ALP don’t tell the full story on Ark

I have included a video of the Brisbane rally in support of Ark Tribe with the article from Critical Times below as they offer commentary on the current predicament for building unions immediately prior to the 2010 federal election.

There were claims made at the Support Ark Tribe rally on 22 July 2010 by Shayne Neumann, the Federal Labor member for Blair, that the  Labor Government tried to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission [ABCC].

That is not the whole story.

The current Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a speech to the 2009 ACTU congress where she indicated that she would legislate the functions of the ABCC into an inspectorate in FairWork Australia.

You only have to read the legislation:

Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC)

An independent statutory body responsible for ensuring workplace relations laws are enforced in building and construction industry workplaces and to educate industry participants on their rights and obligations under relevant legislation. The ABCC will cease to exist on 1 February 2010; its functions will be amalgamated into a specialist division of the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman. [see

However this was not passed through the Senate so we still have the ABCC together with the coercive powers it has used against Ark Tribe and others in the building industry.

For example, Kane Pearson, an organiser with the BLF in Qld, who spoke at the Brisbane rally on 22 July 2010, faces similar charges to Ark Tribe under the same legislation.

The laws have not been changed under Labor, nor is it the policy of Labor to get rid of them, merely to incorporate them in the Fair Work Australia legislation.

The Prime Minister made that clear as long ago as 2009, to the assembled ACTU delegates in Brisbane Convention Centre.

Listen and watch to how Shayne Neumann, Federal ALP MP for Balir, tries to spin this in his speech to the rally shown in the video below.

I do not understand why the buidling unions let the ALP off the hook at this rally.

The most important power workers have is their combined strength in the union. Their strength is what they can do for themselves, it does not lie in going cap-in-hand to the parliament. That is a marginal aspect of the struggle.

At best, it is a high risk strategy that puts all into efforts to reform the laws through parliament.

The ALP delivered no change in its first term of government (2007-2010). The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard,  is on record saying that even if she could, she would not abolish the functions of the ABCC, she would merely incorporate them into Fair Work Australia.

So I say these laws can be busted — not in the parliament — but in the workplace.

in solidarity
Ian Curr
July 2010


Defy the laws in a concerted campaign

BLF – GILLARD’S STASI — Australia’s ‘Construction Stasi’ by — Humphrey McQueen


Ark faces jail as bosses go on killing

July 22nd, 2010 by mike

Adelaide construction worker Ark Tribe returned to the courts of the capitalist class on June 20.

He is being tried on charges that he refused to attend a compulsory and secret interrogation by the thugs of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, created to intimidate workers in the building industry.

In a tragic twist of fate Arks return to court came just three days after a fellow construction worker was killed at the Adelaide Desalination Plant site (below).

In South Australia, bosses who kill workers may be fined. Multinational giant BHP Billiton was recently fined $75,000 for causing the death of worker Scott Rigg. Its a paltry sum for a giant corporation.

There is no law on industrial manslaughter in SA.

Hence the international consortium building the bitterly opposed desalination plant wont see any of its executives sent to jail for the death at the plant.
But Ark, who refused to be interviewed by the scum of the earth after standing tall over a safety issue at his workplace, faces a mandatory 6 months jail!

To support Ark, rallies were held in major cities around Australia. Altogether tens of thousands of workers downed tools. For the sake of some minor disruption to the work at the Flinders University site where Ark was employed at the time he was charged, tens of thousands of work hours have been lost to some of the biggest construction comanies in Australia each time Ark has fronted the courts.

And if Ark is jailed, his union the CFMEU has pledged to stop work right around the country.

Photos of the rally follow:

(The oath of the 1854 Eureka rebels at the Ark Tribe Embassy opposite the courtroom).

(Ark Tribe, second right, listens to speeches of support).

(State President of the Australian Education Union Correna Haythorpe details how members proposing to place a moratorium on NAPLAN testing to oppose school league tables were threatened with individual $6000 fines under Gillards FairWork Act. Gillard, now Prime Minister, also threatened to send parents into schools as strikebreakers.)

