The Queensland division of the CFMEU has been fined over $3 million. Image – Creative Commons.
  • Unlawful entry occurred multiple times at the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing project
  • Six of the eight officials did have appropriate federal right of entry permits
  • The union has recorded 1,606 contraventions since late 2016, majority in Queensland

The Construction Forestry Maritime Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) and eight officials have been fined $121,000 for unlawfully entering a Toowoomba project back in 2018.

The Federal Court has penalised the union and officials for 36 contraventions of right to entry laws at the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing project.

The eight CFMEU officials said they wished to enter the site under section 81(3) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2-011 (Qld) but refused to show their federal right of entry permits between 30 April and 2 May 2018 and entered the site and failed to comply with requests made for them to leave the site.

Two of the officials at the time did not hold a federal entry permit, however, the remaining six officials did. They would have been permitted to lawfully enter the site if they had produced the right permits.

Previously, four of the officials had been restrained from entering the Bruce Highway Caloundra to Sunshine Upgrade under very similar circumstances.

When handing down the decision, the court made note of this, criticising senior management for the union for failing to instruct the organisers not to engage in similar conduct.

“There are many decisions of this Court which have described the Union’s history of contraventions of industrial laws,” said the Court.

“It has been said that unlawful conduct is normalised within the Union, that it does not care about the law and penalties imposed upon it and that the culture of contravening conduct is condoned by the Union’s senior leadership. The frequent imposition of heavy penalties has not altered the Unions conduct.”

Stephen McBurney, the Australian Building and Construction Commission Commissioner, said it was important for union officials to understand their responsibilities as holders of a Federal entry permit, and to strike the balance between the right of occupiers and permit holders.

“Timing is important. The timing of the unlawful entries in this case came just 10 days after the ABCC obtained an injunction from the Federal Court in the Bruce Highway Caloundra to Sunshine Upgrade Case,” he said.

“The penalties imposed in this case add to a significant tally incurred by the CFMEU and its representatives. Since 2 December 2016, the courts have imposed $13,490,375 against the CFMEU and its representatives nationally.”

Stephen McBurney, ABCC Commissionier

Mr McBurney added that the CFMEU Queensland branch now accounts for more than half of the Union’s 1,606 contraventions since 2016, and total penalties amount to $3.25 million.

The announcement comes as protests continue this week, which involved the CFMEU’s headquarters on Elizabeth Street being attacked.

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