Victorian Electrical Trades Union chief Dean Mighell will sue News Limited for an attack in two of its tabloids that he says wrongly accused him of admitting to physical assault.
An outraged Mighell told Crikey this morning he had referred the story, “Greens may return pig hunter’s funds”, by Daily Telegraph humourist Joe Hildebrand, to his lawyers and was considering which leading barrister to brief.
The page 11 report stated Mighell had been “caught on tape bragging about assaulting employers during strikes and comparing workplace inspectors to p-edophiles”, while a similar story in the Herald Sun said Mighell had confessed to “belting up employers”. The Tele also pennedan accompanying editorial entitled “revenge bites back”.
But the 3AW regular told Crikey this morning his alleged bragging about violence or assault had never happened.
“It is extremely hurtful for them to say that I was violent and it damages my reputation severely because I’ve never been accused of that. Hard negotiator, yes, but violent totally outrageous,” Mighell said.
The audio tape of a 2006 meeting of ETU members alluded to by Hildebrand included colourful claims about the efficacy of strike action in obtaining pay rises. The contested quote related to an off-the-cuff assessment of right-of-entry rules that prevented union organisers from attending a worksite without notice:
“Our employers in our agreements we’ve negotiated don’t want that. They’re happy for us to go on 24/7 because they’re not terrorists and we don’t often belt them up unless they deserve it,” Mighell was reported as saying at the time.
This morning’s stories also hung off a suggestion that a 2010 donation of “more than $300,000” by the Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union to the Greens might have to be returned because of Mighell’s long-time membership of the Victorian branch of the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia. Hunting, Hildebrand wrote, chafed with the Greens’ donations policy.
But Greens MP Adam Bandt, who was not quoted in the story, rejected the assertions, stating point blank that “the donation does not contravene Greens guidelines”.
“The decision was made by the Victorian State Council of the ETU,” Bandt told Crikey.”Dean Mighell’s personal views on hunting are up to him.” And contrary to the Telegraph’s claims, the total donated amount was $225,000, not “more than $300,000”.
The blue-collar union chief has hardly kept his love of recreational shooting a secret — so much so that he and ETU official Nathan Stott are running for board positions for the SSAA’s Victorian branch at its AGM later this month.
Mighell said Hildebrand had failed to contact him for comment before the story was published, despite the Tele’s hard-copy version stating that he and Bandt “could not be contacted”.
But that claim was rejected by Hildebrand: “We called his mobile last night and left a message.”
“Good to see Crikey is defending Dean Mighell now. You guys have the nicest friends,” he added.
Hildebrand denied he had written the word “assaulting”, saying instead that it had been changed after he filed it on Friday night.
“The wording I used was ‘belting up’ as appeared in the Herald Sun. I don’t know if you’ve ever worked as a journalist, but sometimes copy gets altered in the production process.”
This morning’s yarns curiously appeared on the same day ballots opened for the position of secretary of the national CEPU Electrical Division and Mighell’s own position of Victorian state secretary — a fact omitted by the Tele.
The Mighell-aligned Howard Worthing is running against NSW Right-backed national secretary Peter Tighe in the ballot (Mighell had previously backed Worthing for ALP preselection against ETU turncoat Shaun Leane in Victorian upper house in 2009). Mighell is facing a challenge at state level from the Tighe-aligned assistant national secretary John Ingram.
Last month, Mighell called for state branches of the ETU to join the Victorian branch and disaffiliate from Labor because of Julia Gillard’s tardiness in rolling back elements of WorkChoices and its propping up of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. He is supporting challenges to the ETU’s current leadership in Tasmania, NSW and Queensland.