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The article below by Ian Hanke (director of strategy and communications for the HR Nicholls Society, of which I am a board member) identifies the replacement of the ABCC with a Fair Work division with less regulatory powers as the major reason for the increase in violent and confrontational union activity in the construction industry. It could be added that this increased activity is occurring at a time when Gillard is under continued questioning regarding the extent of her past involvement with union activity and when more such questioning is predicted to emerge. Unions may well be taking the view that, even as prime minister, she is currently in no position to initiate strong action to counter their increased activity. Nor judging by his pathetic response – “all violence is opposed” -is former AWU head, Minister Shorten.

Arising out of the Grocon/CFMEU(contrived) “dispute” now being publicised, there is the further question as to why the Victorian police have so far made only a half-hearted effort to apply the law and allow Grocon to get their “friendly” workers admitted to the work site – and why Minister Shorten is not calling for the police to, if necessary to enforce the law, by making some arrests of union protesters who are preventing access. The excuse made by the police that their outnumbering forced a withdrawal will simply provide further encouragement to the CFMEU.

Des Moore

Regulator lets union run amok
(article by Ian Hanke published in The Australian Financial Review, 29 August 2012.)

You don’t have to look any further than the federal government to see why the Grocon dispute is unfolding as it is.

Earlier this year the government abolished the Australian Building and Construction Commission and replaced it with the Fair Work Building Commissioner.

At the 11th hour of the parliamentary debate, Labor slipped in two amendments that not only guaranteed the emasculation of the new body but gave Australia’s most militant union a psychological licence to run amok. In effect, the government told the new FWBC that (1) it had to cease any investigation into illegality once an agreement had been struck and (2) cease any court actions afoot.

The government was telling its own regulator to ignore illegality, and that message did not go unheard by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). Run amok, do your worst, eventually strike a deal and all will be OK. We are now seeing the effect of the legislation on the regulator.

FWBC chief executive Leigh Johns said the CFMEU’s tactic was “unlawful and ought to stop”, but he was not going to intervene. It was not the regulator’s place to “sabotage the legal strategy” of Grocon by intervening, but the ABCC did just that – often.

Then we have the words of Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten who has nobbled the regulator and given the CFMEU its psychological licence. Yesterday he said “unlawful activity is not condoned in any fashion by this government”. The temerity to say that when his own regulator, at his own instigation, is nobbled!

He then went on to say that this industrial activity was “not usual fare”. Anyone in the construction industry knows this is not aberrant behaviour, it’s the norm. But the greatest offence by the minister is his moral equivalence in saying this dispute is the result of something going “seriously awry” in the relationship between the CFMEU and Grocon.

If the minister is prepared to imply that the company is equally to blame then he has lost his moral compass. Surely a minister can understand the rights and the wrongs of this case? Only one party has had injunctions granted against it; only one will face court for contempt of those injunctions; and only one is blockading work sites. It is not Grocon.

It has come to this: a government that legislates to make sure its own regulator cannot fully prosecute illegality; a regulator that sits on its hands; a militant union given a psychological licence to create industrial havoc; and a minister – himself a former union official – unable to declare right from wrong.

There must be a shudder going through the construction industry that we have landed in this industrial quagmire as a direct result of government policy and spinelessness.

Ian Hanke is director of strategy and communications for the HR Nicholls Society.

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