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Either Australian companies are saints or the law is just for show

By John Passant - posted Thursday, 13 August 2009

I know that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard would never lie to us.

So I trust them when they say that the Australian Building and Construction Commission is there to stop lawlessness in the building and construction industry.

And I believe them when they say that the ABCC is evenhanded and will investigate breaches of the law by workers and bosses.


So it must be just that the investigations into the bosses and their breaches of the law are a bit more complicated than those of ordinary workers because I can’t see any companies on the ABCC’s prosecution or investigation list. Workers yes, but no bosses.

I am a patient man. I know the ABCC will be investigating the building bosses now, just constructing a great case against their lawlessness.

Which brings me to BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. These two companies build things. They construct things.

They do all this so they can dig stuff out of the ground and send it to far away to exotic places for lots of money.

Some of Rio Tinto’s staff have got into a little bit of bother in China. The Chinese have arrested them. That is very naughty of the Chinese. It may be, based on newspaper reports, that the allegations against the Rio Tinto employees could include bribing Chinese public officials for information that would be useful to Rio Tinto in its negotiations with the Chinese over iron ore prices.

Many of BHP and Rio Tinto’s employees are members of unions which have a strong presence in the building and construction industry - the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and the Amalgamated Metal Workers union are two examples.


These unionists are the sorts of people the ABCC pays particular attention to, all in the name of stopping “lawlessness” in the building industry.

Last week there was a senior Chinese Official in Australia. He said, unremarkably, that if the alleged activity of the Rio Tinto employees had taken place in Australia we would have arrested them too.

True, but it goes further than that.

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First published in En Passant on August 6, 2009.

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About the Author

John Passant is a Canberra writer ( and member of Socialist Alternative.

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