Federal police raid CFMEU offices

November 23, 2020
Union rally in Sydney against anti-union laws in 2018. Photo: Peter Boyle

The federal government’s war on unions continues. Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided the offices of the Construction Forestry Mining Maritime and Energy Union (CFMEU) in Pyrmont and the home of CFMEU NSW assistant secretary Michael Greenfield and other officials places of residence on November 18.

CFMEU national construction secretary Dave Noonan said the warrant related to an investigation under the federal Fair Work Act and “related matters”. He said the union was cooperating “to the extent required by law”.

“The AFP have been taking an increasingly active role in industrial relations matters, and have previously raided CFMEU offices in Canberra and Brisbane,” he said.

“Neither of those raids resulted in any charges being laid against any union official. In the case of Canberra, the AFP actions were found to be unlawful by the ACT Supreme Court.

“The AFP does not appear to have a similar level of urgency when investigating alleged malfeasance or corruption of Coalition ministers, as we have seen in the Angus Taylor and Michaelia Cash scandals.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus also questioned the police raids, asking on November 19 why they were not targeting “banks for money laundering and child exploitation ... politicians’ offices for funding rorts and fundraisers with developers ... companies for tax rorts and wage theft.” 

The CFMEU represents 100,000 construction workers nationally and more than 20,000 mining and energy workers. The union is preparing for an election of officials, including its state president. The ballot is due to open in January.

In 2014, the Coalition government established a joint police task force to target union activity, following the failed Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. 

The taskforce is coordinated by the AFP, along with state police teams.

Public pressure from the union movement and a lack of support among the Senate crossbench forced the federal government to withdraw its union-busting Ensuring Integrity Bill in May.

Perhaps the AFP raids are designed, in part, as revenge for the bill’s defeat and the failure to make serious headway in previous legal cases against the CFMEU.

Whatever the motivations behind this latest attack on union rights, we need to defend the CFMEU and defend the right to organise.

As the raids on ABC journalists involved in reporting whistleblowers show, the AFP is increasingly being deployed politically as part of an assault on democratic rights, which must be resisted.

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