Hands off Bob! Defend the right to organise!

'I Called Him A Worship, Your Bastard!' 
Denis Kevans (Poet Lorrikeet)

The poet lorrikeet would have enjoyed court yesterday with obscene language featuring in the original 54 charges of criminal contempt against union man, Bob Carnegie.

Over 3000 people were arrested in Queensland in 1977-1979 defending the right to organise, to assemble and to march.

Bjelke-Petersen introduced laws which attempted to take away these rights.

He was unsuccessful. In 1992 the Goss labor Government introduced the Peaceful Assemblies Act to enshrine the right to assembly that Bjelke-Petersen had tried to take away. The Act reads:

Right of peaceful assembly
A person has the right to assemble peacefully with others in 
a public place.
(2) The right is subject only to such restrictions as are 
necessary and reasonable in a democratic society in the 
interests of—
(a) public safety; or
(b) public order; or
(c) the protection of the rights and freedoms 
of other persons.

Look behind the facts of the case against Bob Carnegie and you can see hope in the power of workers united.

Community organiser, Bob Carnegie, had to sit through five hours hours of court time today (11 Feb 2013) listening to 18 charges against him that attempt to take away the right to assemble and the right to strike.

Officials of the CFMEU, BLF, ETU, and Plumbers’ Union received court orders banning them from going within 100 metres of ‘management gate’ in Graham Street, South Brisbane. These injunctions were unlawful. For example one read:

“Employees be restrained from organising, encouraging, assisting or participating in a picket line at the entry or exit points of the QCH project” [Abigroup Contractors Pty Ltd v CFMEU & Ors [2012]

The workers continued their action in the form of a “community protest”. In doing so they were exercising their right under the Peaceful Assemblies Act 1992.

The workers assembled each morning in Graham Street depicted by the red marks
QCH workers assembled each morning in Graham Street (depicted by the red marks)

The court dropped the other 36 charges because it would take too much time and the magistrate was keen to have this case over as soon as possible. Federal Magistrate Burnett said that he’d make a quick ‘cost benefit’ analysis and added that it did not matter to the result if there were 9 0r 54 charges.

For the most part these charges related to Bob Carnegie being inside a 100 metre perimeter from what the court called ‘management gate’ at QCH (during the SEQEB dispute in 1985 workers weren’t allowed to be 50 metres away from the workplace). Bob Cagnegie turned up near management gate between the hours of 5.30am and 7 am with his mates — all they were trying to do to get an Enterprise bargaining Agreement (EBA) out of Abigroup (owned by Lend Lease). It is industrial law that workers are allowed to bargain the terms of their employment.

In September/October 2012 Abigroup employed contractors to take videos of workers exercising their right of assembly outside Qld Childrens Hospital (QCH) construction site. An ex-labourer turned private investigator, Paul Munt (for the applicant, AbiGroup) gave evidence of covert surveillance against Bob and his mates at the building site of the new Queensland Children’s hospital. All the videos shown in evidence depict Bob Carnegie defending the right to organise and the right to assemble. The workers were peaceful and the workplace was quiet behind them.

Over 400 construction workers turned up outside court to support Bob today (11 Feb 2013).

Inside court it was a different story with Paul Munt giving evidence against Bob. Another witness will give evidence tomorrow (12 Feb 2012) under duress. This witness told me AbiGroup will sack him if he does not give evidence against Bob Carnegie.

We saw Paul Munt give evidence that he could recognise Bob Carnegie in the dark breaking the injunction that the court ordered that he was not to go anywhere near the QCH.

Forget the right to assemble won back in the 1970s.

Bob Carnegie pointed this out in a speech recorded in the video shown by Paul Munt in court. On one occasion Paul Munt actually indicated Bob Carnegie as this shadowy figure wearing a coat and trousers. The date stamp on the video was 7 September 2012. The time stamp was 5.47am. Nine minutes later, as the light grew, people in court could see the real Bob Carnegie wearing a different set of clothes and the shadowy figure that Munt referred to had disappeared. The fastest costume change in union history! On another occasion, Paul Munt filmed Bob covertly with a hidden camera. Bob was unaware that his words and face were being recorded by Munt.

Contrast this with Bob Carnegie shown on the video saying to workers:

‘… hold the line, stay strong together we are peaceful … I am proud as a union man, a socialist and human being (to be with yous all here today

On 11 Sept 2o12 Paul Munt claims to be able to recognise Bob Carnegie in the video at at 5.07 am even though the video depicts a brown black scene in Graham Street where no one could be identified reliably.

