Flat White

The rule of law is cracking in Victoria – and so is the Labor establishment

22 September 2021

4:00 AM

22 September 2021

4:00 AM

Victoria, but perhaps more specifically Melbourne, is in serious trouble. Law and order is not just breaking down, it’s already cracked. 

When a supporter of firm policing Andrew Bolt refers to Victoria as a ‘police state’, the situation has in fact become dire. Bolt was commenting after watching considerable footage of the police’s handling of Melbourne’s lockdown protests last Saturday; footage, Bolt says, plainly shows police initiating violence. 

When the concept of ‘community’ separates from the concept of ‘policing’, real trouble starts to foment. Police aggression demonstrates loss of control and perspective. Police see ‘the people’ as the enemy  

But it goes deeper even than this to the heart of the Labor political establishment that runs Melbourne.  

The construction union, the CFMEU, is at the core of this establishment. The CFMEU controls who builds what in Melbourne, extracts massive amounts of money from builders and feeds this to the Labor political machine.   

But on Monday the CFMEU’s ‘boys’ turned violently against the CFMEU leadership over mandated industry vaccinations. The video footage of CFMEU boss Setka retreating into the CFMEU fortress-like HQ is eye-popping. The Victorian Labor establishment is breaking from within in a way entirely unpredicted.   

The ACTU’s desperate spinning of the incident as the work of “violent right-wing extremists” just doesn’t stand up against the facts. Live feed video footage from within the crowd on Monday clearly shows overwhelming numbers of typical construction workers in union badged clothing.  

Tuesday’s follow up rally was massive in its size. Again, live feed footage gave the evidence of construction workers. In this case, building workers banned from working so they spent the day ‘strolling’ through the CBD. The scale of the CBD mass stroll was surely unprecedented. It had all the appearance of a Melbourne, middle suburbia, tradie groundswell.   

All of this is very headline catching but what is equally disturbing — and what is not being reported gives even greater cause for concern. 

In a telling development last week, reports from an industry trade magazine describe how WorkSafe Victoria is investigating a business over the death of a worker from Covid-19.  The WorkSafe move comes after the Australian Services Union “…called for an investigation…” 

The ASU said that it will be “supporting a WorkSafe investigation” and “will hold all employers accountable”.   

And here we get to the very heart of what could be called the ‘Victorian comrade racket’. 

The union comrade bosses demand. The ‘justice’ institutions jump! It’s selective! Businesses (of any size) are taken to be ‘bad’ and must be punished. But when it comes to holding government itself responsible, under exactly the same laws, the justice institutions block. 

It’s now 18 months since the Victorian hotel quarantine disaster first started (March 2020). WorkSafe took up to 4 months before it says it started investigating the Victorian government for OHS breaches. It’s nearly 12 months since Self-Employed Australia wrote to WorkSafe requiring it to investigate. And it’s now 11 weeks since WorkSafe was required under its own statutory obligations to give to the Director of Public Prosecutions its investigation material into the hotel quarantine disaster.   

Delay. Delay. Delay! Where is justice? 

To be specific the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act says: Section 131 (3):  If the Authority advises the person that a prosecution will not be brought, the Authority must refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions if the person requests (in writing) that the Authority do so.  

In this case, Self-Employed Australia is ‘the person’. WorkSafe has said it is continuing to investigate. That is, it is not prosecuting. Under the plain reading of the Act, WorkSafe “…must refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions if the person requests (in writing)…” SEA has made that written request. On a common-sense reading of the Act, WorkSafe has not done what it is legally required to do for 11 weeks. 

It is deeply concerning that WorkSafe is ignoring what seems to be its clear legal obligation. But the apparent refusal to act is consistent with the theme that of the  Victorian Labor establishment. Andrew Bolt’s observation of a ‘police state’ extends beyond the police force itself. But this has to be robustly tested. 

And in testing the WorkSafe system’s there have been 30 pieces of correspondence between Self-Employed Australia and WorkSafe and the Director of Public Prosecutions on this issue over the last 12 months.  

We have run radio and social media ads asking WorkSafe to comply with its obligations. We have just relaunched our dedicated Not Above The Law website. It gives a good overview of the campaign and details the 142 charges we have alleged.  

We are open about our justice campaign. The detail of our efforts can be found here, including our analysis The Case For The Prosecution drawn from the Coate Inquiry evidence. 

In many respects, the law and order institutions in Victoria have put themselves on public trial.   

Ken Phillips is Executive Director of Self Employed Australia. 

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