The Federal Court has today ruled that union officials must hold and show a valid federal right of entry permit upon request when visiting construction sites for safety reasons.
The decision follows the ABCC commencing legal action against the CFMMEU and a number of officials for unlawfully entering the Bruce Highway, Caloundra project site in early 2018, causing work delays and requiring Queensland Police to attend.
The $812 million project involved a major upgrade of the Bruce Highway to six lanes spanning nine kilometres between Caloundra Rd and the Sunshine Motorway on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Between 8 March and 17 April 2018, CFMMEU officials entered the Commonwealth and Queensland government-funded project site on nine separate occasions, each time refusing to show their federal right of entry permits.
On each occasion, the CFMMEU officials told site managers they were entering the site under section 81(3) of the Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act and as a result they weren’t required to show their federal right of entry permits.
Of the seven CFMMEU officials involved, all with the exception of one, Kurt Pauls, held valid federal right of entry permits.
The Minister for Education and Industrial Relations for the State of Queensland intervened in the proceeding.
In the judgment, the Court said that:
“As a general principle, I agree with the Commissioner that it would be a nonsense to accept the argument advanced by the respondents (and the Minister) that, in so attending, the respondents had proceeded on the assumption that s 81(3) conferred no right of entry on anyone (including them), and was completely unenforceable by anyone.”
On 20 April 2018, the ABCC was granted a temporary injunction preventing the seven CFMMEU officials from entering the project site unless they complied with their federal right of entry requirements – including producing their federal permit for inspection on site when requested to do so.
The Federal Court will list the matter for a penalty hearing at a later date.
Employers, workers and union officials unsure about right of entry requirements are able to download the ABCC’s On Site app for step by step instructions on right of entry requirements.