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The ABCC debacle

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He said he believed the laws passed by the former Labor government would be repealed by the new Coalition government and therefore did not need to be published. However, the laws were not repealed as he had expected.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.


36 comments

  1. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES

    its corruption pure and simple. Their conduct undermines what is already a legal system that is a deformity of justice.

  2. Ricardo29

    Michaelia Cash has to go.And as soon as Labor wins, so does he ABCC. I hope The cross-benchers who supported its reintroduction are hanging their heads in shame. I would be better if they had the good grace to seek the repeal of the legislation under which it was re-established.

  3. Owen

    The ABBC question could have been included on the postal survey along with many others ;establishment of an ICAC,indigenous treaty, pension age changes,senior pension recipients on the parlimentry entitlements committee for balance… $122million A waste for a question that could have been asked in the last census ….

  4. babyjewels10

    She will manage to avoid any responsibility. Slimy.

  5. Pilot

    I hope the CFMEU hunts this prick down and gives him a bloody good hiding! What a dirty lowlife, mongrel bred fascist scumbag. He needs to go to gaol along with his minister in charge. An utter disgrace!!

    But remember folks, “IT’S ALL LABOR’S FAULT!” Jesus wept…… Bill the Builder made him do it!

  6. Kaye Lee

    Whilst I can understand anger, suggesting violence is never acceptable. Hadgkiss is now facing thousands of dollars in penalties as a result of the Federal Court action brought by the CFMEU and he has lost his job. I would say his reputation has also been trashed but that is kind of hard as I listen to the praise being heaped on him by Cash and the Master Builders Association who think his union-bashing was wonderful.

    There is a continuing full frontal assault on unions by the government.

    First they want to amend the Registered Organisations Act to make it harder for unions to merge and easier for union officials to be disqualified or a union to be deregistered.

    The draft laws state that an application for deregistration of a union can be made to the Federal Court by a Fair Work Commissioner, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, or “a person with a sufficient interest”. It also would allow the FWC to disallow mergers of unions.

    They are also aiming to stop unions from using the interest earned on funds paid by employers and set aside for redundancy, training etc. as part of enterprise bargaining arrangements.

    Couple this with the push to remove environment groups charitable status and the threats to the funding of legal aid groups and NGOs if they engage in advocacy.

    Then there is the ban on public servants criticising policy and the Murdochification and neutering of the ABC.

    The only people who will have a voice are big business and the church.

  7. Ricardo29

    Further to my post above, the ABCC bill passed with the support of the Hansonites, the Xenophon team, Hinch and Leyonjhelm. I would not expect any sort of mea culpa from the Hansonites or Leyonjhelm, but is it too much to expect that the NXT and Hinch might rethink their support? After all some concessions on whistleblowers would not seem a fair exchange for the creation of a corrupt organisation led by an admitted criminal liar..

  8. Pilot

    Kaye Lee, sorry mate, I’ve never ever disagreed with anything you’ve said,/written but the only way to combat this crap is to issue a few blows for the working class. The scumbag needs a bloody good hiding and then some gaol time to lick his wounds. 15 years is a bit short, but it will do. He had no qualms prancing around the place as the tough guy on the job, well let him meet some tough guys on the street and see how he goes. Let’s face it, he’s as gutless as his backers, a coward and a LIAR. Whatever he meted out, he should receive. Screw him!

    When all you have isn’t enough, a bloody good smack in the mouth always helps to relieve the frustration. He needs it, he’s asked for it, and as far as I’m concerned he should get exactly what he deserves………

    I reckon the libs are considering giving him a beating and blaming bloody Labor AGAIN!

  9. paul walter

    That fat cold grub. Should be strung up from a lamp post by the crown jewels.

  10. Terry2

    Hadgkiss will probably be looked after just as Kathy Jackson has avoided criminal prosecution despite overwhelming evidence of her criminality brought to light in the civil case.

  11. Kaye Lee

    Pilot (and paul),

    I share your anger but I would implore you to refrain from even suggesting violence because it plays to their agenda of painting all unionists as “thugs”. The unmasking of their wrongdoing is far more powerful provided we can spread the word.

