Waleed Aly has been criticised by a union boss for ‘diminishing’ the death of a young apprentice after he mistakenly referred to the incident as ‘a little civil suit’.
National Secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Dave Noonan hit back The Project’s co-host on Monday following a heated debate about the effectiveness of the industry watchdog.
‘To put this into context, the contractor responsible for the appalling safety that led to the death of an 18-year-old apprentice was fined $900,000 a couple of years ago,’ Mr Noonan said.
‘They paid not one cent because they were covered by insurance. You see the point here is that we get these lurid allegations of someone swearing on a building site, saying the wrong thing, and massive fines, massive prosecution.
‘But not one thing done to improve the sort of appalling safety conditions that led to the death of that young worker, and the crippling of another worker.
‘If anyone thinks that’s comparable, I beg to disagree.’
The Project’s Waleed Aly mistakenly referred to the death of an 18-year-old tradie on a worksite as a ‘little civil suit’ and quickly sparked a reaction from CFMEU secretary Dave Noonan
Aly said defenders of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ACCC) would argue the tax-payer funded commission ‘prosecutes some important things’.
The panellist suggested to the union boss that civil suits didn’t have to be comparable but could be treated in separate ways.
‘So if the builder is negligent in that situation, then that could be it’s own little suit,’ he said – before quickly correcting himself and saying ‘civil suit’.
‘It’s own little civil suit? We’re talking about the death of a young man Waleed,’ Mr Noonan quickly fired back.
‘The world I live in, the world our members live in, there are serious safety hazards, the most appalling safety circumstances, and I don’t think it’s appropriate to diminish it by calling it a “little civil suit”.’
Aly said Mr Noonan had misunderstood him and explained he didn’t mean to say it was a ‘little suit’ to which his guest replied: ‘I’m happy to replay the tape’.
Union boss Dave Noonan (pictured) accused the panellist of ‘diminishing’ the death of the young apprentice to which Aly said he didn’t mean to refer to it as ‘a little civil suit’
‘I’m not saying it’s a little civil suit and it doesn’t matter, if you want to compare the ways in which these things might result ultimately in fines, my only point is, they have different mechanisms that would result in different sorts of fines,’ Aly said.
‘So to say their comparable, well they make not be comparable.’
Mr Noonan said serious safety breaches and wage theft continued to go unpunished in the building industry due to the ABCC’s inaction.
He national secretary claimed the commission had been set up by governments purely to strip workers of their rights to have an effective union.
‘We are a union that stands up for our members, we make no apology for that, and sometimes we get it wrong,’ he continued.
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke on Sunday announced building code regulation changes would come into effect from Tuesday, before he introduces legislation later this year to abolish the ABCC (pictured, a construction worker in Melbourne)
‘But we are the only people that are in there trying mate, because let me tell you, the ABCC is not when it comes to looking after workers.’
The heated moment comes after the Albanese government announced a controversial move to scrap the industry watchdog.
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke on Sunday announced building code regulation changes would come into effect from Tuesday, before he introduces legislation later this year to abolish the ABCC.
The commission’s powers will be reduced to the ‘bare legal minimum’ before reverting to the Fair Work Ombudsman and to health and safety regulators.
Master Builders Australia warned abolishing the commission risked driving up construction costs and said the sector needed a specialist regulator.
Master Builders Australia warned abolishing the commission risked driving up construction costs and said the sector needed a specialist regulator (pictured, workers in Melbourne)
But Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said it was about ensuring workers were bound by equal laws.
‘What there should be is the same laws across the entire industrial relations system applying to every single worker,’ he told ABC News earlier on Monday.
‘The way this particular sector has been singled out under the ABCC is not fair.’
Unions have long argued the building code has been used to target them pointing to provisions that ban union flags and symbols.
Mr Noonan has previously claimed the code had stopped unions being able to bargain over apprentice ratios, Indigenous employment clauses and measures to promote women in construction.