Two weeks ago, I wrote about the operation of the ABCC under Nigel Hadgkiss.
In April last year, a case brought by Nigel Hadgkiss against the CFMEU was labelled “an abuse of process” by the judge who ruled the director of Fair Work was being “unjustifiably vexatious” and was seeking to “relitigate” matters that had already been settled between the employer and the union.
Yet this case was one often mentioned by Michaelia Cash and Malcolm Turnbull to justify the reintroduction of the ABCC in December last year.
In March this year, Hadgkiss was in the firing line again when a federal court judge blasted the ABCC for wasting time and taxpayers’ moneyon taking two CFMEU officials to court for “having a cup of tea with a mate”.
In scathing and extraordinary criticism of the construction industry watchdog, Justice Tony North told parties on Friday it was “astounding” that commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss had briefed silk and conducted days of hearing with dozens of participants, including Australian Federal Police, over “such a miniscule, insignificant affair”.
“For goodness sake, I don’t know what this inspectorate is doing.”
He said when the ABCC “use[s] public resources to bring the bar down to this level, it really calls into question the exercise of the discretion to proceed”.
Today we hear that Mr Hadgkiss has been forced to resign for breaking workplace laws.
In an agreed statement of facts tendered to the Federal Court on Tuesday, Mr Hadgkiss admitted that, in December 2013, he directed his agency to not publish changes to right-of-entry laws that were of benefit to unions.
He said he believed the laws passed by the former Labor government would be repealed by the new Coalition government and therefore did not need to be published. However, the laws were not repealed as he had expected. He admitted to not reading Labor’s amendments and based his understanding of their “gist” on media reports.
Read that again. The man in charge of a government tribunal admitted he hadn’t read the law, he got his understanding of it from reading the newspaper (a safe bet it was a Murdoch rag), and that he chose not to inform the industry of the law for two years because he thought it would/should be changed.
Michaelia Cash has known about this since October last year and did nothing about it. He continued in his $426,000-a-year job and it was left up to the CFMEU to take Hadgkiss to court.
Hadgkiss was handpicked by the Coalition as was Kathy Jackson’s lover, Michael Lawler, who was also forced to resign. When you appoint political pawns to supposedly independent bodies, trouble inevitably follows.
“Mr Hadgkiss obeyed the dictates of his political masters, Prime Minister Turnbull and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, through ongoing attacks against working people, and in the end he not only stepped over the line, he set up camp there for two years,’’ ACTU secretary Sally McManus said.
“As head of the ABCC, he oversaw a draconian and authoritarian body that breached Australia’s international obligations, persecuted workers and stripped away the right of silence from ordinary hard-working Australians.
“Mr Hadgkiss was minister Cash’s champion in her fight against working people. That the minister today, of all days, praised Mr Hadgkiss for ‘restoring the rule of law’, while systematically acting unlawfully for two years, demonstrates that the minister not only has a radical anti-worker agenda but that this resignation is entirely about limiting further damage to a government in chaos.”
Remember, it was the re-establishment of the ABCC that forced this country into an early double dissolution election. What a debacle.