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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 1060


Senator ROBERTS (Queensland) (18:56): Again to the minister: during the committee stages yesterday Mr David Noonan from the CFMEU said that Assistant Commissioner Fontana from the Victorian police recanted his original statements, and I read one of those statements, and that statement said:

… union officials use organised crime figures to act as debt collectors in the industry'. Specifically, Victoria Police has intelligence which indicates that members of outlaw motorcycle gangs now regularly undertake debt collection for union officials.

In his response, Mr Noonan from the CFMEU said that subsequently Assistant Commissioner Fontana had retracted those statements and apologised.

Now, I have since checked the Heydon royal commission transcript, and it says quite clearly that the CFMEU's barrister's question to Assistant Commissioner Fontana was:

In your written statement you do not describe Mr Meyer as a union official. Paragraph 48 is the place in your statement where you mention the CFMEU.

And Assistant Commissioner Fontana said, 'Sorry, you're right,' and then the barrister for the CFMEU said, 'Of the Comanchero sergeant-at-arms, Norman Meyer?' and Fontana said yes. And then the barrister for the CFMEU said, 'But in your oral evidence you have described him as a union official.' And then Assistant Commissioner Fontana said, 'I've got that wrong; I apologise.'

In other words, Assistant Commissioner Fontana said that he apologised for confusing Meyer as being a union official when in fact he was a union member only, and no-one disputes that he is a member. What I am saying is that yesterday in the Senate committee hearing Mr Noonan for the CFMEU made a number of false and misleading statements that misrepresented the truth. So, that is the first one: there was no apology for his allegations about the CFMEU from Assistant Commissioner Fontana, and there was no retraction of his claims about the crimes associated with the CFMEU.

I further take note that in his response to me yesterday Mr Noonan for the CFMEU said words to the effect that the CFMEU has zero tolerance for criminal activities and does not endorse criminal involvement in the union. Yet surely people are aware that in recent years several CFMEU officials have been purged by Mr Noonan for blowing the whistle on corrupt dealings between the CFMEU and organised crime figure George Alex. Whistleblowers have made claims that Alex was paying cash to the CFMEU officials.

For an organisation that has 'zero tolerance', I think they were Mr Noonan's words, it is quite clear from an article in The Herald Sun that the unions muscleman, Norm Meyer, has been revealed as the key player in the standover tactics for the militant CFMEU and the building industry. I also have a photo here of a police raid on an outlaw motorcycle gang clubhouse which prominently features Norman Meyer who is a member of the CFMEU and connected with the Victorian CFMEU assistant state secretary Shaun Reardon and is connected in turn to the CFMEU state secretary John Setka. Then I have a photo here—it is a notorious picture, I am told—of Norman Meyer walking with an outlaw motorcycle gang T-shirt under an open CFMEU jacket alongside the Victorian CFMEU state secretary Shaun Reardon. I am wondering how much credibility Mr David Noonan has, because it is quite clear that there is a lot of tolerance for organised crime and corruption within the CFMEU. Further, I understand that some of these links have been drawn to the attention of Mr Albanese and Mr Bill Shorten. In fact, in response to whistleblowers' claims David Noonan summonsed the whistleblowers and then dismissed the whistleblowers. Far from having zero tolerance for crime and corruption, it seems that the CFMEU has zero tolerance for whistleblowers.

My question is: how can we take the CFMEU seriously? How can the ALP, Greens and independent MPs and senators condone anything but putting an end to this corruption as soon as possible? Senators Hinch and Xenophon have been smeared in attempts to intimidate and control their position and to change their position. This is just unacceptable, and it reaches right through this parliament with people outside the Greens and the ALP—independent MPs and senators—receiving money from the CFMEU. The CFMEU is trying to intimidate honest senators who have gone out to listen to their members and then act in response to their constituents. How can we tolerate this? I put it to you, Minister, that the sooner this ABCC comes into place the sooner we start ending the corruption that has its tentacles right through this parliament.