Bill Shorten’s industrial relations promise to militant CFMEU

The Australian, February 27, 2018

Bill Shorten vowed to tear up the nation’s industrial laws, which he described as a “cancer”, during a rallying speech late last year to workers at a Queensland coalmine where CFMEU protesters were revealed to have allegedly threatened to rape the children of non-striking workers.

In a secret recording of the ­Opposition Leader’s stump speech delivered at the Oaky North coalmine on October 6, Mr Shorten told striking CFMEU workers that he would rewrite ­labour laws if he won office.

“We now have a situation where the laws of this land are being distorted; where they are being mutated; where they’re being metastasised, like a cancer,” Mr Shorten is heard to say in a video recording obtained by The Australian.

“We will change laws if we form a government or when we form a government.”

The speech was delivered four days before it was revealed that several CFMEU protesters had engaged in serious intimidation of families of non-striking miners. One protester was recorded saying they would rape their children.

Mr Shorten, who was accompanied at the rally by opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor, later condemned the comments made in the weeks ­before their visit.

“I do not condone unlawful or disrespectful ­behaviour, whoever does it,” he said at the time.

The Opposition Leader claimed he had been there to lend support to the 175 CFMEU workers who only yesterday were granted a return to work by the Fair Work Commission after a 230-day lockout imposed by Glencore following a dispute over an enterprise agreement that the union claimed stripped workers of basic rights.

In his address to the CFMEU workers, Mr Shorten said: “You should also say to your families that Bill and Brendan have the highest respect for the mining and engineering division of the CFMEU. These people will be with you the whole way, always have been and always are, always will be. If we form a government, yeah, we’ll do the right thing, we won’t let you down. The privilege for us today is to be in your ­company.”

Mr Shorten has stuck with a pledge to rewrite laws that allow employers to put workers back on to an award where an agreement can’t be reached on a new EBA. But he has backed down in recent weeks over a policy to override the Fair Work Commission and legislate for minimum wage rises.

His comments to the private meeting of CFMEU workers ­appeared to echo calls by ACTU secretary Sally McManus who has attacked industrial laws as a “joke”.

The Oaky North speech has been seized upon by the Turnbull government to exploit the factional deals between Mr Shorten and the militant union designed to protect his leadership.

Employment Minister Craig Laundy last night accused Mr Shorten of having a plan to rip up labour laws to benefit union power.

“It proves that if Bill Shorten becomes prime minister, he would give the unions a blank cheque and rewrite the industrial landscape to suit them,” he said.

Less than a week after Mr Shorten’s address to the CFMEU workers at Oaky North, it was revealed that a small band of the same CFMEU workers had a month earlier made threats to security guards and other miners who were refusing to engage in the industrial action.

The Courier-Mail posted a video of CFMEU members ­appearing to abuse workers. In one incident, a worker was heard to tell another worker to “crash your car into a tree on the way home”. The video was dated September 6, 2017.

Glencore at the time claimed that they had evidence that CFMEU members had also allegedly threatened others with ­obscenities including: “I’ll f..king rape your kids, c..t. I’ll f..king rape your kids, c..t.”

Other threats included: “I’ll ­attack you with a crowbar. “I’ll rip out your spine … ya f..king dog.”

Mr O’Connor said he and Mr Shorten visited Oaky North to show support for miners and their families. “Bill talks to middle and working-class Australians about the issues affecting their lives,” he said. “Turnbull might rub shoulders with the CEOs of tax-dodging multinationals, but I bet he’s never met an underground coalminer in his life.”

Several people have been charged in the wake of the intimidation. The employment minister at the time of the incidents, Michaelia Cash, had described the ­behaviour as “sickening”.