By a regular correspondent who would prefer to remain nameless for obvious reasons:


The Herald Sunsplashed Friday’s paper with a Russell Robinson story which began as follows:

Two leading business tycoons were secretly filmed
during a vicious boardroom battle for a company that paid Mick Gatto about
$250,000. Ron Walker and Robert Champion de Crespigny were filmed by a hidden
video camera in the boardroom of Australia’s largest aged care group, Primelife,
according to court documents.

Not much of this is new as The Age carried a feature interview with ousted Primelife CEO Ted Sent in November 2003 which included the following quote:

We used Mick Gatto to deal with the unions on our building
projects. That was known because Gatto was mentioned in the Cole Royal
Commission as a contractor to Primelife. He insisted on cash. He doesn’t take
cheques. Our office mislaid some of the invoices and asked for replacements.
They were supplied and now it is being said they are false. They are not false.
As for cash irregularities; when did cash become illegal tender?

However, it wasn’t until four months later in March 2004 that Gatto’s
empire came under real scrutiny when he shot underworld hitman Andrew
“Benji” Veniamin dead in a Carlton pizza restaurant, La Porcella. The
day after a jury found him not guilty of murder in June 2005, The Age produced this feature which included the following:

La Porcella served as Gatto’s office. The former professional heavyweight
boxer, once ranked No. 2 in Victoria, could usually be found there dispensing
his services as a fixer and go-between for bosses and unions in the construction
industry.

It is well known that Victoria has the most militant construction
unions in Australia and former NSW Premier Bob Carr often used to boast
that major
projects cost about 30% more south of the Murray. However, the presence
of underworld figures such as Gatto surely raises some serious
questions.

Does anyone else remember the controversy
when Gatto’s business partner in Elite Cranes, Matt Tomas, attended a
Labor Party fundraiser in June 2004 with some CFMEU officials? Tomas
beat his own murder charge a few years earlier and was pictured on the
front page of the HeraldSun in an Elite Cranes hat with Gatto the day after he beat the Benji murder charge.

The Cole Royal Commission first uncovered some of Gatto’s dealings with construction unions in 2001. This fascinating transcript
details a couple of meetings that Gatto had with ETU secretary and
well-known union bully, Dean Mighell, to settle some differences on
behalf of Baulderstone Hornibrook at the National Gallery of Victoria –
a $100 million project jointly funded by the Victorian and Federal
governments.

Victoria is famous for its controversial unions. Look no further than
the Painters and Dockers in the 1970s and the deregistered BLF in the
1980s. The $250,000 in cash paid by Primelife to Gatto is just the
latest piece of evidence suggesting the situation has deteriorated
again because there is a clear connection between the players in
Victoria’s gangland wars and the state’s tough construction unions.

Surely this should not be tolerated by the Bracks government – or are
they simply too scared to act? After all, Dean Mighell joined the
Greens four years ago but was allowed back into the ALP and was a
kingmaker behind Bill Shorten’s preselection victory and the attempt to
oust Simon Crean. No other Labor rat would be allowed back into the
party like that- – let alone assume a powerful role. Are the ALP heavies
too scared to take Dean Mighell on?

Peter Fray

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