Unions rally in support of Kingham
by Janice Hamilton About 5000 unionists marched from Trades Hall along La Trobe Street and William Street to the Magistrates Court in support of CFMEU Victorian State Secretary Martin Kingham. It was the second time unionists have rallied to accompany him to court regarding charges laid by the building industry Royal Commission. Last October, about 10,000 unionists marched to the court. In a speech at the rally ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said that the rally the Royal Commission was a "$60 million witch-hunt against workers". He said 90 per cent of the matters raised before the Commission were allegations against unions, their officials and members. Mr Kingham appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates Court on February 6 on two charges of contempt of court for failing to co-operate with the building Royal Commission headed by Terence Cole, QC, last year. Victorian Trades Hall Secretary Leigh Hubbard in a statement before the rally said, "Make no mistake, the outcome of the Royal Commission and legislation that Abbott and Howard attempt to introduce will affect every union and every worker, not just those in the building industry. "The Royal Commission has had an anti-union agenda from the start and the charges against Martin Kingham are simply another example of its futile attempt to discredit the CFMEU." The Royal Commission was a "fishing expedition" that was being used to set up the building industry taskforce whose aim would be to intimidate active union members, Mr Hubbard said. The $65 million tax-payer funded Commission had devoted 97 per cent of proceedings to investigating alleged misconduct by unions and failed to address serious neglect of health and safety and other criminal conduct of employers. The prosecution told the Court that Mr Kingham had abused the legal process and the inquiry's terms of reference. The charges followed Mr Kingham's refusal to produce documents detailing the names of shop stewards, trainers and people who have attended training courses for shop stewards. Robert Richter, QC, for Mr Kingham, told the Court that he expected the prosecution to call Commissioner Cole and counsel assisting the inquiry to appear at the hearing so they could be questioned on why they demanded the documents. Prime Minister John Howard and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott would also be welcome, he said. Mr Richter told the Court he had earlier described the conduct of the commissioner (Cole) as, "calculated to produce a climate of war on the CFMEU". The Commission completed its hearings in October and is due to present its report to the Government on February 24. The evidence hearing for Mr Kingham's charges has been set down for four days starting from April 29. Meanwhile the CFMEU's latest talks with construction giant Grocon have broken down. They failed when Grocon lodged an application before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to end the bargaining period. Without a bargaining period in place, unions cannot legally take industrial action/ Grocon is also seeking leave to sue the union for damages for previous industrial action after making commitment's to drop all proceedings no less than two weeks ago. The CFMEU has lodged notices it intends to embark on an industrial campaign on Grocon sites starting this week. Grocon was the only major Construction Company in Victoria to opt out of an industry-wide enterprise agreement last year.