    Show up their spurious court cases so many of which have either been thrown out or abandoned before they even begin. Show up their collusion with business lobby groups. Show up the number of politicians who go on to be employed either as lobbyists for big business or who are rewarded with cushy government jobs. Show up the businesses who fail to pay superannuation and appropriate wages. Show up the lack of taxes paid by big businesses. Show up the real corruption and criminality of the ruling class.

    One thing we really need to do is take appointments out of government hands. There should be an independent Public Service Board who advertises positions and makes appointments on merit rather than promoting people who will pursue a particular political agenda (Tim Wilson) or rewarding party hacks for services rendered (Andrew Nikolic).

  12. Michael Fairweather

    I dont know how to do a FOI search but I would like to see how much Turdbull pays these corrupt officials to get his own way plus how much he pays these independent senators for voting his bills through Parliament

  13. john

    I would like to thank Hadgkiss for his impropriety. For without it, normal workers wouldn’t get the incite into just how crook and High up the crooks are to achieve their Ideologies.
    See ya and Thanks again !! you over exuberant clown

  14. paul walter

    I suppose this means we can’t hang Xylophone by the thumbs too?

  15. John Lord

    Corruption at its worst.

  16. Dave

    Well, it’s all Fair And Balanced, isn’t it?….. What a goddam corrupted rabble this “government” is. It was just a joke for a while, but with a gutless wonder “leading” his LNP colleagues and the rest of the country into oblivion it is not funny anymore. turnbull, what’s it going to be, another “leader”, another Double Dissolution, another Dismissal, or just more of the same b/s antics till the next election. You tried and failed, just go!

  17. Kaye Lee

    Speaking of corruption and fair and balanced,

    The parliamentary committee looking into the need for a federal corruption watchdog decided we don’t need one.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-14/hopes-for-federal-anti-corruption-body-dashed/8944082

    And Peter Dutton has called for the Senate to support One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s bid to change the ABC’s charter and reveal its top salaries in return for her support for changed media laws.

    She wants the words “fair” and “balanced” be part of the ABC’s Charter, its commitment to regional areas, and power to reveal the salaries of its top broadcasters.

    “I hope there is support for it in the Senate because I do believe the taxpayers money spent at the ABC… there needs to be an account for that money.

    If people are getting $600,000 to $700,000 to front some of the shows, you know, Barrie Cassidy, these people on Insiders, and they have the audacity to talk about Government expenditure elsewhere.

    I think they need to be held to account so I hope it has support in the Senate. ”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-14/politics-live-september-14/8944034

  18. diannaart

    Michaelia Cash & Co couldn’t find an honest union-basher?

    Now why would that be?

  19. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES

    PILOT…I love you. “I hope the CFMEU hunts this prick down and gives him a bloody good hiding! What a dirty lowlife, mongrel bred fascist scumbag. He needs to go to gaol along with his minister in charge. An utter disgrace!!”

    “The scumbag needs a bloody good hiding and then some gaol time to lick his wounds. 15 years is a bit short, but it will do. He had no qualms prancing around the place as the tough guy on the job, well let him meet some tough guys on the street and see how he goes. Let’s face it, he’s as gutless as his backers, a coward and a LIAR. Whatever he meted out, he should receive. Screw him!

    When all you have isn’t enough, a bloody good smack in the mouth always helps to relieve the frustration. He needs it, he’s asked for it, and as far as I’m concerned he should get exactly what he deserves………?”

    Paul Keating could not have said it better! The few thousand dollars in fines is not going to hurt this scumbag. A good thrashing and a prison term might do the trick but until we are finished with scrum like this for good and forever there will be no real change as they will keep rearing their ugly heads whenever the chance arises.

  20. Max Gross

    This is not government by rule of law, but by mobsters, gangsters, racketeers, grifters and crazies.

  21. Lawrence Winder

    …and that Harpy, Cash congratulates the criminal turd for “…upholding the rule of law…” this insanity has to stop …or be stopped.

  22. Dyve

    In this matter, as in so many others, the ‘strong leader’, despite being the Member for Wentworth, is a country member. I remember. The same applies across his party, city or rural.

  23. Florence nee Fedup

    Has anyone noticed at no time has Cash or her partner crime in lower house Kelly O’Dwyer gave us names of any unionist that have raised concerns about unions, or their Super Funds.

