The Australian, October 31, 2016:
Union leaders have been caught on video boasting of a plan to “take ownership” of the Labor Party and impose their will on its policies, sending a warning shot to Bill Shorten that they will replace politicians who stand in their way.
The construction union officials vow to use their power in the ALP to install politicians they want, assuring members that “change is happening” and the union is getting its way.
The video fuels the row over union power as Malcolm Turnbull accuses the Opposition Leader of defending the peak construction union rather than condemning it for the “lawlessness” that has seen more than 100 of its officials face court.
As the Senate prepares for a vote within weeks to restore the building industry watchdog scrapped by Labor four years ago, the government is stepping up its warnings about the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union dictating terms to Mr Shorten.
The video shows CFMEU ¬assistant state secretary for Western Australia Graham Pallot and national president Joe McDonald telling workers they are increasing their sway over Labor as a -result of their numbers.
“The reality is we all know how we’ve felt for a long time about the ALP but what we’re actually going to do is take ownership and ¬responsibility of the ALP,” Mr Pallot says. “We’re getting influence in the ALP and that’s how we’re going to get in there. We’re not going to wait for the politicians to come and do it for us — we’re going to go in there, with your support, we’re going to put politicians in that are representative of the working class.
“And to be quite frank, if they don’t, we’re going to remove that politician and we’re going to -replace them with someone that does stand up for the values we want — that is going to improve WorkSafe, that is going to bring in laws, that is going to get rid of the ABCC.
“We’re not going to just ask them to do it, we’re going to go in there and demand they do it. We need your support to do that. We need you to join the ALP.
“Let’s get real outcomes out of the ALP. Let’s don’t piss-fart around anymore. Let’s go in and demand our outcomes.”
The video was posted to a private Facebook page in April by Tawa Harris, a CFMEU official who has faced court in the past for blocking access to construction sites.
The power of the CFMEU is now central to the Senate vote on the ABCC bill as the government insists that a tougher watchdog is needed after seeing no change in its tactics despite more than 100 court rulings against it over the past decade. While the courts have imposed more than $8 million in fines on the CFMEU, it has assets of almost $90m and has shrugged off the penalties.
Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate director Nigel Hadgkiss has cited the court rulings that say the CFMEU and its officials are “routinely” breaking workplace laws despite a 95 per cent “success rate” by the regulator against the union in court.
Mr Shorten told ABC TV in June he had “zero tolerance” for officials who broke the law and that it was unfair to suggest there was a “joint venture” between Labor and the CFMEU given the union’s financial support for the party. The CFMEU’s support has been vital for Mr Shorten at times, such as when he needed more votes at Labor’s national conference last year to change policy in favour of asylum boat turn-backs.
CFMEU boss Michael O’Connor has also extracted promises from Mr Shorten at times, including in late 2013 when the union ¬demanded a commitment to ¬oppose the ABCC as a condition of its support in the Labor leadership contest with Anthony Albanese.
Mr Shorten acclaimed the “mighty trade union movement” in a speech to Queensland Labor members on the weekend, hailing the volunteers who helped him during the federal election campaign and attacking the government’s “anti-union, anti-fairness” agenda. “In the past two weeks, the Liberal obsession with attacking unions, creating an easy-to-hire, easy-to-fire society has sunk to a new low,” he said.
Mr Shorten also attacked the government for being willing to trade “guns for votes” with Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm for his support on the restoration of the ABCC.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said the video showed Labor was sacrificing the national interest because of Mr Shorten’s debts to militant unions.
“This latest video confirms that the CFMEU is openly buying up the Labor Party and that Bill Shorten’s leadership is a commodity that is already owned by the CFMEU,” she said. “Bill Shorten relies on the CFMEU for the leadership of the Labor Party and continues to receive millions of dollars in donations in return for their ¬opposition to the ABCC.”
The CFMEU donated $2.14m to the ALP over the five years to June last year. The union’s annual disclosures to the AEC also showed it had spent $522,510 over the five years on its own political campaigns, an important support for Labor during elections.
The Australian, October 31, 2016: