Construction commission under fire over FoI request

By Tom Ravlic

July 21, 2022

Dave Noonan
CFMEU national construction secretary Dave Noonan. AAP Image/Kelly Barnes)

The Australian Building and Construction Commission and the CFMEU are mired in public controversy over a Freedom of Information request that the construction union says has been refused.

A statement from the union says the building regulator won’t hand over documents that relate to any meetings held between the regulator and the Masters Builders Association prior to the 2019 federal election.

A Freedom of Information request put in by the construction union earlier this year revealed that the building industry regulator had met with the MBA before the 2022 election.

The union then followed up the initial request with a further FoI missive asking for documents related to any meeting or meetings the building industry watchdog might have held with the MBA before the 2019 federal election.

A spokesperson from the commission said the request is still up for consultation and that the regulator takes its obligations under FoI seriously.

“The FOI request that is the subject of a CFMEU media release published today is in the consultation process. Contrary to media reports, there has been no refusal of the CFMEU’s FoI request,” the ABCC spokesperson said on Wednesday.

“It would be inappropriate for us to make any further comment while this matter is ongoing.”

Correspondence was received from the regulator by the union, and it said the regulator had identified documents that were “potentially relevant” but it would take too long to find more documents for the union.

CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan said the refusal by the ABCC to hand over documents makes the regulator look like it is covering up.

“We are concerned the ABCC is not interested in transparency, particularly given the fact that our last FOI revealed they were conducting secret, strategic meetings with the MBA in the run-up to the 2022 election,” Noonan said

“It seems likely to us that this was a routine activity of the ABCC to be conducting strategic discussions with the Liberal Party-aligned Master Builders in the run-up to federal elections.”

Noonan said there were concerns expressed by the CFMEU in the past about upticks in regulatory activity by the ABCC from time to time as well as anti-union reportage leading up to both the 2019 and 2022 federal elections.


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