The Guardian February 12, 2003


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.

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