Full Federal Court rejects CFMMEU appeal to reduce penalties
The Full Court of the Federal Court on 4 February dismissed the CFMMEU’s appeal against penalties awarded in the Palmerston Police Station matter in the Northern Territory.
The Federal Court on 2 October 2020 penalised the CFMMEU and three of its officials $292,200 for attempting to shut down construction at the Palmerston Police Station site in May 2018.
On 30 October 2020 the CFMMEU filed an appeal to the Full Court arguing the penalties awarded against it in the matter were manifestly excessive.
The Court unanimously rejected the CFMMEU’s arguments and dismissed the appeal.
At the time of the contraventions CFMMEU officials Arturo Menon, Paul Taylor and Roland Cummins demanded work stop on the $30 million law and order and community safety facility.
The Court found when NT WorkSafe officers arrived at the site, two of the CFMMEU officials – Arturo Menon and Roland Cummins behaved in an improper manner towards the officers.
In attempting to shut the site down Mr Menon also falsely told workers they were entitled to go home on full pay.
Commenting at the time on Mr Menon’s improper conduct towards the WorkSafe inspectors, Justice White stated:
“Such officers should be able to discharge their duties without being subject to aggression or any form of intimidation.”
The Full Court, in referring to the intimidation directed at the WorkSafe inspectors, said:
“This contravention involved objectively serious conduct towards work heath safety inspectors, which may properly be regarded as more serious in the hands of a union which has a particular responsibility for ensuring that its officials behave appropriately, especially towards inspectors whose responsibilities are directed towards safe workplaces.”
In commenting on the need for a significant penalty to be applied to the union, Justice Bromwich endorsed the findings in the original judgment in stating:
“The force of the threat was underlined by the fact that it was made by an organiser of a large well-resourced union well capable of exercising ‘industrial muscle’”.
ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said the Full Federal Court’s dismissal of the CFMMEU’s appeal was an important decision that clearly extrapolated on the basis for imposing higher penalties on the CFMMEU when compared to its officials.
“The Full Court ruled that account must be taken of the additional gravity of the conduct of the CFMMEU by reason of the increased culpability of its contraventions indicated by its long history of prior contraventions,” Mr McBurney said.
“In doing so, the Court endorsed the finding of the primary judge that there is a greater need for general deterrence for the CFMMEU in light of its prior contravening history.
“The ABCC will not hesitate to investigate and litigate cases such as this. Health and safety inspectors must be able to go about their important work free from aggression and any form of intimidation from the CFMMEU and its officials.”