Monday, August 2, 2010

Who's policing the police?

A question on many people’s lips during the six days of Ark’s trial was : why did the ABCC witnesses enter and leave by the same door reserved for magistrates?

A few questions to those in the know revealed that this practice was highly unusual. A journalist in the court couldn’t remember this ever happening before. In fact, Ark’s Barrister Michael Abbott questioned Magistrate Whittle as to why. The magistrate had no idea and referred Abbott to the Sheriff’s office.

More unusual was the fact that Ark’s team wasn’t afforded the same privilege. Whilst this activity will have no bearing on the case, it nevertheless reflects the special privilege given to the prosecution’s ABCC witnesses as opposed to witnesses in other cases waiting outside the various courts.

It could also leave an impression designed to highlight the charges against Ark Tribe as so serious and heinous that witnesses would require greater levels of protection than witnesses in murder, rape or even terrorist trials. That is the impression the ABCC wants the public to accept.

Throughout Ark’s trial it became clear that the ABCC witnesses think they have the power to do and say anything they want without reasonable justification. It was at times like listening to Rumpole of the Bailey confronting the well versed old copper, fixed in his ways and never allowing his views to be tainted by the facts.

Dave Noonan, National Secretary Construction and General Division CFMEU, tells some of the story:

“In extraordinary evidence this week the community learnt a great deal about the way the ABCC does business. The construction industry Star Chamber is supposed to exhaust all other channels before it uses its big guns (the controversial section 52 orders which compel workers to attend a secret interrogation). But under cross-examination, ABCC Inspector Seamus Flynn admitted that not much had been attempted before the Commission resorted to its extreme coercive powers. All Mr Flynn did before he fired the cannon was to make two quick telephone calls to CFMEU member, Ark Tribe. No letter, no text, no visit - straight to the compulsory secret interrogation. A pattern is emerging of an organisation that may not have operated within its powers and functions under its own legislation. The Commission does not seem to have paid proper attention to making sure it acted even in accordance with the very limited safeguards placed on its unprecedented powers.”

Ark’s team also questioned the ABCC inspectors use of Right of Entry . Under cross examination it was revealed that inspectors may not have the power to serve notices while purporting to use their Right of Entry powers under the Act.
It was also revealed that some documents served to Ark on site had no legal basis, yet the inspector relied on his powers to enter the site.

Had a union official misused his or her Right of Entry power the ABCC inspectorate would be demanding fines and/or removal of the Right of Entry from the official. The ABCC wield their self-appointed powers around like sumo wrestlers on steroids, frantically trying to sort out the construction industry while flexing their muscles to justify their pathetic existence. This mob has no place in a democratic country and must be disbanded.

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