Gary Morgan sensationally claims the Fair Work Building and Construction agency threatened and intimidated witnesses to secure a judgment against the pollster’s family trust. Morgan, chairman of research company Roy Morgan, made the allegations in complaints to the Victoria Police and the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
The claims of witness intimidation involve a recent Federal Court case — as Crikey first reported yesterday — which found Morgan’s family trust, Linkhill, underpaid 10 employees who it had maintained were contractors. The court ordered Linkhill pay its workers $178,941 in unpaid wages and entitlements.
But Ryan Lowery, one of the workers named in the case, says he was served with a notice by FWBC (formerly the Australian Building and Construction Commission) on March 31, 2010 requiring him to produce documents.
Lowery claims after receiving the notice an FWBC inspector contacted him directly and told him the effect of the notice was that refusal to attend for an interview and to give a statement to FWBC was a serious offence for which he could be imprisoned. But the notice had no such effect and Lowery was entitled to refuse to assist FWBC with its enquiry.
Lowery said in a sworn affidavit provided to the Victoria Police and the Commonwealth Ombudsman:
“I did not provide the information contained in my statement freely and voluntarily. I was intimidated and therefore compliant with every request [the inspector] made of me in relation to the contents of my statement.”
In his complaint to the Victoria Police, Morgan claims Lowery made a statement to the FWBC “against his will, and under the belief of a possible risk of imprisonment”:
“It is Linkhill’s view that [the inspector’s] conduct was unlawful, and constituted an attempt to pervert the course of justice, and/or threaten a witness.”
Morgan told Crikey sister publication SmartCompany he intends to appeal the judgment to the Federal Court and potentially the High Court. “It was intimidating to the contractors working for us, they were all very frightened once they read that letter,” Morgan said.
Both the Victoria Police and the Commonwealth Ombudsman have refused to investigate the allegations as the police claim it is a matter for the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman cannot investigate matters which are being dealt with by a court unless there are special reasons.
Sarah Mennie, spokesperson for the FWBC, says FWBC is also unable to comment while the matter is before the court.
*This article was originally published at SmartCompany