(Jamie Newlyn, State Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia and President of SA Unions. His members stopped work for 24 hours nationally after a death of a member on the Melbourne wharves a week ago.)

(Ark Tribe here to stay!)

(CFMEU here to stay! with the support of comrades in the AEU, AMWU, ETU, CEPU, IEU, PSA, RBTU, MUA, LHMU present at the rally.)

(And as Ark went into court, we went off to confront the ABCC in its rats nest and vent our anger at its attacks on our class.)


5 thoughts on “ALP don’t tell the full story on Ark

  1. Latest on Ark's trial says:

    Dear Ian,

    Ark Tribe Court Case Update: Hearings continued for three days this week.

    Ark Tribe’s lawyer has suggested to the court that the ABCC has acted beyond it’s powers. As a result the defense has called into question much of the evidence put forward by prosecutors.

    For more than two years, Mr Tribe and his family have struggled under the threat of imprisonment for doing nothing more than speaking up on a safety issue.

    In extraordinary evidence this week the community learnt a great deal about the way the ABCC does business.

    The construction industry Star Chamber is supposed to exhaust all other channels before it uses its big guns (the controversial section 52 orders which compel workers to attend a secret interrogation).

    But under cross-examination, ABCC Inspector Seamus Flynn admitted that not much had been attempted before the Commission resorted to its extreme coercive powers.

    All Mr Flynn did before he fired the cannon was to make two quick telephone calls to CFMEU member, Ark Tribe.

    No letter, no text, no visit – straight to the compulsory secret interrogation.

    A pattern is emerging of an organisation that may not have operated within its powers and functions under its own legislation.

    The Commission does not seem to have paid proper attention to making sure it acted even in accordance with the very limited safeguards placed on its unprecedented powers.

    The trial will now move to written submissions.
    A further hearing will now take place on 13 September.

    Mr Tribe and his family will continue their uneasy wait for justice.

    Construction workers, unions and the community will wait with them. And they will keep up the fight.

    Thanks for your support.

    Dave Noonan and the Rights on Site Team

  2. Rivers of bile in Griffith says:

    Rivers of bile in Griffith, on July 30, 2010 at 5:56 am Said: Edit Comment

    Sancho Panzas and Don Quixotes
    And, alas, some Lots from Sodom
    Are sampling the deadly juice.
    Aphrodites rise from the foam,
    Helens shimmer in the mirrors,
    And the time of madness nears
    — Anna Akhmatova

    Socialists should not get too caught up in parliamentary politics, there is no real change coming from there. However once in a while, the madness surfaces to reveal that truth is stranger than fiction.

    Having said that, I made a written prediction on New Year’s eve 2009 which read
    1) There will be a double dip recession in 2010 (meaning the second dip of the 2008 recession)
    2) The Rudd government will not have access to funds to spend their way out of it.

    Obama will emulate Jimmy Carter, Anna Bligh will emulate Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd will emulate John Gorton.

    That is they will all become ‘oncers’.
    [‘oncer’ = only serves one term in government]

    There were rivers of bile in Stanley Street, Woolloongabba last night. We have received this report from ‘4PR – Voice of the people’ who were on the spot to cover the madness.
    You may have not heard yet, but most of Brisbane’s TV media is assembled outside the Mater Private Hospital (in the electorate of Griffith) ready and waiting to report just how much bile Kevin Rudd’s gall bladder holds.

    Surgeons have a big task in front of them tonight to remove what much be one of the largest gall bladders in political history, that of Kevin Rudd. Retired surgeon, Dr Eric Saint has informed our news room that usually key hole surgery would be used in gall bladder removal but in a case like this it would be more like open cut mining so large is the organ shown on the ultra sound.

    One thing seems certain — Kevin Rudd won’t be giving out leaks of the type he gave the Laurie Oaks (Channel Nine) this week on Julia Gillard’s remarks to cabinet on Parental leave:

    “This parental leave is going to cost us how much? Can we afford it? And how about this pension increase. How much will that set us back? I’m simply looking at it from all angles. I mean how much does a pensioner really need to live? Besides they all vote Liberal, don’t they? “

    Workers Media (4PR) was on hand to ask the important questions along with the rest of the media scrum: ‘how much bile is there left in Rudd’s gall bladder?’

