Rallies defend Ark Tribe


October 30 was a national day of action in support of South Australian building worker Ark Tribe.

Tribe faces up to six months jail for refusing to attend a mandatory interrogation with the Australia Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) — a building industry watchdog set up by the previous Howard government to weaken the industrial muscle of the building unions.

In Adelaide, John McGill reported more than 1000 people rallied in front of Adelaide Magistrates Court in support of Tribe.

Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) construction and general division national secretary Dave Noonan told the crowd there would be industrial action if Tribe, or any construction worker, was jailed under the draconian anti-union laws.

Historian and author Humphrey McQueen insisted Tribe was guilty — but only of breaking a bad law. He said it was up to everyone to get rid of bad laws, and if they can't be removed they should be broken.

Tribe's case was adjourned until December 18.

Peter Boyle and Jim McIlroy reported about 1000 workers marched in Sydney in solidarity with Tribe. The march went from the Unions NSW building to the "Gestapo headquarters" of the ABCC in city centre.

"We've endured six long years of persecution under the ABCC", CFMEU national secretary John Sutton told the crowd of angry workers. "The Howard government brought in these laws but we can no longer blame Howard because we still have these laws under a Labor government."

Sutton said the campaign was about standing up in support of a rank and file worker.

"Ark Tribe is a hero because he wouldn't be intimidated by the ABCC", he said. "We will take industrial action on a mass basis if Tribe is jailed."

More than 100 Geelong construction workers also gathered outside local Labor MP Richard Marles' office to protest against Tribe's possible jailing, Sue Bull and Lisa Gleeson reported.

Noel Washington, senior vice president of the Victorian CFMEU, addressed the rally. Washington avoided prosecution by the ABCC in 2008 after a mass campaign.
He said the federal government would face a backlash at the polls, especially from construction workers, for its failure to abolish the ABCC.

Washington then led the rally into Marles' office. Marles failed to appear, having left the building only moments before. The crowd outside booed and jeered as a "borrowed" portrait of Marles was displayed.

A 200-strong rally was also held in Melbourne.

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