Court of Appeal rejects CFMEU criminal contempt appeal

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has today failed in its attempt to overturn a Supreme Court finding that the CFMEU is guilty of criminal contempt for its blockades of the Grocon Emporium building site and another site in Footscray.

On 31 March 2014, Justice Cavanough ordered the CFMEU to pay a penalty of $1.25 million for contempt of the Supreme Court in relation to the CFMEU’s interference with access to Grocon sites in 2012 and two related contempt matters in 2013.

This was the largest fine ever imposed in Australia for a contempt of court in an industrial context. It is also the first time that contempts of court committed in an industrial context have been explicitly found to be criminal.

Justice Cavanough said in his findings of 31 March:

“I regard these contempts as exceptionally serious. So much so that they warrant explicit classification as criminal contempts, perhaps for the first time in the Australian industrial context. (at para 201)”

Attorney-General Robert Clark said the Napthine Government welcomed the Court of Appeal’s decision to throw out the CFMEU’s appeal.

“Today’s Court of Appeal decision means Daniel Andrews now has no excuse for refusing to act against the CFMEU and should throw them out of the Labor Party. Not only has the CFMEU been found guilty of criminal contempt by the Supreme Court, that decision has now been upheld by the Court of Appeal.

“The Napthine Government’s commitment to ensuring a law-abiding, safe and efficient construction industry is in stark contrast to Daniel Andrews’ and Labor’s intention to abolish the Victorian Building and Construction Industry Code and the Construction Code Compliance Unit if elected to government.

“Voters have a clear choice at November’s election; between the Napthine Coalition Government and its commitment to law-abiding, safe and efficient workplaces, and a Labor Party in the pocket of rogue unions like the CFMEU,” Mr Clark said.

The Court of Appeal also today refused the CFMEU’s application to appeal against an order that it provide copies of documents sought by Boral in an ongoing contempt proceeding arising from allegations that the union blockaded and prevented the supply of concrete to a Regional Rail Link construction site.