to the laws covering union governance and the conduct of union officials, as well as recommending that the relevant authorities in Victoria consider whether John Setka and Shaun Reardon ought to be charged with blackmail.

The potential blackmail charges arise from the alleged threats made against Boral to cease concrete supply as part of the CFMEU’s ‘war’ with Grocon, resulting in the secondary boycott ‘black bans’ that are currently the subject of contempt of court proceedings by Boral against the CFMEU. These ‘black bans’ appear to also put the CFMEU in contravention of both the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) and the Competition Policy Reform (Victoria) Act 1995 (Vic).

More broadly, the submissions argue that the evidence is suggestive of “… a pervasive and unhealthy culture within the CFMEU.” It found (p. 557):

(a) the law is to be deliberately avoided, and is to be regarded as an irrelevance, where it stands in the way of achieving the union’s objectives

(b) members of the organisation prefer to lie rather than reveal the truth and betray the union

(c) those who speak out about union wrongdoing are vilified by the union, and their reputations become the subject of subject of baseless slurs.

Specific reference is also made to the demonstrated “… criminal, unlawful and unprofessional conduct undertaken by officers of the CFMEU…”, which has allegedly included (p. 557-558):

(a) blackmail and extortion perpetrated by officers of the CFMEU in Victoria and Queensland;

(b) boycotts, cartel and other anti-competitive behaviour by officers of the CFMEU in Victoria and Queensland;

(c) covert action undertaken by the New South Wales State Secretary of the CFMEU to convince senior employees of Cbus secretly to hand over to the CFMEU the private information of Cbus’ members in breach of the Privacy Act and other legislation, contracts and professional standards, and the subsequent misuse of that information by the Secretary;

(d) the making of a death threat by one CFMEU New South Wales organiser to a fellow organiser (Mr Fitzpatrick), the failure on the part of senior officials to undertake any proper and considered investigation into the incident, and the subsequent victimisation of the complainant by those same officials;

(e) organising and engaging in industrial action in deliberate defiance of orders made by the Fair Work Commission and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia;

(f) obstructing Fair Work Building inspectors in the performance of their statutory duties through intimidation, insults and generally threatening behaviour.

Master Builders strongly supports the Royal Commission in its efforts to ensure that no one is above the law.

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