‘All that glitters is not gold‘ – ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by Shakespeare.
On that stretch of beach known for decades as Surfers by the locals and badged as the Gold Coast for international consumption hump back and western wright whales pass by every year in winter, more than in living memory. Sea mullet migrate north to Minjerribah to spawn.
Further north Mullet men on Straddie chase them still, along with sharks.
From offshore you can see the ‘Jewel Towers’, three in number, on the edge of the sand near Broadbeach near other high rise.
By contrast Point Lookout on Minjerriba is a poem of wind, of rain, of beautiful rocky outcrops, of whales in winter going north to give birth. Come here in summer with day-trippers and holiday-makers, schoolies, rich kids, surfers and you will miss the wild odd characters that come during the mullet run in June. You will not see fishermen who net the shores of Cylinder, Home, Deadman’s, Frenchman’s and Main beaches in winter and who get only 50 cents a kilo from Markwell Bros who send sea mullet roe and fillets offshore to Dubai.
Wild waterspouts put tendrils down to naked sea.
White water sucking bait-fish into the heavens
Migaloo, puffing whale, meanders northward
As Minjerriba slumbers under a soft molten sky
– The Fire on the Sand by Ian Curr
On Minjeribah they protect the foreshore, not so on the Gold Coast.
For over twenty years, long before the Gold Coast Council and State Government approved the ‘Jewel Towers‘ development on old Burleigh Road at Northcliffe, I have visited this beach to surf, watch the ocean, read books and catch up with friends. I have had brief holidays there, on and off, since I was a kid in the 1950s. Some of the old fibro houses remain, relics from bygone era.
But everything else has changed, even the surf is not what used to be. We witnessed ripping down old places, digging in the sand revealing the old wall put in by former mayor, Bruce Small, at a time of fear that the ocean would break through to the the Nerang River and the new canal estates behind. Back then council dumped huge rocks, concrete and even cars to prevent catastrophe. Now developers (Yuhu and Multiplex) are building a hotel, shopping mall and high-rise apartments in that very same place.
There was an immediate effect on the level of sand on the beach, despite big seas the sand rose up. At the same time, Mayor Tom Tate, feared main beach would lose sand, spent $13 million pumping sand from offshore using a giant purpose built barge.
In doing so Tate created what an old body surfer and retired army general derisively refers to as the ‘Tom Tate Bank‘. Despite being a rusted on LNP voter, the General will not be casting his ballot for Tom Tate at next local government elections in 2019. ‘Tom Tate has destroyed the surf at Burleigh‘ the General told me ‘I can surf the waves at Burleigh no more‘.
Coastal imaging shows that Tom Tate need not fear the loss of sand because it mostly goes in and out. These sands originally came from the Northern Rivers, then they make their way north to Stradbroke Island. It’s a shame Mayor Tate doesn’t follow his own expert advice; his council funds the project that monitors sand movements in the area. He could’ve saved ratepayers a lot of money.
But then Tom Tate was not the first to allow high-rise developments on the foreshore, that is hallmark of previous administrations and of state governments, creating the monstrosity of high-rise decadence so close to nature’s magnificence. Qld State cabinet even extended Keith Williams’s freehold title on the Southport Spit so that he could expand the Fishermen’s Wharf development out into the Broadwater below high tide level. Keith Williams, a member of the white-shoe brigade, was infamous for advising Bjelke-Petersen to have street marchers shot by police.
One morning between 6 and 7am I observed building workers arriving at the Multiplex site at Northcliffe (near Broadbeach), many of them arriving on foot, pushbike or skateboards. Council had reduced allowable parking of 3 hours in the area no doubt reinforced by big fines. So workers would commute and leave their cars as far away as Burleigh, or simply come by bicycle.
On 8 May 2018 a worker in his 20s was crushed in a lift at Jewel towers development site. “Work was stopped, until the investigation takes place … Construction changes from minute to minute, and we’re extremely lucky we’re not talking about a fatality,” a CFMEU official told the Gold Coast Bulletin.
CFMEU says ‘developers are unaccountable’
More than 800 workers have walked off the $1.4 billion Jewel development in Surfers Paradise after 150 workers were sacked. The ABC reported “Tensions have been high at the building site since early last week when the builder Multiplex sent a message to many subcontractors drastically reducing the work they were to do on the development’s three high-rise buildings.”
Speaking to the media at the stopwork on Thursday 4 October 2018 Assistant Branch Secretary CFMEU QLD/NT, Jade Ingham, had this to say:
“There is a veil of secrecy, all we are told at the moment is there is a kind of redesign afoot for a hotel operator. So we have asked the question, if the hotel is only one of three towers then why has work stopped in all three towers?”
