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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1282

Building and Construction Industry


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:04): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Cash. Is the minister aware of any recent examples of behaviour in the ACT which highlight the importance of the Heydon royal commission in securing criminal referrals? Do those examples include the use of threatening conduct or language? What was that conduct or language?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:04): I thank Senator Seselja for the question—and, yes, I am. The Heydon royal commission heard evidence that Halafihi Kivalu, a former senior official of the ACT branch of the CFMEU, allegedly blackmailed a building contractor over a residential property in Yarralumla between 2012 and 2013, and a second project in Braddon in 2013. Mr Kivalu allegedly accepted payments totalling $135,000 from one Elias Taleb. The payments were, in Mr Kivalu's words, to 'get some people off your back'. Mr Taleb's evidence to the royal commission was that Mr Kivalu said:

… words to the effect of 'it will be 50 grand for this job, and if you don't pay someone else will, and they will get the job'.

When asked if he felt he had any choice other than handing Mr Kivalu the money, Mr Taleb stated as follows:

Basically, if we don't do … whatever—

whatever the CFMEU wants—

they usually go to the site, harass everyone … just giving us a hard time …

At the hearings of the royal commission in Canberra—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock.

Senator Kim Carr: Mr President, on a point of order: in light of the comments you made this morning on the question of sub judice, does that apply to citizens who are currently before the courts?

The PRESIDENT: This is beyond my knowledge, as to what matters are before a court.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, on the point of order: Senator Cash is quoting directly from findings of the Heydon royal commission, as she indicated in her answer. The primary question which Senator Cash was asked included the words:

Do those examples—

that is, examples of behaviour discovered by the Heydon royal commission—

include the use of threatening conduct or language? What was that conduct or language?

She is being directly relevant; she is being carefully consistent with your statement this morning, Mr President; and she is merely acquainting the Senate with findings that have been made by the Heydon royal commission.

Senator Wong: Mr President, on the point of order—

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, on my right!

Senator Wong: I do not have the benefit of the minister's briefing on this. But, if this matter is before the courts, then I would refer you to Senator Brandis's previous contributions in relation to these matters, where he has clearly said that matters that are before the court ought not be the subject of debate in here.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I have listened to the points of order and I have taken further advice from the Clerk. I will listen carefully. The minister is obviously aware of this matter and where this matter lies and what jurisdiction is handling the matter. So, providing the minister does not stray into a territory that she should not, the minister is in order.

Senator CASH: Again, I was quoting from the royal commission documents at hearings of the royal commission in Canberra. Mr Kivalu also conceded receiving approximately $100,000 from two employers. Following the royal commission hearings, Mr Kivalu was charged with blackmail. Yet again, this case just highlights the reason that we needed the Heydon royal commission. If we had not had the Heydon royal commission, matters such as these would never have been brought to light.











Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:08): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate as to whether the former ACT Labor subbranch president, Mr Kivalu, has indicated his plea?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:09): Yes, I can. It has been reported that Mr Kivalu has indicated that he will plead guilty to blackmail charges stemming from the matters that came to light through the trade union royal commission.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator CASH: Those opposite—and, yet again, you can hear them today—have said, consistently, that the Heydon royal commission was a waste of time. Yet what we have coming out of the Heydon royal commission is 93 referrals. We now have the case of Mr Kivalu, and he has indicated that he will be pleading guilty to blackmail charges. Yet again those opposite conveniently deny the truth. All they ever do when matters like this are raised is deny, deny, deny. We know what the shadow minister, Mr O'Connor, thinks of this type of behaviour. He just dismisses concerns about abhorrent, unlawful behaviour on building sites by saying that the sector is a 'rough and tough industry'. (Time expired)



Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:10): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate whether there are any other findings from the Heydon royal commission of inappropriate or intimidating behaviour on building sites in the ACT?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:10): Yes, I can. Several CFMEU officials, including Mr Kivalu, were present at a Fyshwick building site in 2012 claiming that it was a safety inspection. Whilst present, the officials were found by the commission to have deliberately stopped a concrete pour. The actions of the union officials during the visit were such that one of the contractors called triple 0, stating:

…they’re wanting us to step up and have a fight. We’re not here to fight them.

Despite police attendance at the building, the royal commission found that no specific safety issue was ever identified. This, yet again, shows that those opposite do not take safety seriously. They will never stand up to the appalling tactics used by the CFMEU when they utilise safety as part of the disguise for an industrial agenda.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: On my left!

Senator CASH: When you cry wolf on a safety issue, the only people you offend are the members of the union. (Time expired)