We all know that Victoria has the toughest building unions in the country and Melbourne has been in the grips of a brutal underworld killing war for the past five years, but never before have the two been so comprehensively linked as over the past few days.

The court case involving sacked Primelife CEO Ted Sent has featured underworld figure Mick Gatto giving evidence and there’s been a truckload of media reports about the $200,000-plus in cash that he pocketed from Primelife over the years. Gatto has explained how he keeps the peace on building sites, ensures they are closed shops for the CFMEU and even averted a death threat against Sent.

Then we had The Age‘s extraordinary story yesterday about the asbestos-ridden power station across the road from its Lonsdale Street offices which has involved everyone from Gatto, the CFMEU and now some colourful Russian characters. However, it was the first time a direct link has been made between the CFMEU and Gatto.

Senior CFMEU organiser John Setka confirmed that he is “a family friend” of Matt Tomas, Gatto’s business partner in Elite Cranes. Setka’s fiancee Helen Bouzas did some environmental consulting on the power station site and also sat on a board with Tomas for ten weeks last year.

Nigel Hadgkiss, the Federal Government’s deputy commissioner of the Australian Building Construction Commission, wrote in The Age that he now has “grave concerns about elements of organised penetrating the building industry”. He went on to say that police forces largely ignore the criminal behaviour because they view it as “industrial” and believe “it is their function to maintain the peace, not enforce the criminal law”.

Hmmm, how much of this culture in Victoria occurs because the police believe the state government do not want the book thrown at the CFMEU, like the Cain government did in the 1980s when the BLF was deregistered. After all, the various divisions of the CFMEU, whether through donations or “other receipts”, gave the Victorian ALP the following amounts over the years:

1998-99: $101,300
1999-00: $53,235
2000-01: $111,517
2001-02: $112,255
2002-03: $128,356
2003-04: $201,891
2004-05: $195,211

Total: $903,765
Average: $129,109

Then again, given that Steve Bracks refuses to do anything about George Seitz, arguably the worst Labor branch stacker in history, why would he suddenly take the moral high ground with his benefactors at the CFMEU?

Peter Fray

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