Counterpunch: You can speak ill of the politically dead
When anyone passes away, it’s only natural to dwell on their good points. So it is with professional life – no matter how hopeless someone is, the farewell speech will ultimately focus on their love of small animals.
Take Brendan Darcy (Sad exit of the man who took on building industry yobbos, on yesterday’s Punch) who refers to Building industry Star Chamber head John Lloyd as a remarkable public servant – and he’s right.
Mr. Lloyd is remarkable. At a cost of a mere $475 000 per year to the taxpayer (a figure substantially higher than Mr. Darcy is prepared to admit and well to the north of the salaries of, say, the PM or Chief Justice) Mr. Lloyd stands out from his colleagues. Why - because he plays a partisan role at the top of an ideologically driven organisation engaged in a political fight.
The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) was established by the Howard Government for the purpose of de-unionising the Australian construction industry. It didn’t work.
The ABCC staggers on like Howard’s angry orphan child. Mr. Lloyd hasn’t been put out to pasture; he simply couldn’t be bothered putting in an application for the job at the normal expiration of his contract.
He will not be missed by Australian constructions workers- one in particular.
On June 15 Ark Tribe, a South Australian construction worker, will stand trial in Adelaide. His crime? Ark is accused of failing to attend a compulsory interrogation by the ABCC. The commission wanted to drag him over the coals about a meeting he attended on a safety issue. So an ordinary worker faces the real prospect of six months jail for allegedly not fronting a meeting. That’s what the ABCC is about, intimidating and threatening ordinary workers – Mr. Lloyd is simply it’s jack booted front man.
The International Labour Organisation has condemned the Commission and its unprecedented coercive powers no fewer than seven times – yet we still have ordinary workers being dragged through the courts like common criminals.
That’s why construction workers will continue their campaign to close the doors of the commission permanently – the ask is simple, construction workers want to be treated just like every other working Australian, under the same laws.
Then there’s the politics. On Federal elections the ABCC has form. Last time around, it acted as a taxpayer funded arm of the Liberal Party. As we approach Election Day this year, you’d have to expect a repeat performance.
Darcy argues economics in defence of this hopelessly compromised organisation. The rubbery numbers he uses are not new and not credible. They come from a press release masquerading as a piece of economic analysis funded by the ABCC.
Riveting as it is to observe economists at twenty paces – the 2007 Econtech report (used by Darcy) falls fatally at the first hurdle. In a report by the Centre for Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle Professor William Mitchell could find absolute no evidence of any relationship between the establishment of the ABCC and consequent rises (or falls) in productivity. No one could reproduce Econtech’s data – no one could test their conclusions. The report lacked in academic rigor what it made up for in spin.
Finally, Darcy employs the same tactic as the fallen Government he served – seeking to paint union leaders as thugs. It should surprise no one that officials of our union take their jobs seriously. The reason is simple. In an industry where on average one worker dies every week at work the stakes are tragically high.
We make no apologies for representing the interests of our members. We will continue to do so. This is not the playground. Workplace practices that maim people, management decisions that kill – the rip-offs, underpayment and exploitation of construction workers in this country- this is our daily fight.
We will still be here doing our job long after Mr. Lloyd and the ABCC have shuffled off for good.
So at the end of Mr. Lloyd’s impressive professional career, allow me to add my voice – all things considered, I’m sure the man is very kind to his cat.
- Dave Noonan is the National Secretary of The Construction and General Division of the CFMEU
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