Union comission
Union comission

Judge dismisses union’s ‘nonsense’ arguments

THE construction watchdog has won a milestone victory in a court battle it called a "line in the sand" against the CFMEU's "state of defiance".

The Federal Court today found the union and seven of its officials breached right-of-entry rules in a series of incidents early last year, which saw the CFMEU representatives repeatedly arrested for trespass on a $900 million upgrade to the Bruce Highway at Caloundra.

It could serve as a test case which shows the state workplace health and safety laws do not overwrite Federal Right of Entry laws.

The CFMEU was backed by the Palaszczuk Government in the case, but some of their arguments were described by the judge as "a nonsense".

A CFMEU rally in Brisbane. The CFMEU and seven of its officials have been found to have breached right of entry provisions at the Bruce Highway upgrade early last year. Picture: Annette Dew
A CFMEU rally in Brisbane. The CFMEU and seven of its officials have been found to have breached right of entry provisions at the Bruce Highway upgrade early last year. Picture: Annette Dew

Between March 8 and April 17 last year seven CFMEU officials, including the Queensland branch president Royce Kupsch, walked on to the site on nine separate occasions.

The union officials repeatedly stopped work at the site for hours at a time, while refusing to show their right-of-entry permits.

Police were called on multiple occasions to arrest them for trespass when they would not leave, though the charges were eventually discontinued.

The Queensland Government and union argued, among other state workplace health and safety legislation was enough and Federal permits were not needed.

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace (middle) with CFMEU President Royce Kupsch (right). Also pictured is Brad Doherty with Sunland who is not connected to the case. Picture: Sarah Marshall
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace (middle) with CFMEU President Royce Kupsch (right). Also pictured is Brad Doherty with Sunland who is not connected to the case. Picture: Sarah Marshall

But Justice Berna Collier found against them and ruled they had breached right of entry laws.

Justice Collier said "it would be a nonsense to accept the argument advanced by the (CFMEU) and (the Industrial Relations Ministers)" that the right of entry were "completely unenforceable by anyone".

Six of the seven union officials held right-of-entry permits, but refused to produce them. A sixth official, Kurt Pauls, did not hold a valid permit.

ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney in January told The Courier-Mail that the case represented the "state of defiance" in Queensland construction sites.

"We've drawn a line in the sand in this case and we're awaiting the decision of the court," Mr McBurney said at the time.

The Federal Court will list the matter for a penalty hearing at a later date.



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