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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1293

Building and Construction Industry

Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (14:43): Is the Minister for Employment, Senator Cash, aware of any examples of behaviour in my home state of South Australia which highlighted a culture of contempt for the law among certain individuals in the construction sector? 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) (14:43): I thank Senator Edwards for his question. In November of last year, the Federal Court found the CFMEU and eleven officials had contravened right-of-entry and coercion provisions on building sites in South Australia. On each occasion, the union officials refused to produce their right-of-entry permits and to comply with right-of-entry law. Instead, they forced their way onto the site and behaved in an improper manner. In particular, CFMEU organiser Mark Gava entered the Flinders University site and demanded that a CFMEU flag be moved to a crane hook. When the occupier refused, Gava replied, 'If you don't do it, we will stop the job'. Another CFMEU organiser also said, 'If you don't put it up there, we'll bring back 10 brothers tomorrow and stop the job.' Gava forced his way onto a TAFE site with other organisers and stated, 'We'll be doing whatever we want.'

While waiting for a meeting with workers to commence at the Adelaide Oval site, CFMEU organiser Darren Roberts was discussing not having provided notice of entry and stated, 'This is the new way of the world,' and, 'Right of entry is a farce.' Mr Roberts became aggressive towards the site manager at the Adelaide Oval site and at one point said, 'I just want to smash someone now.'

Yet again these are examples from a list that clearly shows a pattern of behaviour and the entrenched culture of industrial unlawfulness in the CFMEU on building and construction sites in Australia. It is very clear that the current system is not stopping this type of behaviour and must be changed.

Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (14:45): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is Minister Cash aware of further examples from South Australia which highlight this culture of contempt for the law in the construction sector?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:46): I will also say to Senator Edwards that, when you get rid of this type of behaviour—this bullying, intimidation and thuggery—on building and construction sites throughout Australia, you ultimately improve productivity and job prospects for all Australians.

Jimmy O'Connor, a CFMEU official, has been ordered to pay $12,000 for contempt of court after he threatened a subcontractor that the CFMEU would 'go to war' unless the subcontractor employed a particular person affiliated with the CFMEU. In October 2014, the court fined the CFMEU and five of its officials a total of $152,500 for acting in an improper manner while seeking to exercise right of entry at the Adelaide Oval. Again, in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT, the pattern of behaviour is there.

Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (14:47): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can Minister Cash advise the Senate if the Federal Court has made any findings about the CFMEU's record of compliance with the Fair Work Act in my home state of South Australia?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:47): Yes, I can. The Federal Court has described the CFMEU's record as 'dismal', stating:

The element of deterrence is particularly important in the present case because of the CFMEU's long record of non-compliance with industrial legislation … It is apparent that the penalties imposed in the past have not caused the CFMEU and its officials to comply with the … Fair Work Act.

The Federal Court has also imposed fines of over $205,000 on the CFMEU and 10 officials for right of entry breaches on four Adelaide construction sites. The court said in relation to CFMEU organiser John Perkovic that his conduct was 'particularly egregious' and that he 'engaged in sustained intimidatory and abusive conduct' and attempted to 'belittle, humiliate and intimidate' a government employee.