Ross Greenwood speaks to Minister for Workplace, Craig Laundy, after Victoria Police dropped blackmail charges against two union leaders, Victorian CFMEU leaders John Setka and Shaun Reardon
Introduction: Government left red-faced after blackmail charges dropped
Ross Greenwood: Lets now go to the new of the day, which is really that after the Royal Commission and then charges against bosses of the CFMEU. They have no been dropped by Victorian prosecutors. John Setka and Shaun Reardon today saw the blackmail charges brought against them. This is in regards to Boral, the building products company, not supplying concrete to Melbourne work sites run by the construction giant Grocon and what went on in conversations there. Effectively they were thrown out of court by the Magistrate. What happened was that the prosecution effectively said that it would withdraw those blackmail charges. The Magistrate, in court, in Melbourne today said, “I think that is a very sensible decision,”Let’s just hear from John Setka out on the steps of the court today. Who claimed that the whole thing was a witch hunt.
John Setka: It was definitely a witch hunt. We know for a fact that the evidence has come out, thanks to our local team, that it was a witch hunt. Evidence that you shouldn’t destroy, that’s a crime to destroy it. That sort of evidence was destroyed by people who knew it was an offense to destroy that evidence. It was a conspiracy. Liberal government, few other people, anti-union law firms, all conspired. That will all come out in time.
Ross Greenwood: That is something you would expect John Setka to say, but do bear in mind after the Royal Commission into Union misconduct that effectively now there are no charges pending. Nobody’s going to jail, and effectively, anybody who has had charges has now been cleared of them. Let’s go to the CMFEU Lawyer, Peter Gordon.
Peter Gordon: If there is to be fairness, and impartiality to our justice system. Then the same sort of scrutiny that has been applied to John Setka and Shaun Reardon over the past three years should now be focused on Boral. It should be focused on the trade union Royal Commission and those responsible for the distortion of evidence that made these charges possible.
Ross Greenwood: Let’s go now to the Minister for Small an Family Business and also the Work Place and deregulation, Craig Laundy. Craig, can I just ask the first question of you, does it really mean that the Royal Commission Inter-Union Misconduct was a complete and utter waste of time? No charges. Nobody’s gone to jail. It would appear according to the courts that nobody did anything wrong.
Interview with: Craig Laundy, Minister for Workplace
Craig Laundy: Ross, the short answer is no because the facts that you just put to me are quite right. Since the Trade Union Royal Commission, there have been twelve convictions. Nine of those have been criminal, and three have been civil, and there are currently there eight matters subject to legal proceedings as we speak. All coming off the back of the Royal Commission. It made a host of suggestions. We have legislated vast majority of those through the ABCC and the Register Organizations Commission, and we have a truckload more singing from the center as we speak, attempting to get them through
Ross Greenwood: The big thing that came from the Royal Commission was the recreation of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and that ultimately was seen to be one reason for having the Royal Commission to try and get back in place a strong building watchdog. If that is all that came from the Royal Commission, was that enough?
Craig Laundy: As I said there has also been a truckload of cases that have been put to court. Twelve convictions, nine criminal, three civil, eight matters also sitting before and they may well be, and this is the complication where I find myself today, that the announcement by the Victorian VPP, obviously, they were the one decide to take the action. They were the people that decide to drop the action and I am not in a position where I can comment on their decision making powers and how they go about it and where they’ve come up with decisions. Also, the complication for me is potentially further cost orders or what have you, coming down the tracks. I’m somewhat hamstrung and I can’t comment directly on the specific case. However, I am not going to sit here and justify the CFMEU’s behavior or the historic behavior. I’m not going to defend the prior conduct of John Setka. He has been previously found guilty before today of over 59 offenses including assault, theft, wilful trespass, and he has been jailed twice in his life for contempt of court.
