The Federal Court has penalised the CFMMEU and its official, James Simpson, $54,540 for contravening right of entry and occupational health and safety requirements at the $220 million Monash Freeway upgrade project in 2017.

The Court found Mr Simpson attended an overnight crane lift over the Eumemmerring Creek and did not comply with requests from site employees to be escorted while on site and wear personal protective equipment. Mr Simpson also refused to leave the site despite multiple requests and diverted the attention of several managers.

Several days later, Mr Simpson was found to have deliberately pushed a site employee, who lost his balance and fell, after attempting to stop Mr Simpson from proceeding to another area of the worksite.

The Court described the unlawful conduct of Mr Simpson in the following terms:

[Simpson] made no attempt to even pretend to comply with his obligation not to wander unescorted from where he was. Instead, he made a conscious decision to strut around the site like he owned it.

... He arrogantly assumed for himself a right to determine with which of Fulton Hogan’s occupational health and safety requirements he would comply. He knowingly contravened occupational health and safety protocols that were in place. Despite professing to be there to ensure that work was carried out safely, he put himself and others at risk. His conduct was reckless and conceited.

… Simpson appears to have felt entitled to take it upon himself to venture as he pleased and to make outlandish accusations under the guise of safety. He did not have any such entitlement. That he acted as he did whilst in knowing breach of applicable safety protocols beggars belief.

In relation to the physical altercation, the Court said:

On any view, Simpson’s conduct—involving, as it did, the use of physical force—was particularly serious.

... permit holders cannot take the law into their own hands. If [permit holders] resort to the use of physical force, they should expect that a court will look dimly upon them.

Simpson’s conduct was deliberate. He intended to proceed beyond [the site employee’s] position and applied physical contact to force his way to that end. It was “more than incidental or unintended”.

In relation to the CFMMEU, the Court said:

... the Union’s history is deeply unflattering.

That history bespeaks an attitude of defiance or indifference toward industrial laws that, in turn, makes the conduct that is in focus in this case objectively more serious than it would otherwise have been ...

ABCC Commissioner, Stephen McBurney, said union officials must comply with the legal obligations that apply to Federal permit holders.

A recurring feature of the unlawful conduct evident in Court findings against the CFMMEU and its officials is a disregard for safety protocols. The actions of Mr Simpson in this case involved the use of force and engaging in a physical altercation. Such behaviour has been denounced in the judgment delivered today by the Federal Court.

The Court has addressed the issue of corrective action taken by the Union. It noted the attitude of belligerence demonstrated by its history of statutory non-compliance.

The penalties imposed in this case add to a significant tally incurred by the CFMMEU and its representatives. Since 2 December 2016, the courts have imposed $3,068,740 against the CFMMEU and its representatives in Victoria, and $13,369,375 nationally. This is an indictment on the CFMMEU and its leadership.

Total penalties awarded



James Simpson