  24. Kaye Lee

    lol Dyve, I remember 😉

  25. Kaye Lee

    Cash appointed Hadgkiss KNOWING he had broken the law. She found out last October, and he took up the position in December. They really do think they are above the law.

    Another interesting one…..

    The Australian Federal Police has been ordered to pay the bulk of the construction union’s costs for the court challenge against an illegal raid on its Canberra headquarters.

    Justice Richard Refshauge ruled that police withheld information from the magistrate in order to get the warrant.

    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/afp-ordered-to-pay-bulk-of-cfmeus-court-costs-over-illegal-canberra-office-raid-20170202-gu3s1o.html

  26. Phil

    Over to you Sally McManus – we want the ministers metaphoric scalp.

    And please, please comrades in the union movement, hold on the threats – think them, just don’t say or print them on open company – we all share your frustrations but recognise that the CFMEU has done the true hard lifting by taking the calm, calculated approach – and look what they have won. A smart strategy taking their persecutor on at his own game and rubbing his nose in the muck he’s been laying.

    There’s dozens of Hadgkiss’s on the LNP payroll – knock one down and another pops up – all LNP pissants – part of the conservative’s way of doing business but this crook’s metaphorical scalp is a major win for unions, workers, their families and for justice.

    Now for the minister.

  27. diannaart

    Hear! Hear! Phil.

  28. Kaye Lee

    Another interesting case….

    On the same day Hadgkiss was forced to resign, the CFMEU was hit with unprecedented fines of more than $2.4 million for industrial action on Sydney’s Barangaroo building site.

    Robert Kera, who the court heard had described Australian Building and Construction Commission inspectors as “f—ing dogs”, was handed a $41,250 penalty.

    The judgement noted evidence that CFMEU NSW boss Brian Parker’s failure to recollect was likely to be an unwillingness to be fully frank.

    http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/cfmeu-nsw-faces-fines-of-more-than-24m-for-barangaroo-strikes-20170913-gygfpt.html

    Gee, Arthur Seenodonors seemed to get away with “I can’t recall” without challenge.

  29. Kyran

    “On the same day Hadgkiss was forced to resign, the CFMEU was hit with unprecedented fines of more than $2.4 million for industrial action on Sydney’s Barangaroo building site.”

    If you search ‘CFMEU fined’, there are dozens of results, most of which pertain to ‘unlawful industrial action’. It would appear that the rules favour construction businesses, with the ABCC’s backing, to avoid any scrutiny whilst penalizing workers in the event they attempt to protest or draw attention to unsafe working conditions.
    With regard to Barangaroo, from October, 2016;

    “The highly publicised Barangaroo worksite on Sydney’s CBD waterfront has one of the highest rates of injuries, hazards and near misses of any worksite in New South Wales, a freedom of information request has revealed.
    Data obtained by the ABC shows workplace incidents have been reported at a level much higher than other building sites of a similar size.
    A total of 123 incidents were reported between 2014 and June 2016, approximately five times the rate of other major Sydney projects.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-20/concerns-raised-about-barangaroo-workplace-accidents-in-nsw/7768998

    The $2.4mill fine relates to a 2 day strike in July, 2014, involving 1,000 workers. The strike was, according to workers, over safety concerns. Based on the evidence, this would seem reasonable.

    http://www.skynews.com.au/business/business/national/2014/07/24/workers-strike-at-sydney-s-barangaroo.html

    “Justice Flick’s judgment concluded that the CFMEU “has long demonstrated by its conduct that it pays but little regard to compliance with the law and indeed has repeatedly sought to place itself above the law”.
    “The CFMEU is to be regarded as a recidivist offender,” he said.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-13/cfmeu-facing-millions-in-fines-over-2014-barangaroo-strike/8942084

    Whether it be the CFMEU, the ETU, or the MUA, the fears held for the safety of workers seem well founded and documented. None of the decisions I have read refer to the validity of the protest. All of them refer to the fact there is no legal provision for the workers to protest.
    With regard to the references to violence, I can well understand the overwhelming frustration of rules that are inherently wrong and without ‘legal’ redress. Violence is not an answer. Ms McManus is, IMO, to be commended for urging advocacy to change the rules, through protest. That the act of protest is considered illegal is what should be focussed on. That these ‘rules’ are administered by people of such poor calibre is a cause for anger. It will never be an excuse for violence.
    Thank you Ms Lee and commenters. Take care

  30. diannaart

    Violence is not an answer. Ms McManus is, IMO, to be commended for urging advocacy to change the rules, through protest. That the act of protest is considered illegal is what should be focussed on. That these ‘rules’ are administered by people of such poor calibre is a cause for anger. It will never be an excuse for violence.

