Judge slams ACT union secretary for his ‘dangerous ignorance’

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AN ACT Federal Circuit Court judge has slammed the ACT secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU), Jason O’Mara, for his “dangerous ignorance” after he was found in breach of site safety rules. 

Mr O’Mara was one of six CFMMEU officials that the ACT Federal Circuit Court penalised for breaching right of entry laws across three apartment project sites in Franklin, Harrison and Wright in 2013 and 2014.

CFMEU branch secretary Jason OMara.

The six officials, including Dean Hall, Halafihi Kivalu, Johnny Lomax, Jason O’Mara, Zachary Smith and Kenneth Miller, were collectively fined $63,500, after they entered the various project sites, while failing to show federal entry permits as required, failing to comply with occupational health and safety requirements and hindering workers on one or more of the sites and acting improperly.

CFMMEU was penalised $138,000.

Mr Hall, who was secretary of the CFMMEU ACT at the time of the breaches, was found to have hindered a concrete pour, walked onto the site in Wright unaccompanied and scaled scaffolding in breach of site safety rules. Mr Hall was penalised $27,000 for seven contraventions of the Fair Work Act.

Current ACT secretary, Mr O’Mara was penalised $12,000 for refusing to produce his federal entry permit at one site and failing to comply with an occupational health and safety requirement at another site.

When Judge Warwick Neville comment on Mr O’Mara’s behaviour, he said “Bluster and ill-informed comments have no place anywhere…To profess knowledge, and to act bluntly and forcibly upon it, when it is plainly wrong, is (and in this instance was) wilful and dangerous ignorance. This is especially so when one is in a position of authority, such as Mr O’Mara was. Ill-informed and misconceived “might” is never ‘right’.”

In the final Federal Circuit Court judgement on the matters, it said: “The interruptions ranged from ultimately stopping the last stages of a concrete pour, to extended and quite testy engagements between Union officials and management, and to clear flouting of health and safety directions while on site.

“Apart from some acknowledgement in the course of the trial that some conduct at the time, in hindsight, was either ill-advised or could have been handled better, for example as noted by Mr Hall in his evidence, there was no expression of contrition by any of the respondents for their conduct.”

The commissioner of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, Stephen McBurney, said: “When permit holders misuse and abuse their right of entry powers in such a flagrant manner as in this case, the ABCC will not hesitate to investigate and litigate.”

Master Builders say CFMMEU secretary needs to go

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