Queensland police in attendance seemed unconcerned about the assembly in Graham Street, they know people have a right to peaceful assembly, they ought to, they tried to take this right away from workers often enough!

At 6.19am on the 11 Sept 2012 you could see a local musician with his guitar alongside Bob Carnegie and a friend who organises gigs. A community picket with some working class songs, what is wrong with that?

Abigroup and their corporate masters at Lend Lease are trying to take away our right to strike, they think they have taken away our right to assembly … this is not possible especially here in Queensland where workers fought so long and hard for the right to organise. So why focus on Bob? Central casting at AbiGroup don’t understand ‘touch one touch all’. Abigroup’s lawyers, Minter-Ellison (Mr James Murdoch S.C.), are living in dreamland if they think they can take these hard earned rights away from workers. Bob Carnegie was represented by Slater & Gordon (Peter J Morrissey S.C.). Abigroup’s senior project manager, Brian Gildea, will also be giving evidence in the case.

Hands off Bob! Defend the right to organise!

Show your support by turning up to federal magistrate’s court in the morning tuesday 12 feb 2013 at corner of Tank street and North Quay in Brisbane Court no 7 on the 6th floor.

Ian Curr
0407 687 016

7 thoughts on “Hands off Bob! Defend the right to organise!

  1. Day 2 Bob Carnegie Trial says:

    More of the same from Abigroup private investigatior, Paul Munt, telling us that Bob Carnegie was within 100m of QCH. Abigroup has not even entered the injunction into evidence and they are challenging the right to assemble peacefully. Munt shows on his video how AbiGroup has prevent the flow of pedestrian traffic by putting in wire fencing where the footpath normally is. Bob Carnegie calls a meeting with Brian Boyd from the Victorian Trades Hall Council and says ‘we are going to get an EBA, we are not going to accept slave wages.’


    Abigroup set up Bob Carnegie from the outset. They wanted to make an example of him. But there is nothing in the evidence so far that suggests he is doing any more than exercising his right to protest at the industrial black mail of Abigroup.

  2. Abigroup is trying to make out that Bob Carnegie stopped someone from delivering equipment during the QCH dispute. The person was an agent provocateur sent in by Abigroup to build its case against the Bob Carnegie and to try to provoke the union. [See Abigroup sends in agent provocateur by Steve Riggall.

    Also Abigroup used an interview played on 4ZZZ to try to establish its case that Bob was breaking the law. He was not breaking the law, he was part of a peaceful assembly. The interview with Bob was to inform people of their rights and to encourage people to come to a benefit concert in aid of the workers at Queensland Children’s Hospital. [Click link to listen to part of the interview of Bob Carnegie by Steve Riggall played in court]

    The court should never have allowed this evidence to be covertly taken and submitted in a court dealing with an industrial dispute with harsh penalties.

  3. Jack Mundey on Contempt says:

    Bob Carnegie is not the first (nor the last) community organiser to be put up on contempt charges. During the 1971 Springbok Rugby Union tour of Australia that brought out strong protests against apartheid in South Africa two building workers cut down the goal posts to bring the game to a halt. Jack Mundey as secretary of the Builders Labourer’s Federation was charged with contempt of court – this is how it happened:

    Q. You were telling me that they … that a couple of your colleagues cut down the goal posts during the Springbok tour and I was thinking that that was an appropriate role for builders’ labourers, to do a bit of demolition. And what happened with the court case? Did they get off?


    Well, actually of course, we now know that through the action of people like that and Meredith Burgmann and others, who invaded the game and stopped the game being played and all the other protests that took place … I remember being at the Sydney Cricket Ground and having the whole ground with first of all with barbed wire around the top of the pickets and then with policemen shoulder to shoulder all around the ground, to try and keep the demonstrators from coming on.

    Many games were stopped and I think the great success of it was that there was to be an all white cricket team come here the following summer, and that was abandoned. So the great success of the people’s action in … I think that played a very big part in highlighting the people’s hostility to the terrible apartheid character of South Africa at the time. And Mandela, when he came to Australia, of course paid credit to all of the protesters who took action in that period, so it was a very positive example of demonstration being for the good. But, yes, it was an interesting case because Pringle and Phillips looked like going to gaol and in a television interview … They were fined heavily, and in a television interview I had said that if hadn’t been for builders’ labourers crowding the court that the, quote, ‘racist judge would have sent those men to gaol‘.

