Victorian Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) vice president Noel Washington will now face the Geelong Magistrates Court on September 12. Washington was summonsed on June 19 to appear in court on August 8 for failing to comply with the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). Lawyers acting for Washington contested the charges.
According to Victorian CFMEU president Ralph Edwards, the new hearing will be a contested mention, where Washington will appear very briefly and his lawyer will plead not guilty to charges under the Building Industry Improvement Act. A trial date is expected to be scheduled for later in the year.
Refusing to attend ABCC hearings, or remaining silent, is illegal and can attract a maximum penalty of six months' jail. The ABCC was set up under the former Howard government in an effort to destroy the industrial strength of building industry unions and help deliver even bigger profits to developers.
The draconian ABCC laws apply only to building industry workers, and are a fundamental attack on human rights. In May, the Building Industry Group of five unions initiated a national campaign to pressure the Rudd government to abolish the ABCC.
At a July 30 Victorian Trades Hall Council cross-union mass meeting, delegates voted unanimously to hold mass protests the day Washington appears before court. CFMEU National secretary Dave Noonan told Green Left Weekly that there will be a show of solidarity for Washington outside the courthouse on September 12, but that the mass protests are being planned to coincide with the trial date later in the year.