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News Media Releases Ark Tribe found not guilty, now the ABCC must go
Ark Tribe found not guilty, now the ABCC must go
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 08:36

UnionsWA Secretary Simone McGurk has praised the decision of Magistrate David Whittle to acquit South Australian construction worker Ark Tribe and described the decision as a humiliating blow for the ABCC (Australian Building and Construction Commission) which must now be disbanded by the Federal Government.

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Scenes outside the Adelaide Court as Ark Tribe addresses the crowd after being acquitted.
Tribe had been charged for failing to attend an interview with the ABCC and had faced a maximum of six months in prison, however Tribe’s lawyer successfully argued the investigation was not properly authorised and therefore the charge was laid unlawfully. The rigger had made 12 trips to court over the past two years in an effort to defend himself.

“We have had the best possible ending to a dreadful episode,” Ms McGurk said.

“The situation was absurd. Australia is supposedly a country which treats everyone equally before the law, yet here we had an example whereby someone working in a particular industry is treated differently to everyone else.

Ms McGurk said the case had sent a worrying message to any worker who was concerned about workplace safety.

“Ark Tribe was not a terrorist, he wasn’t planning to blow up a government building. What he was trying to do is ensure that neither he nor any of his workmates were injured or killed as a result of unsafe conditions on their unsafe worksite in Adelaide. Yet he was not afforded the same liberties that those charged with terrorism and the most heinous crimes are allowed.

“Even his employer has said subsequently that his complaints were justified and yet we have the perverse situation where he is facing a prison sentence for raising a legitimate safety concern. It is a dangerous industry where workers need to feel comfortable acting on safety concerns. The actions of the ABCC, especially around this case, have made the industry more unsafe as people are understandably scared to speak out.

The UnionsWA Secretary believes the Federal ALP must act immediately to abolish the ABCC and give construction workers back their rights.

“The Commission and the laws it polices are completely unnecessary. The rule of law functions perfectly well for the rest of Australian society so there should be no reason why it can’t adequately function within the construction industry.

“The Ark tribe case and the ABCC itself have been a complete waste of tax payer’s money. The Commission operates with a budget of more than $50 million per year and the cost of pursuing Ark Tribe is likely to run into the millions of dollars. For what? To hound a man who’s employer agrees he was in the right?

“Let’s also not forget the considerable strain on Ark and his family who went through the whole ordeal with him, not knowing if he will end up being jailed.
Ms McGurk said the positives to come from the saga were the admirable strength of character shown by Ark himself and the impressive support from his union and from union members across the country.

“The construction unions and union members should be applauded for the support they have shown Ark throughout this ordeal, as should the thousands of members of the general public across the country who had sent messages of support and attended numerous rallies.

“The vast majority of Australian saw the case is seen as pointless and the ABCC as unfair. The Labor Party must now follow through on their promise to disband the ABCC and ensure no worker ever suffers like Ark again.

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