    That afternoon a conservative member of parliament got up and said, had they seen Mundey make this statement? And I was sued for contempt of court, and it was the first time ever that they used oral evidence because the only evidence they had was myself talking to … to … to a Channel Ten or Channel Seven correspondent, so that’s all they had to go on.

    And they ruled that that was oral contempt, and … and … and I was fined. But they were let off very lightly and I reckon because of the fact that we crowded the court and the judge found them guilty but didn’t gaol them. But it led, later on, to me being put up for contempt of court.

    Ian Curr
    18 mar 2013

    : [Interviewer: Robin Hughes Recorded: October 4, 2000 – see http://www.australianbiography.gov.au/subjects/mundey/interview4.html

  4. Jane manus says:

    These so called Union ‘do gooders’ need to allow the QCH to be built and to stop interfering and stopping the construction lads from doing their job which they are very well paid to do with excellent working conditions that some of us parents only dream about. The unions make out they are only seeking to ‘organise’ a peaceful protest, protest at what for goodness sake. It’s nonsense. Let those boys work to build this centre of excellence and go and get a life which is exactly what your withholding from our sick children. I say ‘No more’ or next time you’ll come up against Mothers against the unions!

  5. Construction workers stand by union organiser says:

    [Publisher’s Note: Similar charges have been laid against CFMEU official Jimmy O’Connor under the Labor Government sponsored FairWork Act (WorkChoices Lite) in South Australia as were laid against Bob Carnegie in a Hospital Dispute for fair wages at Brisbane. Bob was lucky to get off on a technicality because of the strong support from unions in this state. Jimmy O’Connor was not so lucky. There will be more to come like this introduced under repressive Labor & Liberal governments. The article was originally published in The Vanguard a publication of the Communist Party (Marxist Leninist) CPA M-L.]

    More than 200 Adelaide construction workers defied the rogue regulator, the Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC) Inspectorate by walking off the job on Thursday August 13.

    They were supporting CFMEU official Jimmy O’Connor who had to appear in the Federal Court for sentencing submissions relating to a contempt of court charge for which he had been found guilty.

    In serving the interests of the members of his union, O’Connor has had to stand tall in the face of legislation designed to crush construction unions.

    Industrial legislation generally has stripped workers of most of the bargaining strength they once enjoyed, but the special laws relating to the construction industry are something else again.

    O’Connor was barred by the Federal Court on March 25, 2014 from entering the New Royal Adelaide Hospital (NRAH) site unless he was “lawfully exercising his rights” which severely restricted his access and the business he was entitled to discuss with members. This order originated in action Jimmy took to defend members at another site.

    In the meantime, a builder from interstate who was working on the NRAH site was found to have employed a whole lot of s457 workers despite having given the CFMEU an earlier assurance that he would employ appropriately skilled locals.

    On 13 May 2014 O’Connor exercised his rights to enter the NRAH site to hold discussions with CFMEU members, in the course of which he confronted the rogue subcontractor about the broken promise to employ local workers. He demanded that an unemployed member, Jason Clarke, who had the required skill set, be employed as per the previous undertaking.

    The FWBC alleged that this constituted an “unlawful demand” and launched proceedings against him in the Federal Court.
    O’Connor, who every decent worker will laud to the skies for doing his job and representing his members, was found guilty.
    If this is justice, then it is the class “justice” of the capitalists whose control of the institutions of the state permit them to persecute and prosecute union leaders who are merely doing ordinary everyday union work.

    The hundreds of workers who came off jobs to support Jimmy could themselves face action by the FWBC. Company logos on work gear were covered over to protect their employers and sub-contractors who can themselves be prosecuted by the FWBC for not informing on workers who take industrial action.

    A guard of honour was formed the cheer Jimmy on as he made his way to the Federal court, pausing with his family in front of a Spirit of Eureka banner displaying the great oath of 1854: “We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other to defend our rights and liberties”.

    The Federal Court has fined Jimmy O’Connor $12,000 plus the FWBC’s “reasonable costs” which exceeded $100,000.

    All of the FWBC’s costs are entirely “unreasonable”: it has persecuted a bloke for trying to get a rogue builder to stick to its promises to employ Australian workers.

    We say “Smash the FWBC”!

    We need more Jimmy O’Connors who just do what needs to be done – no grandstanding, no attention-seeking, just head high and doing what’s right for the workers.

    Nick G.

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