    The above puts into clear context the basis for Sally McManus’ advice to “break a few rules” when rules are bad.

    All of which is totally ignored by the Federal government and further enforced by the reintroduction of the ABCC.

    That there is one rule for the powerful and another for the less powerful is nothing new. What is truly disturbing is the lack of any sense of justice with which the right proceeds to ride over the majority’s well being. Impropriety is now accepted – provided it is implemented from the far right.

  31. paul walter

    That was certainly a fair dIsplay of rampant arrogance in the Senate from Cash, when questioned on the subject.

  32. Kaye Lee

    The government confirmed on Wednesday night that legal assistance would be provided to Nigel Hadgkiss.

    If Hadgkiss seeks an indemnification [from penalties], it will contrast with a move by the ABCC to force union officials to pay their own penalties in the event of court actions.

    The ABCC successfully applied to the high court earlier this year to set aside an order banning the CFMEU from paying a fine on behalf of one of its officials.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/sep/13/abcc-head-nigel-hadgkiss-resigns-after-admitting-he-contravened-fair-work-act

  33. Colin Fitton

    Well Hadgkiss has been found out ……..what about Cash…….must be the same for her…..or worse……withholding truths and. So called parliamentarian to boot……MUST FACE COURT…..AND PENSION TAKEN OFF HER……OH YES AND GAOL……COME ON MALCOLM DO THE RIGHT THING…..SHE IS ONE OF YOURS……..

  34. Mark Needham

    Father in Law, 1974, wharfie. We would go fishing, sitting in the boat, ABC radio @ 12.00, (I think) calling the people required to work, for the night shift, at Brisbane wharves.
    Burkes Wharf, #1, #7 and #79.
    Hamilton Wharf, # 92, # 33.
    His number didn’t come up, beaut, full pay, and didn’t have to front for work.

    This is, as it should be. Conservative mongrels, expect someone to actually work, before they got some pay.
    This is what Unions are for. Ensuring workers rights, to take, what they needed from containers, not work, if rain was forecast.
    Hadgkiss, should be hung from a jib, the powerfull bastard. Guilty, let him pay his own fines.

    more power to Unions,
    Mark Needham

  35. Kaye Lee

    The emails tabled in evidence in the case against Hadgkiss are damning.

    On December 19, 2013, an email referred to Mr Hadgkiss having “canned” any changes to the agency’s right-of-entry advice to industry.

    An email from Adam Copp, director of stakeholder engagement for Fair Work Building and Construction on January 9, 2014 to senior staff including Mr Hadgkiss outlined the agency’s advice to industry as follows: “Inspectors should familiarise themselves with the new provisions, but only provide advice on the provisions that will be rolled back if specifically asked by a building industry participant. Presentations should not include slides regarding the new provisions.”

    In an email sent to Adam Copp on January 9, 2014, agency executive Jeff Radisich wrote: “Do we have any idea when the roll-back [of the law] will occur? I thought we would be stuck with these provisions until the Senate change-over in July. If that’s the case we are running something of a political and industrial risk by withholding info on the law as it currently stands”.

    Replying to Mr Radisich, Mr Copp wrote: “To be honest, I do share your concerns and talked to Nigel about it late last year.

    “However, he was absolutely adamant that he didn’t want us to change anything as the government intention is to change the legislation. He said he was extremely comfortable handling it in estimates or the media or wherever. He felt pretty strongly about it.”

    http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/email-trail-sheds-more-light-on-nigel-hadgkiss-conduct-20170915-gyiaey.html

    The misinformation formed the basis of a prosecution against the CFMEU over its use of a lunchroom, which the new rules allowed.

    And yet, Cash still appointed him and thanks him for a job well done.

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