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Update: Employment Minister Michaelia Cash accepted Nigel Hadgkiss’ resignation from the ABCC earlier today

The rule of law is important in the construction industry. We know because Employment Minister Michaelia “Chuckles” Cash tells us all the time. She — along with the Prime Minister — regularly talks about it, she has Dixers asked about it. “Why should any Australian have to work in an industry where the rule of law does not apply?” she said in an op-ed in (where else?) The Australian, in which she used the phrase over and over again.

Turns out, though, the rule of law isn’t quite so important if you’re not the CFMEU, but instead the body that Cash laboured so hard to re-establish to enforce the rule of law in construction — the Australian Building and Construction Commission. As even the national newspapers reported, albeit not prominently, the head of the ABCC, Nigel Hadgkiss, has admitted to a major breach of the Fair Work Act. In an admission to the Federal Court, the ABCC admitted that its predecessor body the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate had for two years misrepresented the law in relation to the location of meetings between union representatives and workers.

Worse, Hadgkiss had acted to prevent the Inspectorate staff from correcting its misrepresentation throughout the period from 2014 to 2016 despite staff raising concerns about both the misrepresentation and the legal consequences of it. Internal emails revealing Hadgkiss preventing the misrepresentation from being corrected were obtained by the CFMEU as a result of court action initiated by the union. Hadgkiss was involved in an anti-bullying action in 2016 at the Inspectorate, although no finding has been made against the agency.

Hadgkiss remains as head of the ABCC. The government, of course, would be baying for head of any union leader found to have breached the “rule of law”.

Peter Fray

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