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It is the likes of Mike Kane who are out of step with the community

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By John Setka

Victorian Secretary of the CFMEU

Friday, 20 February 2015

IT seems that newspaper editors deem it highly newsworthy every time Mike Kane gets angry because he doesn’t get his way.

Yet again, we are treated to a front page article in the Australian Financial Review detailing his anger that the Victorian state government has decided to do away with the Construction Code Compliance unit. Putting aside the cultural cringe – that every view Mike Kane expresses must be treated with absolute seriousness because he is an American – more importantly, he seems to have a problem with the democratic process.

Perhaps it has escaped Mr Kane’s attention but there was an election in Victoria in November last year, where voters threw out the previous government.

This clearly shows that the majority of Victorians didn’t agree with their policies and wanted a different government.

This is despite the fact that the Liberal Party ran a negative, fear based campaign based on the CFMEU – which obviously failed. The public didn’t buy it.

Hand in glove with Tony Abbott, the Napthine Government and the Liberal Party spent a lot of time and money attempting to smear the union with unfounded allegations while at the same time, introducing laws that curtailed our ability to organise on site.

The Construction Code Compliance Unit was set up by the former Liberal Government – not to investigate crime – but to put one more obstacle in the union’s path in our attempt to do our job and represent workers in the industry. It is stating the bleeding obvious to say the Code Compliance Unit was a blunt political tool. There was no function to it other than that.

It is in the Liberals’ DNA

It is part of the Liberals’ industrial relations program – of which they make no secret – to dismantle workers’ rights and conditions. They want a return to WorkChoices. They argue that workers in our industry have it too good, while developers and multinational companies are reporting record profits.

They allege that the union is corrupt and criminal, but cannot point to any concrete evidence. They accuse regulators of not doing their job when they don’t find in favour of big business, but remain silent when corporate Australia engages in illegal, corrupt behavior.

A recent addition to the long list of corporate skullduggery that includes Leightons and Walton Construction is the Manildra group who were recently listed as donors to the Liberal party to the tune of $420,000. Two weeks ago, CFMEU organisers in NSW, in the course of doing their job, uncovered that the company was employing foreign workers for $4 an hour while forcing them to live in cramped conditions.


I think Mr Kane will find that most of the community is in ‘lockstep’ with us on these issues.


We are still waiting for someone in the Liberal Government to express their outrage.

We know that Mr Kane does not approve of the laws in this country.

He was given 45 minutes, uninterrupted, at the Royal Commission in which to extoll his political views on the limitations of the Australian legal system, comparing us to the US and asserting we needed to look at mimicking their way of doing business. He has also been given plenty of space in the electronic and print media to air his grievances.

The matter between Boral and the CFMEU is before the courts, but Mr Kane seems insistent on putting us through a trial by media, grabbing every opportunity to vent and slander the union with accusations that we are ‘crooks’ and ‘thugs’.

Time to change the record, Mr Kane

Mr Kane’s assertion that the union and Mr Andrews are in ‘lockstep with each other’ is simply a leftover from the Liberal’s failed campaign in the state election.

But for the record, our wish list for the industry to any government includes addressing the chronic underpayments of workers, curbing sham contracting, stopping the abuse of 457 visas, changing the laws to prevent phoenix companies, increasing training opportunities and apprenticeships, better safety standards on all sites and more serious penalties when a worker is killed on site.

I think Mr Kane will find that most of the community is in ‘lockstep’ with us on these issues, but most of the community doesn’t have the leverage to make their views known as loudly and prominently as Mr Kane.

When they were given the chance at the election, the community were pretty clear and pretty loud. They rejected the anti worker policies of the Liberal Government, including the Code Compliance Unit.

It’s called democracy.

 This article was first published in the Australian Financial Review on Friday, 20 February 2015, and has been reproduced with the permission of the author.


Working Life is a forum to share ideas and opinions about work and life, both light-hearted and serious. The opinions presented on Working Life are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent policies or views of the ACTU.

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Comments

  1. Andrew
    Monday, 23 February, 2015 at 10:29 am · Reply

    I think it’s about time the union did more for its members and talked less about politics.
    I am extremely disheartened by my treatment as a member when confronting my employer on a serious matter I will not detail here. Get off your arses and do what we pay our fees for – HELP THE WORKER IN NEED!


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