Johnny Lomax - Higher Wages Not a Crime

Published: 7 Sep 2015

What are the achievements of the Abbott Government? What policies and programs have they implemented to take Australia forward in handling the many changes and challenges ahead?
If you’re finding it hard to list them, it’s because there aren’t any. However, there is one thing into which Abbott has poured millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money: the Royal Commission into unions.

Royal Commission goes bareknuckle with Lomax arrest

The Commission, originally called to look at ‘governance’ issues (management, corruption etc.), has now spread its focus, into the very reason for the existence of unions: organising better wages and conditions for workers.
The arrest of Johnny Lomax by the Royal Commission Police task force is a case in point. Mr Lomax, a CFMEU organiser from the ACT Branch, was arrested during the hearings in Canberra.
He was charged under criminal law with blackmail – his crime being that he negotiated an EBA with an employer, which meant that he had to pay his workers more money.
The dispute in question started when this employer’s workers had contacted our Union, due to not having been paid for weeks.
CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan said that this is a charge – unprecedented in 100 years of industrial relations – that affects every union official in Australia.
‘It is a complete outrage and utterly disgraceful that a lawful activity is now suddenly a criminal offence. What this means is every union official who negotiates a pay increase could be charged with blackmail,’ he pointed out.
‘The legitimacy of what we do, who we are, is under vicious attack by the Abbott Government.’

ACT’s safety outrages: blame the victims

The Abbott Government, having failed to produce its longed-for ‘smoking gun’ in the first year of the Royal Commission, is now desperately trying to clamp down on the very thing that it’s our job to do: lift the pay and conditions of working people – you.
It’s worth noting that Mr Lomax was arrested in a week while CEPU officials (covering electricians and plumbers amongst others) took the stand – essentially to be questioned about why they visited certain sites over safety concerns when the employers said safety was fine.
The picture that the Royal Commission was trying to paint is that unions like
the CFMEU and the CEPU ‘use’ safety as an excuse to get onto sites and organise workers.
This is in the ACT, which has the highest fatality rate in the construction industry in the country.
It’s where the CFMEU, in line with the recommendations of a combined ACT Government and WorkSafe report Getting them home safely, has run a concerted campaign to make workplaces safer.

RC panders to culture of complacency

The WorkSafe report accused construction industry players of being ‘surprisingly accepting’ of workplace injury, and called for an end to its culture of excuse-making and complacency.
This culture of complacency was on open display as Jeremy Stoljar, the head Counsel Assisting, afforded employer reps hours of the Royal Commission’s hearings to explain safety breaches in detail, deny any responsibility, and then dismiss them as no big deal.
The Abbott Government is no doubt proud of its achievement. After all, they don’t have any others.