Jul 14, 2010

Tribe trial may prompt new debate on erosion of union power

With Ark Tribe's trial imminent, CFMEU national president Dave Noonan has warned that "if Ark goes in, we go out", writes Ava Hubble.

The Ark Tribe case is scheduled to resume in the Criminal Division of the South Australian Magistrates’ Court on July 20. Tribe, a rigger in his late forties, is accused of failing to attend an Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC) inquiry in 2008. If convicted, he could up to six months imprisonment.

The ABCC, which was set up by the Howard government, has the power to compel building industry participants to attend its inquiries/examinations and answer any questions put to them under oath. Those summonsed are assumed to have information about breaches of workplace laws. Breaches include the unauthorised entry of union officials on building sites and strikes (unless related to health and safety concerns).

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One thought on “Tribe trial may prompt new debate on erosion of union power

  1. Liz45

    The CFMEU and in this instance, Ark Tribe object to the ABCC’s power over workers in the building industy, that doesn’t apply to the rest of the workforce. To my recollection, the Cole Inquiry, the precursor to the setting up of the ABCC did not recommend any criminal charges against any workers. Further, it did not take any submissions re employers neglect of workers safety, and even though workers raised their concerns, no action or recommendations were made by Cole. I can’t recall any action taken by ABCC or the police, or an Industrial Court etc, that even comes close to addressing workers general concerns re the short cuts and refusal by too many employers to protect the lives of building workers!

    This Inquiry by Cole was as big a farce as his so-called investigation into AWB. The fact that the really guilty people, like Howard and Downer were allowed to give evidence without being sworn in; who fobbed, fussed and generally stuffed around during their time in the witness box, would’ve been funny if not pathetic. I believe Downer used many denials of knowledge of what went on, that ranged from ‘don’t know’ to ‘can’t recall’? This nonsense, together with the fact that there were about 65 different forms of communications to him by people from either AWB or people from his department, from email, to ‘notes’ taken during meetings, faxes etc. Only recently, those allegedly ‘up to their necks’ in this farce, admitted, that they knew all along what went on. I submit, that Downer did too! What a joke! What an obscene abuse of the justice system, by two people, trying to protect their own necks!

    Those summoned by the ABCC commit a crime if they refuse to attend. They do not have any of the rights that the rest of the community take for granted, such as the right to silence, the presumption of innocence, and they can be further ‘charged’ for even discussing the summons with their partner. This is a basic denial of justice that the rest of us are entitled to, regardless of the horror or violence of the crimes involved. Ivan Milat(backpacker murders, NSW) had more access to a just and fair trial, both before, during and after arrest than Ark Tribe has. I find this repugnant in a country that boasts of its practice of being ‘fair dinkum’ ‘hard working’ and as Julia Gillard has said on several occasions during the past couple of weeks in reference to voting – “our birth right”? Well, in my opinion the right to a just legal system is also our “birth right”? The legal responsibilities and practices should cover all citizens, regardless of where you work, or what Union you belong to!

    I believe, that all workers have the right to join their loved ones at home at the end of their working day. I also believe, that it is unjust to use punitive actions against workers, while those who have the means and the responsibility to protect their safety, are allowed off, with usually a ‘slap on the wrist’ when they choose profits over worker safety – resulting in death or permanent injuries.
    If I lived in Sth Australia, I would be in the courtroom supporting Ark Tribe. I have already conveyed my support to him and the CFMEU on their website! If he goes to jail, I will join my local mates while they rally to support him! I am no longer in the work force. The principle remains, regardless!

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