What is the redesign that Multiplex is claiming? Can the 150 building workers laid off claim ‘unfair dismissal? On what grounds?
Jade Ingham went on to say: “So we demand some answers as well, and the workers have demanded some answers as well. It is not right what is going on here, it is just another example of corporate thuggery and big business having too much power in this country. You see at the moment they are unaccountable. You see there are protections for businesses and people in the (construction) contract chain but developers are unaccountable. It is not right, it is un-Australian and it needs to change,”
“I have grave concerns for the welfare of (union) members and the workers on this project and the members of other unions. It is very bad time for this to occur, normally in the construction business work doesn’t start before Christmas … there is no certainty that’s the problem” the CFMEU official said.
An indication of the importance of this dispute was that the state secretary of the CFMEU, Michael Ravbar, was standing by Jade Ingham’s side.
“The workers and their Unions will review the situation as this campaign goes on; we do anticipate that this will go on for a little while.”
“We are really keen to get some dialogue going with all the key decision makers and to date that we haven’t had any dialogue. The workers this morning exercised their democratic right to withdraw their labour and that will continue for as long as it takes. ” Mr Ingham said.
Do the sacked workers have recourse under Labor’s Fair Work Act? Although not widely understood, casuals and workers under contract can make claims to the Fair Work Commission for unfair dismissal. However subbies on the Yuhu development at Northcliffe say that the Multiplex contracts are extremely complex and you require lawyer to interpret the 150 pages of conditions. So maybe both Multiplex and Yuhu, the developer, have circumvented unfair dismissal in the Fair Work Act. We wont know unless it is taken to court which seems unlikely.
The Tom Tate Rort
In 2016, both CFMEU Qld/NT and ETU Qld supported independent, Penny Toland, in the Gold Coast council elections. Ms Toland was prosecuted for electoral fraud as a result of the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC)’s Operation Belcarra inquiry into local government elections. The CFMEU gave $100K-150K towards 2016 local government candidates statewide.
Ms Toland gave evidence before the operation Belcarra inquiry when she noticed that the union was paying her expenses on the campaign and he wanted to return extra $10,000 deposited into her bank account by the union.
Penny Toland: I thought that all the invoices were paid, and at that point the $10,000 was still there, so I contacted the ETU and asked how – in what way can I return it, like, do they need a cheque or can I direct deposit it, and that’s what I did, I direct deposited it.
Really, if you are going to challenge the developers man surely Ms Toland should be across where her electoral funding was coming from? Current Gold Coast Mayor, Tom Tate, who is strongly pro-developer and anti-union was returned as Mayor in 2016 with 63.86 per cent of the vote.
In contrast to Ms Toland, this is the evidence of Tom Tate where he denied receiving any donations but admitted to not using a dedicated bank account during the election:
Council Assisting: Can I ask you about campaign funding and take the 2016 campaign to illustrate. How was your campaign funded, Mr Tate?
Tom Tate: Well, it’s fully self-funded by my wife, Ruth, and myself. Out of our own bank account, it’s a little bit over $182,000.
Tom Tate is pretty unpopular in some quarters even among traditional LNP voters. As mentioned they hold the Mayor responsible for sand bank which has disrupted their surfing.
In September 2017, ABC Television’s Four Corners program questioned the Mayor’s close ties to Gold Coast developers. Tate denied the allegations saying, ‘Quote me on that, you idiots.’
Meanwhile Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad has claimed that “Once opened in early 2019, the Jewel will be Australia’s largest hotel and residential complex, and such a significant investment from China’s private sector shows the value the international market places on this booming tourism hub right here in Queensland.” – Brookfield Multiplex wins Jewel hotel construction contract in Australia. The report claimed that there would be more than 2,700 jobs and another 500 post-construction jobs coming from the Jewel project.
How does the ACTU make a top-down ‘Change the Rules’ challenge big business like Multiplex/Yuhu? It won’twork. While workers are out on the grass who will defend them? Where is the strike fund and solidarity from other unions?
In the light of this history, you would have to ask if the CFMEU & ETU contesting local government elections through donations to Penny Toland was a proper use of union member’s money especially given the economic uncertainty workers face.
Regardless, Workers BushTelegraph supports the workers and their unions during difficult times ahead.
5 Oct 2018
Banner Photo: Workers protest their sacking on the beach front at NorthCliffe on the Gold Coast.
‘Frameworks of flesh: builders labourers battle for health and safety’ by Humphrey McQueen