Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1552      20 June 2012

Court victory vindicates CFMEU

A recent attack on militant trade unionism has been beaten back with the dismissal of a conspiracy case against Multiplex, the Construction Division of the CFMEU and former union state Secretary Andrew Ferguson. CFMEU state secretary Brian Parker said the finding was “a complete and comprehensive vindication of the building union and its former leadership.’’

(Anna Pha)

Justice McDougall, who heard the case in the NSW Supreme Court, said there was no evidence to link Mr Ferguson with corrupt activities.

He dismissed the conspiracy case launched by David Ballard, a demolition contractor.

Ballard claimed the CFMEU had put pressure on Multiplex after he arranged for Channel Nine’s A Current Affair to film a confrontation between himself and union officials.

Ballard alleged that the construction giant Multiplex conspired with the CFMEU to drive his business, Stoneglow Demolition, out of business.

The company was working on the Pitt Street Mall Multiplex site when his contract was terminated.

Justice McDougall said there were proper commercial reasons for Multiplex terminating Stoneglow’s contract, including Stoneglow’s precarious financial state.

Stoneglow went into administration in February 1997.

Justice McDougall found the alleged conspiracy – said to have been formed by Mr Ferguson and Multiplex employees at a coffee shop 11 months after the ACA program aired – did not exist.

Brian Parker said: “Justice McDougall has completely rejected Ballard’s claim that the union and Mutliplex conspired to drive him out of business.

“In the 240-page judgement the evidence of the plaintiff and his witnesses is described in various parts as ‘false’, ‘implausible’ and ‘far fetched’.

“In particular he says the evidence of Craig Bates was motivated by ‘a desire to obtain revenge’ against Mr Ferguson and suggestions he was a ‘serial liar’ were ‘not far from the truth’ ”.

By contrast the evidence of witnesses for the CFMEU, including former national secretary Stan Sharkey, former NSW president Peter McClelland and retired member Ludwig Strutzenberger was in the Justice’s words “ ‘honest’, ‘solid’, ‘forthright’ and ‘credible’ ”.

Costs estimated at over $15 million were awarded to the defendants in the four-year long court action.

“We are delighted by this victory,” Communist Party of Australia (CPA) General Secretary Dr Hannah Middleton said.

“The CPA has great respect for the CFMEU as a principled and militant trade union which has a superb reputation for defending its members and fighting for social justice for many marginalised groups in Australia and internationally.

“This is just the latest in a series of attacks that the CFMEU has fought off. They include the secret police tactics used against union members by the infamous Australian Building and Construction Commission to the firebombing of the CFMEU office in Sydney.

“The union has survived all this and come out as a stronger champion of the workers, the disadvantaged and marginalised.

“Throughout the years this case lasted, we never for one moment believed that Andrew Ferguson was corrupt.

“In our experience he was and is an honest, strong advocate of the working class, willing to work with a wide range of forces for the rights of individuals and groups suffering under capitalism.

“We congratulate Andrew and the CFMEU on their win,” Dr Middleton said.  

Next article – Fraser’s Whitlam Oration

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