The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s cartel case against the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) ACT and ACT secretary Jason O’Mara has collapsed.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew criminal cartel charges against the CFMEU and O’Mara in the ACT Magistrates Court on August 17.
The prosecution emerged from the 2015 Heydon Royal Commission into the building unions. The cartel case is the third recent criminal prosecution against the CFMEU to collapse before trial.
The ACCC had alleged that, in 2012 and 2013 the CFMEU ACT had tried to induce local steel fixers and scaffolders to set a minimum price to afford a wage rise. This, it said, was cartel behaviour. The union and O’Mara disputed the accusations.
Dave Noonan, CFMEU national construction secretary, said the case was “an abuse of power by the ACCC and should never have proceeded to court”.
All the charges against O’Mara were withdrawn at the committal hearing. Noonan said the ACCC must explain how the case proceeded when it knew the charges were unsupported by the facts. “It is another example of the abuse of legal process and failed prosecutions stemming from the discredited Heydon Royal Commission”, he said.
Noonan called on ACCC chair Rod Sims to apologise to O’Mara and resign. “The ACCC has attempted to weaponise the Consumer and Competition Act to attack the right of trade unions to collectively bargain.
“The federal government sank significant funds into this case, continuing its endless war against the rights of working Australians and the trade unions that represent them.”