October 30 2014

– A police taskforce will be unleashed on rogue unions including the CFMEU in an unprecedented strike against criminality in the construction industry.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Premier Denis Napthine will today reveal the establishment of a joint police taskforce to focus on union officials and others engaged in blackmail, cartel behaviour, extortion, boycotts, kickbacks and intimidation.

The Herald Sun can reveal the taskforce of about 30 Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police officers will pursue criminal activities uncovered by the royal commission into trade union corruption.

EDITORIAL: Taking a bite at the unions

It will focus on unions but will also pursue corrupt employers, debt collectors and mediators.

People who work as “mediators” in the building industry, such as underworld figure Mick Gatto, an associate of CFMEU state secretary John Setka, are likely to be pursued.

“There is no place for standover tactics, violence or intimidation in Australian workplaces,’’ Mr Abbott told the Herald Sun last night.

“To generate jobs and grow businesses, workplaces must be safe, productive and law-abiding.’’

The taskforce is being established in response to a direct request from Justice Dyson Heydon, who is overseeing the royal commission into five trade unions: the CFMEU, the Health Services Union, the Australian Workers’ Union, the Transport Workers’ Union and the Plumbers’ Union.

The Herald Sun understands Mr Heydon wrote to the Government at the start of the month urging that a police taskforce be set up to pursue evidence of corruption and criminality uncovered by the royal commission.

The taskforce will look solely at criminal conduct and will not examine union governance issues, such as misuse of credit cards or slush funds.

The taskforce, beginning in Victoria, will be extended nationally. There are discussions about police from the New South Wales and Queensland forces joining the group.

The Joint Police Taskforce into Industrial Criminality and Corruption will set up a headquarters, probably in Melbourne, which is considered to be the epicentre of union corruption within the building and construction industry.

Dr Napthine said: “The evidence of corrupt behaviour, unlawful kickbacks and standover tactics in the construction industry has made it clear that there is a need for a joint police taskforce to fully investigate this corrupt activity.

“The taskforce will have all the powers currently available to the AFP and participating state police officers.’’

The officers involved will investigate crimes against Victorian laws, such as assault. They will also look at criminal acts such as extortion and at boycotting of building sites, which are dealt with under federal industrial law.

The timing of the announcement — just four weeks out from the November 29 state election — is likely to be damaging to Labor Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews.

Mr Andrews has factional allies within the CFMEU and has faced criticism over his refusal to sever links with the rogue union.

The Federal Government would also be hoping to wedge federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

The Labor leader, who is a former head of the Australian Workers’ Union, has previously called for the establishment of an AFP-led taskforce.

– Ellen Whinnett


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