The collapse of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s cartel case against the CFMEU ACT and Secretary Jason O’Mara raises serious questions about the ACCC’s behaviour in the matter and is yet another failed prosecution emerging from the Heydon Royal Commission.
Today the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions anounced that all charges against O’Mara would be dropped.
O’Mara faced allegations that he tried to induce suppliers of scaffolding services to enter into cartel arrangements regarding prices for scaffolding services provided to builders in the ACT in 2012 and 2013.
In an unprecedented move to take an industrial issue and prosecute under competition laws, the ACCC was enlisted to execute search warrants on the offices of the ACT branch of the CFMEU in 2016. Charges under competition laws were then laid in 2018.
The use of consumer protection laws to prosecute a worker representative was highly criticised by many at the time and CFMEU National Construction Secretary, Dave Noonan, was scathing that the prosecution was ever pursued.
“This case has been an abuse of power by the ACCC and should never have proceeded to court”, said Dave Noonan.
“All of the charges against Jason O’Mara have been withdrawn at committal and the ACCC must explain how this case proceeded when they knew the charges were unsupported by the facts.”
“It’s another example of the appalling abuse of legal process and failed prosecutions stemming from the discredited Heydon Royal Commission.”
“The ACCC has engaged in the blatant victimisation of Jason O’Mara. An honest, hardworking trade unionist has endured three years of trial by media and attack on his character.”
“They’ve tried 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.”
The CFMEU was not alone in criticising the use of these laws to try and mount a prosecution to attack the rights of workers. ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus, voiced her dismay that Jason O’Mara and his family had endured years of being pursued through the courts on a baseless and unprincipled charge.
“The charges against Jason O’Mara were never substantiated and we welcome the decision by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to abandon this case, which was a complete abuse of power by the ACCC.”
“The use of the Trade Practices Act to attack unions for campaigning for pay rises must stop. Industrial disputes should be dealt with under industrial law. This is an example of Governments and some employers trying to find new ways to stop working people winning pay rises, better job security and safe workplaces.”
“The supposedly impartial agencies of the Morrison Government should spend more time tackling real criminal conduct and stop wasting time and money pursuing working people.”
CFMEU WA State Secretary, Mick Buchan, added his condemnation stating that the democratic and legal institution that were supposed to protect Australians were being corrupted by the Morrison Government to pursue a toxic ideology.
“This Government is using taxpayer’s money, our own money, to attack the right of working people to stand together. To stand up for each other.”
“That’s what this is about. Making it imposible for working people and the Unions that represent them from taking collective action to protect our rights and interests.”
“They know how powerful working people are when we stand together. And they hate it. And they have no problem in stooping so low as corrupting and abusing the democratic institutions of our country to try and take away those basic rights.”
“But long after this pissant Government and their ABCC are thrown on the the trashplie of political history, the CFMEU will be here. We’ll be standing. And we’ll still be fighting anyone who wants to strip workers of their rights and entitlements. Every court case. Every workplace. Every time.”