ABCC ramped up anti-union legal action prior to elections

Published: 19 Jun 2022

The ABCC significantly ramped up the number of anti-union court cases launched in the months leading into the last two federal elections, further highlighting the agency's politicisation and bias and heightening the need for it to be abolished.

The ABCC launched 14 new legal proceedings against unions – predominantly the CFMEU Construction Division – between January and April this year, prior to the May 21 election. The ABCC also announced 10 court actions in the first half of 2019, ahead of that year's federal poll. In contrast, the agency launched just four cases during the first six months of both 2020 and 2021.

“It is further damning evidence of the ABCC’s role as a taxpayer-funded arm of the Liberal Party,” said Dave Noonan, CFMEU National Construction Secretary.

“Every one of the cases launched in the lead up to the election was accompanied by a lurid statement of allegations distributed to the media. It was clearly calculated to cause as much damage as possible to the union during the election campaign and to try and influence the election outcome.”

“It is further evidence of inappropriate activity by the regulator. In some of the cases, the allegations they are pursuing go back a number of years. They seem to mysteriously pop up and be resuscitated in the election lead-up.”

“The ABCC’s ramping up of media activity against the union was happening during the same period as FoI documents have revealed Commissioner Stephen McBurney attended a secret meeting with the Master Builders to share research and discuss their election strategy to attack Labor’s policy to abolish the agency. The documents show the ABCC and Master Builders were in regular communication about the election and sharing campaign materials in the lead up to the May 21 poll.” 

“McBurney must immediately resign and the ABCC must be abolished. He has compromised himself and his role as the head of a statutory body by participating in politics and the ABCC has been captured by the very builders it is supposed to regulate.”

“The ABCC’s pre-election media activity fits a long pattern of behaviour from the agency where sensational claims are made against the union with lurid headlines, but are then are walked back or struck down by Courts months later with little fanfare. The Federal Court itself has been increasingly critical of the conduct of the ABCC and has specifically called out the agency’s misuse of media releases to publish bogus claims against the union and its officials.”

“The ABCC is a rogue agency that uses its substantial resources in service to the Liberal Party and their property developer donors. It must be abolished.”