The Guardian November 20, 2002


More revelations on tower death trap

How does an African petrol station attendant with no English get a 
business visa to Australia without even signing an application form? That 
is a question the Construction Division of the CFMEU is still pursuing an 
answer for in connection with the fatal accident at the Lake Cargelligo 
water tower site in western NSW.

Two men, labourer Craig McLeod and the director of the sub-contracting 
company BGA, Anton Beytell, were killed on October 22 when substandard 
scaffolding collapsed into the tower. Three others, including South African 
worker Oagiles Malothane, were seriously injured.

BGA, a South African company, imported the below-standard scaffolding for 
use on the tower. It also paid Malothane, whom it brought to Australia on a 
business visa which he did not sign, just $400 for ten weeks' work.

The CFMEU has accused the Howard Government of facilitating the importation 
of slave labour. "No interview by Australian consular staff, no signature 
on the visa application", said CFMEU State Secretary Andrew Ferguson.

"This Federal Government likes to talk tough on refugees and border 
protection, but the widening Lake Cargelligo scandal demonstrates clearly 
that our Government is allowing lave labour to be imported into Australia 
without even the most cursory of checks."

The plot thickened when CFMEU lawyer Lachlan Riches met with Oagiles 
Malothane at his home in South Africa last week and Mr Malothane gave a 
statement denying he knew anything about the business visa. "I knew nothing 
about how the document from the Australian Government got into my 
passport", he said.

"I have never seen this document [Short Tem Business Visa]. I have never 
seen this document before and I do not remember signing any document for 
Australia. I did not sign any document giving authority for anyone to apply 
on my behalf for permission to go to Australia."

The tower project was allocated by the NSW Department of Public Works and 
Services (DPWS). BGA's quote was ten percent lower than the nearest tender.

It transpired that BGA also duded the State's WorkCover compensation 
scheme, at first not covering its workers at all, then telling the 
authority its annual wages bill was only $7000, slashing its WorkCover bill 
by 30 per cent, as well as claiming BGA was a pipe manufacturer instead of 
a building sub-contractor.

The union gave the Department a serve for its failure to monitor the site 
properly. "For a State Government building site to allow this type of 
behaviour is inexcusable", said Martin Ferguson.

"Of particular concern is the negligence of the DPWS in respect of safety 
on the site. The job was a death trap with every safety requirement 
ignored. The DPWS has responsibility for this tragedy."

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