    Over the years, we had been mildly sceptical of all the stories of abuse and harassment dealt out by Rudd to public servants, airline staff, night club security — even since he was Wayne Goss’s right hand man here in Qld. But the proof is in the Mater Private surgical ward tonight.

    It is only recently we have realised what a nasty piece of work the ex-PM is personally as well as politically. But these days, aren’t all the people at the top in companies, parliament, church and public service all evil nasty people.

    Alas, so bad is traffic outside the Mater Private hospital on Stanley St Woolloongabba that the 4PR mobile van was soon forced to drive on.

    We hope that when Kevin Rudd gets out and back on the campaign trail (minus the bile) he will do something about the traffic congestion outside his electorate’s biggest private hospital. His slogan does say ‘Standing up for the south side’ after all.

    One postscript just to hand.

    Cheryl Kernot, former Australian Democrat turned ALP cabinet minister has emerged from retirement to run for the Senate in NSW. Cheryl was quoted saying her objective is to return some respect to the institution of parliament.

    Sorry Cheryl, you’re on a hiding to nothing there, given the current focus of parliamentary politics.

    This is 4PR – the voice of the people, on the roadside near the Mater Private hospital, wishing there was a political organisation built on collective good rather than on ego and bile.

    Worth Voting for:
    Sam Watson (Socialist Alliance) in the Senate (Qld)
    Hamish Chitts (Revolutionary Socialist Party) for Griffith
    Andrew Bartlett (Greens) for Brisbane

  3. Unfair Dismissal of West Gate Bridge workers says:

    In 1986 the Meatworkers Union (AMIEU) was sent bust by the Hawke/Keating government. The union had fought to defend workers at Muginberri in the NT. They lost the dispute and received huge penalties (about $11M) handed out by the courts.

    These days the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) is handing out charges against the building unions for defending their wages, conditions and safety on the job..

    The building unions have already paid out $3.5M in penalties as a result of these charges. One of the biggest pay outs arose from a dispute on the West Gate bridge in Melbourne after 32 workers were sacked by a subcontractor, Civil Pacific.

    How long can the building unions (especially the CFMEU & AMWU) keep this up? In 1986 The AMIEU had focussed on that one dispute (at Muginberri) and lost.

    Ironically this is hurting the ALP 2010 election campaign because the building unions are some of the biggest donors to the ALP.

    Their cupboards are bare.

    By retaining the ABCC, Julia Gillard has made it so it does not matter to the workers who wins the 2010 election.

    There is little difference between Abbott and Gillard — both use the ABCC against building workers.

    This is the story on YouTube of how this has affected workers at the West Gate Bridge in Melbourne.
    Do the unions need to change their strategy if they are to survive?
    Have they put all their eggs in one basket?
    They have to defend Ark Tribe. But that camapign has put a lot of pressure on Ark and union resources.

    Meanwhile organisers are being fined in Victoria, WA and Qld.

    Is there a better strategy to meet the challenge laid down by the bosses and their representatives in government.


    Ian Curr
    August 2010

    Full text of video:
    Ok, let’s go back to March of last year 2009 – 32 workers lost their jobs AT THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE West gate Bridge extensions. They were sacked because the subcontractor who employed them could or would not pay at the rate negotiated by their unions. This was because the head contractor John Holland refused to pay the subcontractors enough to make up the wages of the building workers.
    The men were understandably upset. Even a judge of the federal court said that many of the workers were so shocked that they were not in a fit state to drive home that day. One of the bosses at Civil Pacific, Mr Cassells addressed the workers and said they could apply for employment with the head contractor. The workers and their unions tried this and failed.
    The workers swore at the bosses who had taken away their livelihoods. In retaliation the bosses got their security guards to photograph the men. So they abused the security guard — using language little different to that used by Kevin Rudd when Julia Gillard told him that she was going to take his job. The bosses called the ABCC — set up under the Howard government. An officer of the ABCC, Andrew Williams, then charged some of the union organisers who had set up a picket at the subbie and John Holland’s premises. The workers blocked the entry but said they would allow ambulances and emergency vehicles in.

