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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1286

Building and Construction Industry


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:18): Mr President, I, like Senator Seselja, have a question for the Minister for Employment, Senator Cash. Is the minister aware of any examples of behaviour in my home state of New South Wales that highlight what happens to those who work in the construction sector if they anger the CFMEU? Do those examples include the use of threatening conduct or language and what was the conduct or language?

Senator Wong: Is this all you've got? Is this your plan for government—belt the unions?



Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:19): I thank Senator Williams for his question. And in response to Senator Wong's interjection 'Is this all you've got' the answer clearly is no, but I think all Australians know that this is a very, very important part of our policies going forward. Under no circumstances do any of us on this side of the chamber condone bullying, thuggery and intimidation on worksites in Australia.

Senator Wong: Neither do we!

Senator CASH: You do! In relation to Senator Williams's question, interestingly the CFMEU have a new campaign. It is called 'Stand Up. Speak Out'. However, this campaign does not apply to those in the union who choose to speak out on their concerns about senior union officials. For example, a Mr Brian Fitzpatrick stood up and spoke out against questionable union dealings with one George Alex. The royal commission found that Mr Fitzpatrick then received a death threat from one Mr Darren Greenfield, which was described as follows:

You have gone too far this time you—

expletive—

fat—

expletive—

You’re dead!! I’m going to kill you!!

You understand?! I don’t care how many police you’ve got with you, [I'm coming over there tomorrow and] I am going to kill you!!

You’re dead!!

The royal commission also found that there was:

… the failure on the part of senior [CFMEU] officials to undertake any proper and considered investigation into the incident, and the subsequent victimisation of the complainant by those same officials …

What is so startling about the example that I just gave is that Mr Greenfield remains an official of the CFMEU, but—guess what?—Mr Fitzpatrick does not.




Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:21): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any other examples from New South Wales that further highlight this culture of fear and intimidation in this sector?

Senator Cameron: Why don't you ask a question about rural jobs?

Senator WILLIAMS: And Senator Cameron should listen to the answer.




Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:22): Unfortunately, yes, I am. The Senate will of course be aware that CFMEU official Mr Luke Collier, who was recently jailed for violent assault, has a history of intimidation and harassment in the workplace. The Heydon royal commission found that on 24 July 2014, at the Barangaroo site in Sydney, Mr Collier threatened a building inspector, saying: '[Expletive] dog. You're a [expletive] grub, why are you here? Go away. You're lower than a paedophile, you grub.' On another occasion, Mr Collier pointed to one of the building inspectors and broadcast the inspector's name and mobile telephone number to the crowd and encouraged the workers to call the inspector, later also saying to another inspector, 'You think all I've got is your phone number.'


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:23): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any findings from New South Wales which demonstrate officials misusing or abusing their power in the construction sector?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:23): Unfortunately, yes, I am. In September last year, $272,500 in fines were imposed on the CFMEU and its officials Chad Bragdon and Anthony Kong for breaching right of entry laws at the Sydney Domestic Airport site in 2013. The two CFMEU officials had stopped a concrete pour, which they did not have the power to do. They also refused to produce their right of entry permits and, when asked to identify himself, Mr Kong said he was crocodile hunter Steve Irwin. The Federal Court rejected the officials' excuse that they were on site for safety reasons, stating:

They behaved in a manner which was abusive and misleading. Their conduct can only be described as contemptuous of the limits to their power and the people on site with whom they were dealing.