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Issue #1440      27 January 2010

Advance Australia Unfair?

Statement CFMEU, WA Branch

In the lead up to Australia day we need to think about the forces at play creating laws that are restricting more and more of our freedoms.

Did you know? If 9/11 happened in Australia and a major building had to be re-built from the ashes, the construction workers who would do the job would be subjected on-site to the same laws as the terrorists who caused the destruction in the first place!

Is this a fair go for construction workers and their families?

No-one called for interrogation by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has the right to silence. You are forced to answer their questions or face up to 6 months in jail.

They can come to get you at your home, workplace, or on the street any time day or night.

Refusal to attend may result in six months jail.

The interrogations are secret.

You can talk to no-one, except a lawyer about what happened to you – you can’t even discuss it with your partner, best mate, brother and sister, mum or dad. No-one – or you can be subject to jail.

You may not be able to choose your own lawyer.

The laws, brought in by the Howard government and retained by Kevin Rudd, against construction workers were formed out of the new laws that were legislated to protect Australia from terrorists after 9/11. These insidious, Hitlerish laws do not apply to anyone else in the Australian public. Only construction workers. Yet! They could always be twisted and let loose on other segments of Australian society.

The laws have been condemned by the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation (ILO) as archaic and against the principles of freedom and democracy and an atrocity against human rights for Australian workers.

Fact: nowhere else in the Western World do laws like these exist, they exist only in Australia. As result, serial killers, drunk-drivers and armed robbers have far more legal rights than the average construction worker.

When you ask the average person in the street if they are aware about these draconian laws they don’t have a clue and this what the Rudd government is banking on.

Their view is; what the wider Australia public doesn’t know won’t hurt them. The ALP doesn’t see these laws as a vote loser. The Rudd government is happy to stealthily target and viciously apply these oppressive laws to the construction workforce – they hold it up as some trophy to prove they are tough against unions and they see construction unions as an easy target.

Ark Tribe, a decent family man from South Australia, is the latest casualty of these laws. If he goes to jail Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard will need to explain to his family why their dad, son and brother has been incarcerated for standing up for his right to remain silent and not giving information over what was discussed at a work safety meeting on his site.

SA Worksafe closed the site down as unsafe. The ABCC did not ask to speak to the building contractor – they had no interest in safety issues at all.

In no other workplace outside of the construction industry does a worker have to tell what went on at a work related meeting, let alone be subject to a jail sentence.

All this is due to happen in a federal election year which will serve to remind us all that the worst aspect of Howard’s anti-union WorkChoices laws still remains intact, after Kevin Rudd said he would get rid of it. A mass vote against Rudd on this issue may lose the government seats, it may cost them government. But freedom is worth fighting for irrespective of who is the government of the day.

The fight is not about Rudd and his Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard. It’s not against them. It’s about freedom, equal legal rights and having one fair law for all under the Australian flag.

We need to ask: what sort of Australia do we want?

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