Thousands rally to support Ark Tribe

Ark Tribe enters the Adelaide Magistrates Court on June 15. Photo: Matt Walker.

Thousands rallied around Australia in support of Ark Tribe, a construction worker facing jail for simply failing to attend an interrogation by the construction industry police — the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Workers held an overnight vigil outside the ABCC offices in Melbourne, 500 rallied and marched in Sydney and up to 1500 rallied outside the Adelaide Magistrate's court where Tribe is on trial. Trade unionists from around the country travelled to Adelaide to show their solidarity.

Members of the broader community and unionists came out in force outside and inside the court to support Tribe and protest against the ABCC, which was introduced by the former John Howard Liberal-National government but is still in place under Labor.

Inside the court, lawyers began their defence of Tribe. They sought to have the charges dismissed on the grounds that the charge had not been specifically authorised by ABCC head John Lloyd.
On June 19, magistrate David Whittle ruled the case against would continue. The prosecution had argued that the Federal Crimes Act allowed the charges to be laid the way they were served on Tribe.

Whittle found ABCC assistant commissioner of operations John Draffin was entitled to lay the complaint against Tribe, even though Lloyd had not specifically authorised him to do so.

Tribe has pleaded not guilty and the trial is now expected to carry on until late June.

“If Ark goes in [to jail], construction workers across the country will go out [on strike]”, said Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union construction division national secretary Dave Noonan in an email to supporters.