ACTU boss Sally McManus admits she doesn’t know about Bob Hawke’s deregistration of the BLF

ACTU boss Sally McManus admits she doesn’t know about Bob Hawke’s deregistration of the BLF

Tom Minear — Herald Sun — 29 September 2017


Australia’s most senior unionist has admitted she had no idea about Bob Hawke’s historic decision to deregister a union which was the forerunner to the CFMEU.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus was this morning quizzed about the deregistration of the Builders Labourers Federation in a Senate inquiry considering changes to how unions lose their registration.

The BLF was deregistered by the Hawke Government because of scandals including corruption and violence.

It was a remarkable decision by a Labor prime minister but Ms McManus told the hearing she knew nothing about it.

Asked by committee chair Senator Linda Reynolds if Mr Hawke’s decision was justified, Ms McManus said she was “15, 16 at that time”.

“I’m seriously telling you that my number one issues are about low wage growth and insecure work, not what happened in 1986,” she said.

Senator Reynolds said Ms McManus was “having a complete lend of this committee”, which is investigating industrial law changes proposed by the Turnbull Government, including to allow the Federal Court to cancel a union’s registration on several grounds.

Pushed by Senator Reynolds about the BLF case, Ms McManus said: “I don’t have an opinion on that, that’s true.”

Liberal senator James Paterson said Ms McManus was “negligent” in her role if she did not understand such an “extraordinary event in union history”.

“You are allowed to have views about things that happened in history when you were young or even before you were born, it is permissible,” he said.

But Ms McManus said: “Actually I haven’t studied that case, that’s true.”

She also defended the illegal actions of the CFMEU, which absorbed much of the BLF’s membership.

The National Archives describes how the BLF had a strategy of “making excessive wage claims, supported by industrial action, violence and damage to property”.

Mr Hawke last year called on the ACTU and the Labor Party to consider cutting ties with the CFMEU, just as he did with the BLF.

“The unions need to clean up their act and get their house in order,” Mr Hawke told The Australian.

“It just is appalling. I mean, I wouldn’t tolerate it. You know what I did with the Builders Labourers Federation — I would throw them out.”

This article originally appeared in the Herald Sun.

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