Latest news: The Morrison Government has just introduced a bill ostensibly to curb union wrongdoing. It’s short title in Canberra is the Ensuring Integrity Bill. However, when politicians start waffling about "integrity" it is usually the time to count the silverware and lock it up. We believe the Morrison Government doesn’t understand the Fair Work Act and or the role of unions in our society.
No one could defend many of the activities of the CFMMEU or some of the actions of John Setka.
But he is democratically elected by the members. Yes he is frequently being fined for being naughty, but those fines just get added into the costs of his members’ employers, who have a monopoly. They simply pass those costs onto the taxpayers when the work involved building public infrastructure such as bridges, schools, tunnels and hospitals.
In our submission to the Ensuring Integrity Senate inquiry we say the government can control the John Setkas and reduce costs by ending the monopoly enjoyed by the Top Tier construction firms who build all state government infrastructure. The government could end the monopoly which allows the penalties for wrongdoing to be paid by the taxpayers instead of his members, or God forbid, by Mr Setka himself.
But that isn't what governments do. They much prefer to "posture".
NPAQ Assistant Secretary Jack McGuire and our Legal and IR whizz, Miles Heffernan, were absolute stars when they presented our case at recent Senate hearings in Brisbane. They pointed out that any action against the organisations like the CFMMEU was not going to succeed legally.
So why do it?
If it is the individual Setka who is causing the ostensible concerns, so it is the individual union official who should be targeted by the legislation. Jack and Miles then went on to argue that to impose a "good character" test as was proposed in the legislation was the exact opposite of what should apply. What is needed is a "bad character" test in which people like John Setka who persistently behave badly can be punished as a consequence of their bad behaviour.
We also expressed concerns about moves to deregister unions like the CFMMEU. That would mean it would simply become a deregistered union - just like the NPAQ. But as an unregistered union we have all the rights and privileges of a registered union except the automatic right of entry, which we don't value by the way. We don’t feel disadvantaged, so what is the penalty for the CFMMEU?