New revelations about the links between organised crime and Australia’s ultra-hot construction industry have raised a stink that’s not likely to go away. Death threats against a union official have caused him to make some very ugly accusations.
It didn't take long for the stench to make headlines.
Sydney Morning Herald Brian Fitzpatrick, a senior industrial officer and 25-year veteran of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union in NSW, said the infiltration of organised crime into the union had plunged it into a "crisis" and called for "a very serious clean-up."
Fairfax Media and the ABC can also reveal Mr Fitzpatrick reported a fellow senior union organizer Darren Greenfield for allegedly issuing him a death threat, after Mr Fitzpatrick raised concerns about the relationship between union figures and businessman George Alex.
In a multi-trillion dollar industry, accusations of widespread kickbacks, bribes, extortion, money laundering and links with biker gangs and “underworld celebrities” go a long way. The other side of this very tarnished coin is that the union movement is the main support for Australia’s opposition, the Australian Labor Party.
At a time when millions of Australians are doing it tough and tens of thousands of jobs are being lost, the news that criminals are living high on the hog doesn’t go down too well, either. While Australia’s businesses aren’t expected to be corporate saints, they’re not expected to be wallowing in the muck.
The biggest building project in the country, the Barangaroo development on Sydney Harbor, within easy eye-shot of the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House, is also under scrutiny. This is a new upmarket casino and general Monopoly Tower, a showpiece.
It could also be a big embarrassment if similar practices are carried on there.
The Australian Crime Commission confirmed it is working with NSW Police, the NSW Crime Commission and Victorian Police "in respect to ongoing investigations into organised crime links to the building and construction industry."
"This work includes the use of the Australian Crime Commission's coercive powers as well as providing national intelligence collection and holdings on a range of criminal entities and vulnerabilities within the sector," the ACC said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.
Australian media are now competing for stories as the stench grows.
The Daily Telegraph:A MAJOR Sydney crime figure on bail for serious drug offenses uses a construction company involved with the development at Barangaroo - one of the most significant projects since the Opera House - to launder illicit profits.
The revelations came as Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday said he would consider extending a royal commission into union corruption to include the infiltration of organised crime at Barangaroo and the NSW building industry generally.
In case Australians were wondering where drug money went:
The money laundering arrangement starts with a building company being granted a lucrative contract to provide either scaffolding or formwork to a major project. The services provided and contractual arrangements are entirely legitimate.
Illicit funds are then provided to the company to pay for workers and buy supplies to complete the contract.
The grant of contracts is also subject to debate. In an industry where the norm is to simply go through the motions and award jobs and multimillion dollar contracts to “associates”, you have to wonder how legitimate builders and subcontractors stay in business.
Organized crime has been around in Australia for a long time. Politicians are not immune. The Labor Party has already been severely weakened by its links with corrupt practices. The party was annihilated in recent elections, and further harmed by news of corrupt dealings allegedly conducted by a minister and senior party members.
What’s now open to question is the extent to which an almost entirely union-based party can avoid suspicion for its dealings with government contracts. A can of worms has been opened, and it’s leading a long way up the food chain.
This could be Australia’s Watergate. It’s tacky, it’s ugly, and it’s shoddy. It’s full of ugly bastards with all the style and class of an unclean toilet. The horrible thing is that most Australians aren’t going to be surprised by anything but the extent of the problem.
You can see Mr Fitzpatrick’s interview in full on this link. This is a whistleblower really risking his life. Respect him for what he’s trying to do, because nobody else has had that sort of guts. The union he’s talking about has 140,000 members. Consider the possibilities.
If it’s all true, and if there’s any justice in this country, there ought to be a lot of jobs available on the market when this hits the fan.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com