An urgent ALP conference amendment proposed by construction union chief Dave Noonan to amend Labor’s national platform to outlaw special inspectors has been withdrawn at the 11th hour.
Crikey understands that the Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union’s national construction secretary had prepared an amendment, likely to have been contested by the Right, to immediately dismantle a watchdog within the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman, the successor to the notorious Australian Building and Construction Commission.
Labor’s draft platform already calls for the ABCC’s abolition, however under the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment Act recently considered by federal parliament, the government retains special oversight to compel workers to give evidence before secret tribunals. It is believed the CFMEU wanted to strengthen the form of words in the platform but backed away at the last minute.
The ABCC has been accused by unions of demonising workers on building sites across the nation and its successor is just as controversial.
Noonan took an opportunity to sledge the watchdog regardless while speaking in support of a general industrial relations motion proposed by right wing shop assistants’ head Joe de Bruyn.
“Why should we keep them? Why should we keep laws that oppress workers in this way? They are not in keeping with the ethos of Labor. They are not fair laws and they are discriminatory,” he said.
Noonan said Labor laws should be designed instead to improve safety, build apprentiships and end sham contracting, to calls of “shame” from delegates.
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“It is time for Labor to rethink coercive powers, let’s banish the ghost once and for all, let’s banish the ABCC,” he concluded, in a rousing call to arms.
Meanwhile, debate has continued this afternoon on the industrial relations-themed chapter 5 of the platform entitled “Opportunity and fairness for working families”.
An resolution taking Qantas to task was moved by the Transport Workers Union secretary Tony Sheldon and backed by the Maritime Union of Australia’s Paddy Crumlin.
“We’re going to fight you…because we’re going to fight for this company, fight for this country and fight for the workers we represent,” Sheldon said.
Crumlin, who was gagging for a drink at the bar, said the recent Qantas decision to ground its entire fleet was the “greatest act of self harm” ever committed by an Australian company.
An earlier move to secure greater union representation on a Carbon and Biodiversity Advisory Board was proposed by the CFMEU’s national secretary Michael O’Connor but shot down by the mustachioed former Army officer Mike Kelly and lost on a formal vote.