• Written by Senator Cash



Today the militant CFMEU incurred yet another penalty in the Federal Court for breaking Australia’s industrial laws at a Victorian building site.


The CFMEU and its delegate, Andrew Harisiou were penalised $90,000 and $8,000 respectively for breaches of laws relating to coercion, at the Pacific Werribee Shopping Centre site in 2015.


The court found that the CFMEU prevented workers from working on the construction site unless they joined the CFMEU and immediately paid the required membership fees.


In handing down his decision, Justice Tracey made the following remarks;


Having regard to the history of offending by the CFMEU to which I have referred, it may be doubted that any penalty falling within the available range for contraventions of the kind presently under consideration would be "sufficiently high to deter repetition". Any penalty will be paid and treated as a necessary cost of enforcing the CFMEU's demand that all workers on certain classes of construction sites be union members.


Justice Tracey is the second judge in two weeks to express concern that penalties that can be imposed by the courts are too small to act as a deterrent in light of the CFMEU’s ongoing policy of deliberate law-breaking.


Last week, Justice Vasta of the Federal Court remarked that;


There has been no remorse from the CFMEU. There has been no evidence of the CFMEU training any of its officers as to the provisions of the FW Act to ensure that such abominable behaviour is not undertaken by any of its representatives ever again.


As I have noted, the approach of the CFMEU has been that the imposition of pecuniary penalties are nothing more than an occupational hazard.


This Court has been asked to ensure that the industrial relations regime as created by Parliament is observed and complied with. The Parliament has given the Court only one weapon to ensure such compliance, and that is the ability to impose pecuniary penalties.


In the main, this weapon has been of great value. If a Court has dealt with an employer who has contravened the FW Act in an appropriate manner, the use of the pecuniary penalty has deterred that employer from breaching the FW Act again. Very rarely has the FWO, or a union, had to bring a recalcitrant employer back to the Court for breaching the FW Act a second time.


But this cannot be said of the CFMEU. The deterrent aspect of the pecuniary penalty system is not having the desired effect. The CFMEU has not changed its attitude in any meaningful way. The Court can only impose the maximum penalty in an attempt to fulfil its duty and deter the CFMEU from acting in the nefarious way in which it does.


If I could have imposed a greater penalty for these contraventions, I most certainly would have done so.


The Court can do no more with the tools available to it to ensure compliance with the industrial relations regime. If the community at large are not satisfied with the actions of the Court to ensure compliance with the FW Act, then the next step is a matter for the Parliament.


While the CFMEU continues to pay out significant penalties on a regular basis, it also continues to funnel millions of dollars to the Australian Labor Party.


Labor Shadow Employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor recently confirmed that penalties for such behaviour would be “lower” under a Shorten-led Labor Government. What he failed to say was that the penalties under Labor would in fact be zero, as Labor’s policy is to abolish the ABCC and have nothing in its place to enforce the law.


Whilst judge after judge condemns the CFMEU for its deliberate flouting of the law, and complain that penalties are not sufficient, Bill Shorten’s policy is to give the green light to the CFMEU with no penalties whatsoever. Nothing more starkly illustrates Mr Shorten’s unfitness for government than his approach to the CFMEU.


It is now clearer than ever that Bill Shorten and the Labor Party have been utterly compromised by the millions of dollars the ALP continue to receive from the CFMEU. Exactly what will it take for Bill Shorten to financial and political ties with this corrupt organisation?

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