Utter Contempt: Deregistration Must Follow CFMEU Charges

IRRESPECTIVE of the outcome of blackmail charges laid against CFMEU figures John Setka and Shaun Reardon, deregistration of the CFMEU must follow; this violent, militant union has repeatedly ignored and/or flouted the law, and its dissolution is well past due. Token “measures” announced by Labor “leader” and union thug Bill Shorten to clean the union movement up should be regarded as the utter bullshit they are, and ignored.

My comments this morning will be kept circumspect insofar as the charges are concerned, for they relate to matters that are now before the Courts and they should not — under any circumstances — be prejudiced, especially by anyone heartily fed up with the excesses of the union movement in this country.

But more broadly, the slow but incessant trickle of charges arising from Dyson Heydon’s Royal Commission into the trade union movement has now touched the highest profile identities to face prosecution to date, with CFMEU Victoria state secretary John Setka and his 2IC, Shaun Reardon, arrested at the weekend and charged with blackmail offences relating to the supply of concrete by Boral to Melbourne construction giant Grocon, a hated enemy of the CFMEU on account of its refusal to allow unions (and the CFMEU specifically) to dictate the running of its building sites, or to decide who will act as shop stewards on those sites.

Typically, Setka bleated publicly about being arrested in front of his kids, but law enforcement officers (got that John? LAW enforcement officers) don’t book a table for high tea with jammy scones and cream at the Windsor in the pathetic hope alleged miscreants will show up and exchange pleasantries — and then surrender themselves. The arrest has to happen somewhere, and if your kids happen to be around when the Police know you’re home, then that’s just how it is. Get over it.

My understanding is that Heydon indicated that in Setka’s case, there may be grounds for additional charges to be laid for coercion over separate breaches of industrial laws. It is not clear, at time of writing, whether those charges (or any others) have been laid in addition to those relating to the alleged blackmail offences.

First things first: partly owing to the sensitivity in providing a surfeit of comment, and partly because it’s a big issue — with the results of Heydon’s investigations now beginning to take form — there are a couple more additional links today than I would normally provide, and readers may peruse a selection of material from both the Fairfax and Murdoch stables here, here and here.

If convicted, Setka and Reardon face up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

What I do want to touch on briefly is the shocking record of industrial thuggery of the CFMEU more broadly, for this bastion of total disregard for the law has thumbed its nose at literally every attempt to force it to operate in accordance within a perfectly reasonable legislative framework. Setka and Reardon are not the first CFMEU figures to face charges as a result of the Heydon inquiry, and a fair expectation based on the balance of probabilities suggests they won’t be the last, and far from the “politically motivated with-hunt” the TURC has been smeared as from the top down in both the union movement and the ALP, the growing list of prosecutions it is generating merely underlines the validity of such an inquiry in the first place.

As The Australian notes today, the CFMEU has this year already paid $9 million to Grocon and $3.55 million to Boral to settle legal proceedings brought against it over its behaviour; these are not the only instances of restitution it has been compelled to make in recent years, and separate to those payouts the CFMEU has also been slapped with multimillion dollar fines for contempt of court.

Even those Trades Hall figures — and their associates — that I have encountered from time to time over the years refuse to dispute the assertion that the CFMEU is easily the most militant and at times violent union in Australia.

Like bookends, its excesses run from the kind of alleged misconduct Setka, Reardon and their cohorts have been charged with at the one end, right down to the growing tendency for CFMEU-uniformed thugs to spill out onto roads in front of oncoming traffic, instantly becoming abusive and threatening toward drivers if remonstrated with (or almost hit, due to their cavalier disregard for anyone or anything but themselves), at the other.

Already, there are two state Labor governments in office — in Victoria and Queensland — that largely owe their existence to CFMEU money, manpower and other resources; here in Victoria, the Andrews government refuses to act whilst CFMEU thugs run riot on construction sites across Melbourne. In Queensland, the Palaszczuk government has moved quickly to dismantle the Newman government’s so-called VLAD laws, which were in part aimed at outlaw bikie clubs with direct links to the CFMEU.

And for sheer weight of muscle — not just fists and guns, of course, although there has been plenty of that from this union over the years, but the firepower provided by the unrivalled ability to procure virtually inexhaustible streams of cash, however dubiously — the CFMEU has shown itself to be notoriously immune to monetary penalties handed out by Courts over its misadventures, and the forced restitution and fines for contempt of Court are regarded merely as a transactional cost of doing business.

In this sense, the so-called clean-up Bill Shorten announced would be imposed on the union movement if Labor wins the next election is fatuous; a regime of penalties that features line items such as fines for relatively minor transgressions increasing from $10,000 to some $18,000, with others at the top end of the scale for more serious criminal misdemeanours increasing to $216,000, is not going to be regarded by a union that has proven able to ingest more than $10 million in fines and compulsory payments with anything other than ridicule.

Shorten’s proposed “regime” — just like anything else he has to say — is utter, utter bullshit, and should simply be ignored.

It wasn’t so long ago that he, and his stooges at the ALP, sought to politicise the Office of the Governor-General by trying to implicate Sir Peter Cosgrove in a half-arsed attempt to shut down the Royal Commission before it could either report and/or recommend further charges against additional union identities.

The charges that have been laid against Setka and Reardon, had Labor succeeded, would in probability never have been laid.

And in fact, the Cosgrove attempt aside, given Shorten has spent the past two years trying to shut the Royal Commission down — and in view of the stream of charges that are flowing from it — anything he has to say about ALP efforts to clean up the union movement should be regarded with utter contempt.

If he were serious, Shorten would be leading the charge to deregister the CFMEU, in the same way the Hawke government took the lead from its Liberal predecessor (and the Thompson Liberal government in Victoria) in having the BLF shut down in the early 1980s.

Yes, the festering remnants of the BLF were reborn as the CFMEU and yes, something similar would probably happen today if the CFMEU is deregistered. Already there are plans to merge the CFMEU with the equally militant MUA, and this in itself might afford some cover to CFMEU figures who would be targeted and potentially barred from holding office as union officials in any deregistration attempt.

But Shorten isn’t serious. He is a con man and a consummate bullshit artist. And anything he says about enforcing union accountability, and the intent of any government he might one day lead in Fairyland to enforce it, is on par with the prospect of the sun rising in the West tomorrow morning.

If there is one thing the Heydon inquiry has starkly illustrated, it is the need for enforcement to stay one step ahead of the lawless thuggery and bastardry that seems endemic in the union movement in this country: and that lawlessness can be sheeted home, in large and disproportionate measure, to the Gillard government’s sellout to the unions on industrial policy and through the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which must be reinstituted as a matter of urgency.

Gillard’s government was every bit in the control of militant unions as Shorten Labor, Andrews Labor and Palaszczuk Labor is today.

So let’s hear no more of the idiocy that Labor — especially under its current “leader” — will lift a finger to clean up the union movement at all, if (God forbid) it and he should win the coming federal election.

Dyson Heydon is to be congratulated for his inquiry’s pursuit, without fear or favour and in the face of defamatory smears and more malignant forms of resistance from the unions, of those with serious questions (and possible cases at law) to answer where the outrages of unlawful union misconduct are concerned.

The arrest and charging of Setka and his sidekick is to be welcomed and applauded. Decent unionists who have no truck with the illegal actions their leaders have allegedly and systematically indulged in over many years, should be cheering the loudest of the lot.