Full Federal Court reinforces concerns over CFMMEU’s blatant unlawful behaviour; upholds maximum penalty

The Full Federal Court has today upheld an earlier decision of the Federal Circuit Court to impose maximum penalties on the CFMMEU for the unlawful conduct in February 2015 of its then Queensland President Dave Hanna.

In October 2017 the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane imposed the maximum penalty of $306,000 on the CFMMEU following Mr Hanna contravening right of entry laws at a Fortitude Valley construction site and threatening to bury a mobile phone down a site manager’s throat.

At the time of the incident Mr Hanna refused to leave the site, squirted water in the face of the site manager and at his mobile phone and stated: “Take that phone away or I’ll F***ing bury it down your throat…”

At the time of the 2017 judgment Judge Vasta stated that “It can only be inferred that the CFMEU condone such actions.”. The Judge went on to describe the CFMEU as “the most recidivist corporate offender in Australian history”.

The decision cited around 120 previous occasions over the past 10 years that the courts had sanctioned the CFMMEU for contraventions of industrial laws.

Following the CFMMEU appealing the decision, the Full Federal Court upheld the seriousness of the union’s conduct by imposing the maximum penalty of $51,000 for all six contraventions – a total of $306,000.

Justice Tracey in his judgment [at 23] stated:

The contravening conduct has continued unabated to a point where there is an irresistible inference that the CFMEU has determined that its officials will not comply with the requirements of the FW Act with which it disagrees. If this results in civil penalties being imposed they will be paid and treated as the cost of the union pursuing its industrial ends. The union simply regards itself as free to disobey the law. 

Justice Logan in his comments likened the CFMMEU’s unlawful behaviour to that of the deregistered BLF [at 83]:

The present case … provoke, strongly, the thought that there is a persistence within the CFMEU of the former Australian Building Construction Employees’ and Builders Labourers’ Federation (the BLF).

Justice Logan went on to say [85]:

… an organisation which manifests an inability by its internal governance to rein in aberrant behaviour cannot expect to remain registered in its existing form.

ABC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said the Full Federal Court decision reinforced the CFMMEU’s direct responsibility for the actions of its officials.

“At the time of Judge Vasta’s decision he stated that there had: ‘been no remorse from the CFMEU’,” Mr McBurney said.

“Today’s Full Federal Court decision to impose the maximum penalty highlights the seriousness with which the courts view the unlawful behavior of the CFMMEU and its lack of accountability of its officials.”

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