    At no stage did the ABCC allege that the union organisers or any of the workers hid their identity in any way. At no stage did the ABCC allege in court that there were car chases or physical violence used — they alleged plenty of threats but no violence against persons.

    Now Julia Gillard is an experiences industrial lawyer — she knows about precision in presenting facts. She knows what you can get away with and what you can’t in a court — she knows how to ‘guild the lily’.
    A couple of months after the West gate workers lost their jobs Gillard spoke at the ACTU congress before a thousand delegates, I was there, we were all wearing yellow T shirts like this one saying Abolish the ABCC. One wag at the conference yelled out as she strolled into the conference hall ‘Where’s your T shirt Julia?’ Now she was not going to be wearing a T shirt that said Abolish the ABCC – far from it.

    “Like me, I am sure you were appalled to read of dangerous car chases across Melbourne City involving carloads of balaclava wearing people, criminal damage to vehicles resulting in arrests, threats of physical violence and intimidation of individuals, including damage to a private residence. The last time I read of balaclavas in an industrial dispute they were being worn by security thugs at the Melbourne waterfront when the MUA fought its history making battle against Patricks and the Liberal Party. Balaclavas, violence and intimidation must be unreservedly condemned as wrong by every unionist, every ALP member, every decent Australian. And the Rudd Labor Government will do everything necessary to ensure that we do not see this appalling conduct again. This is another part of our commitment to fairness and decency at work.”

    Workers BushTelegraph thinks that Gillard was guilding the lily. These accusations were never put to the federal court & never mentioned in the judgement of Jessup in the West gate case that Gillard alluded to in her speech to the ACTU congress and where the judge fined the unions a record $1.3M. Delegates yelled out where’s the charges where’s the proof — Gillard’s statement was widely published in the press and so was the reaction of the ACTU delegates who yelled out ‘One law for all’.

    Julia Gillard is a clever person, a clever lawyer – she knows how to present a brief – she knows how to guild the lily.

    The unions have paid out nearly $3.5M. So far they’ve kept their members out of jail. But their members pockets are not bottomless – they will run out of money – maybe Ark will avoid jail – but what about the West gate men – Mick Powell, Tony Mavromatis and Gareth Stephenson – what about Kane Pearson up here in Queensland? An organiser with the BLF. Who will run out of money first? The workers or Gillard’s ABCC.

    So what choices do we have? No to Abbott, no to Gillard. A few put their faith in the greens. But what about the ordinary workers? We only have our unions which means the workers beside us.
    Our unions had better get organised or come the next recession the Gillard’s and the Abbott’s will take us to the cleaners – some may even end up in jail. Keep the faith.


  4. ALP retains coercive powers against building workers says:

    Dear NTEU Member,

    A special 2010 Federal Election Edition of the Advocate has been sent to all members. You should receive it shortly, if you have not already done so.

    On pages 4 and 5 is an article about the industrial relations policies of the parties. This includes a Table which incorrectly suggests that the Australian Labor Party (ALP) has promised to Abolish the ABCC – the Australian Building & Construction Commission. The legislation establishing the ABCC has been widely condemned in Australia and internationally for its breaches of basic civil liberties and labour standards, including for abolishing the right to silence. For example, in an official Report, International Labor Organisation (ILO) Committee of Experts said the ABCC was likely to be in breach of a number of international labour standards, including freedom of association, the right to organise and collective bargaining.

    The suggestion that the ALP supports the abolition of the ABCC, included in the table, is misleading, and the purpose of this email is to correct that error. While it is technically true that the ALP wants to see the ABCC replaced by an another government agency – the policy of the ALP is to leave the existing legislative regime targeting building workers virtually intact.

    An online version of the magazine, with the table corrected can be found at:

    Authorised by Grahame McCulloch 120 Clarendon St South Melbourne Victoria

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