That’s why the ABCC, the Register Organizations Commission, the Insuring Integrity bill that we have in the Senate right now. Transparency bills that we have in the Senate right now, all coming off the back of the Hayden Royal Commission and the convictions that have already come and our great hope is, continue to come if proven guilty. The is why it was absolutely not a waste of time.
Ross Greenwood: Do you believe that given the fact that there has been this decision in the courts in Victoria, and as a result, you have heard what John Setka and Peter Gordon have both said about this, and plus also you now have the merger between the CFMEU and the Maritime Union of Australia. They are now a bigger union, a much more powerful union. You have also got Bill Shorten well ahead in the polls. Do you believe this potentially emboldens the ACTU and the union movement in their efforts to try and dislodge your government?
Craig Laundy: Quite the opposite Ross. It gives us the opportunity to point out, and as reported in the Australian News Paper on the 23 of April, half of Bill Shorten’s own front bench are now worried about a secret deal he’s done with the CFMEU. The short answer Ross is, the more time we have between now and the next election we’re selling McManus and Bill Shorten, standing up for and defending the actions of the CFMEU, and rogue members of that union, the better I think we’ll do because– Have no doubts about this, you are talking about a long history of criminal behavior. $14.9 million of fines for CFMEU and their officials in the past three years. They’ve currently got 70 officials before the courts in some 39 matters. Ross, if we want to sit and talk about unions and their behavior, every day between now and the next election, and that gives me the opportunity, as a result, to shine a light and explain to Australia what they actually do day in and day out, and the fact that there is a secret deal between the CFMEU who gave their support to Bill Shorten in him getting the leadership in 2013-2014 and the fact he owes them, we do not know what he owes them. Mate, bring it on.
Ross Greenwood: The other aspect of this is, oddly, given the tax policies of each political party out on budget night, and certainly we have spoken with those from the Labor Party about this as well. They don’t agree at all with this prognosis, but given the fact that many union members, these days, people in the construction industry, people in a variety of different areas could potentially earn more than $100,000 and even as much as $120,000 plus these days. It could very well be that they would be better off under to Coalition Tax Plan as compared with the Labor Party’s Tax Plan according to statistics and analysis that we have had done by the tax institute and its tax director Bob Doitch.
Craig Laundy: That is absolutely a fact. That gets me. What gets me, the unions want to stand up there and say they are all for the worker. They are not. They are for the top end of town and they are in bed with big business. This is the other myth, we’re the ones, our side of parliament that is doing work with big business, hand-in-hand, because we are out there prosecuting the case for tax cuts. Where do big unions get their money from? They get it from doing EBA’s, business deals, with big business. This is where their rivers of gold that John Setka so aptly said is coming from. The other irony as you point out, ill give you a specific, where the lockouts, the longest one was around six months. The miners there standing on the picket line, were on average, on 165,000, and their families were living in four-bedroom homes and paying $15 and change per week in rent.
The conditions and terms, good luck to them. They do deals with employers and they get them, but for them to turn around and talk through forked tongues about who they actually represent out on the front lines, when Bill Shorten as we saw in his time, along with other unions like the SBA. They are the best at it and they are the biggest union I should say in terms of membership and donation of the labor party, are robbing school kids, and uni-students, by doing deals with big business on their pay rates on penalty rates on weekends that the same time hypocritically saying when the fair-work commission independent of government and their fair-work commission, not ours, stands up and makes a decision on behalf of small and family businesses reducing some awards penalty rates on Sunday, which by the way Ross, still don’t get them within a of the unionized workforce’s sitting in other big business outlets and retail and fast-food, they want to say, “We’re for you. We’re for you.” It is absolute rubbish.
Ross Greenwood: Tell you what, it was good to have you on the program. Craig Laundy, he is the Minister for Small and Family Business the workplace and deregulation as well, that is sparked by the decision today of the Department of Public Prosecutions in Victoria to drop those charges against John Setka, the CFMEU official, and Shaun Reardon as well, and as always great to have you on the program.
Craig Laundy: Good on Ross, see you soon mate.
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