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Charge against Noel Washington dropped

Workplace Express
26 November 2008 1:58pm

Six days before the start of his trial for refusing to attend an ABCC interview, the Commonwealth DPP has dropped its charge against the CFMEU's (construction division) Victorian senior vice president Noel Washington.

The head of IR at Slater & Gordon, Marcus Clayton, who is representing Washington, confirmed to Workplace Express that he'd received a letter from the office of the CDPP this morning advising that it had withdrawn the charge.

He said the CDPP, as was typical in such circumstances, did not give reasons for its decision.
Washington was facing a possible six months jail for allegedly breaching s52 of the BCII Act, and the union's national secretary Dave Noonan received the news while marching to Parliament House in Canberra as part of series of nationwide protests coinciding with the trial, which was set down in the Melbourne Magistrates Court for Tuesday and Wednesday. He announced it to cheering building workers.

The charging of Washington had become a flashpoint for the strained relationship between the union movement and the ALP over the Government's decision to keep the ABCC and BCII Act until January, 2010.

The VTHC secretary Brian Boyd predicted a turn-out of 30,000-to-40,000 at next week's planned Melbourne rally alone.

Noonan said it was too early to decide whether next week's protests would go ahead, though the unions' Rights on Site campaign would continue until the ABCC and BCII Act were gone.

Slater & Gordon's Clayton told Workplace Express that he could "only speculate" why the CDPP had withdrawn the charge six days before the trial.

He said Washington's counsel, Robert Richter QC, had told the court that he would argue that the prosecution was an abuse of process, and that the ABCC's former deputy Nigel Hadgkiss would be required to attend to give evidence.

Asked whether the dropping of the charges would encourage more people to breach the BCII Act, the CFMEU's Noonan said that "bad laws would be broken". With more than 100 people already "dragged" to appear before the ABCC, there could be more who decided that the principle of fighting unjust laws outweighed the prospect of jail, he said.

Washington was the first person to be charged under s52 of the BCII Act.

2 Com:

Dave Riley | November 26, 2008

ABCC laws in disarray, as DPP drops charges against unionist.

Australia’s Building and Construction laws are in disarray today as the DPP dropped charges against union official Noel Washington.

Mr Washington was charged for refusing to attend a compulsory interview. As a matter of principle he had refused to attend an interview with the Australian Building and Construction Commission. He was due to appear in court on 2 December. Mr Washington was not being investigated for any matter, but was required by the ABCC to attend an interview about what had occurred at a union meeting.

Dave Noonan, CFMEU Construction Division National Secretary said the first cracks are appearing in the ABCC laws, but the campaign would not be finished until the laws were scrapped.

“For months now we have spoken out how the laws are unfair. The decision by the DPP today to drop the laws shows that they are fundamentally unworkable.


“This decision is a clear message to the Government that the laws are in disarray and need to be abolished,” said Dave Noonan.


“The fact that over 100 workers have already been dragged before the ABCC and threatened with imprisonment should not be forgotten. These laws were created by a Government determined to destroy building workers rights, and it is time that they were removed.


“Construction workers should have the same rights as other Australians, and this decision today is a terrible slap in the face to an unaccountable organisation that is a hangover from the Howard era.”

Anonymous | November 26, 2008

Subject: CONGRATULATIONS NOEL

The Director of Public Prosecutions appears to have dropped charges against Noel Washington arising out of his failure to appear before the ABCC. We wish him the best and six months of utter joy.

The CDPP statement when comment was requested by The Union Show team is as follows: "We are not able to provide any answer until this matter has been brought back before the court."

The Communications Team at the ABCC responded to our request for comment thus:

"Debra,

Further to your enquiry this afternoon; the ABCC has been advised that the CDPP will make an application for leave to withdraw the charges against Mr Noel Washington.

Until that time, the matter remains before the court and the ABCC will not be making any comment.

Regards,"

CFMEU National Secretary Dave Noonan said this afternoon that "the first cracks are appearing in the ABCC laws, but the campaign would not be finished until the laws were scrapped.

“For months now we have spoken out how the laws are unfair. The decision by the DPP today to drop the laws shows that they are fundamentally unworkable.

“This decision is a clear message to the Government that the laws are in disarray and need to be abolished,” "

Cheers

Debra.

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