Cole dismisses CFMEU bias application

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Cole dismisses CFMEU bias application

Building and construction industry royal commissioner Terence Cole will not stand down from hearing matters relating to the NSW construction union. This means that the Federal Court will decide on his future next month.

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Building and construction industry royal commissioner Terence Cole will not stand down from hearing matters relating to the NSW construction union. This means that the Federal Court will decide on his future next month.

In Melbourne this morning, Cole rejected a claim by 40 officials and delegates of the NSW branch of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy union that he had shown bias by releasing an interim report to the federal Workplace Relations Minister containing adverse findings against the union, without first consulting the union.

The CFMEU had said it was not asked to give evidence before Cole recommended the federal Government set up an interim taskforce to investigate and police breaches of the Workplace Relations Act (see 23), and said Cole should step aside from any further hearings involving the NSW branch of the union.

Cole and his legal counsel had disputed whether he had in fact presented any findings but Rothman said the CFMEU felt Cole had predetermined that NSW was undergoing the same sorts of troubles as other states.

Legal argument in the commission on Monday, when Cole heard the CFMEU's application, focused also on orders which CFMEU's counsel, Stephen Rothman SC, could frame which would leave Cole free to deal with NSW issues other than those involving the CFMEU.

Delivering his decision on the application this morning, Cole said his report was not a prejudgement and contained findings of fact. He criticised state secretary Andrew Ferguson for announcing to the media his intention to bring the application, and said his 'campaign' was to influence public opinion against the commission.

He stressed that Royal Commissions did not have a judicial character and thus ordinary laws of evidence were inapplicable. However, Cole said natural justice issues meant it was important that fair minded lay observers did not consider that he had prejudged, displayed bias or denied natural justice - ommission moves to Adelaide for further hearings from Monday and is in Darwin from September 13.

 

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