Thursday, December 20, 2007

Innocent bystander seized by Howard's "Gestapo"

I'm the innocent bystander
Somehow I got stuck
Between the rock and a hard place
And I'm down on my luck

Warren Zevon’s 1978 song Lawyers, Guns and Money was an innocent bystander’s lament and plea for help.

And one unlucky academic from the University of Melbourne has emerged as the innocent bystander in the Australian Building and Construction Commission’s campaign to destroy the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

A little over three months ago, the man was walking past a Melbourne building site when he witnessed a confrontation between a building manager and a CFMEU official.

The CFMEU states that the manager had tried to intervene in an off-site meeting of the workers, and that although he and the union official pushed and shoved each other, no blows were exchanged and no charges have been laid against either man by police.

The zealots from Howard’s ABCC saw it as another opportunity to bash the CFMEU, and decided that the innocent bystander might be the key to their case.

Somehow or other, they identified him and hauled him in for interrogation.

Now, this is a bloke who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, at least as far as his rights as a citizen are concerned.

Under the powers vested in the ABCC by Howard, IB (as we’ll call the innocent bystander) could not decline the “invitation” to attend the interview (penalty: 6 months jail), could not decline to answer questions from his interrogators (penalty: 6 months jail), could not tell anyone - even his wife - that he had been interrogated (penalty: 6 months jail) and could not ask friends to send a lawyer (let alone Zevon's guns and money) to be present during the interrogation.

Its like a scenario out of a movie about the Gestapo in WW2!

The capitalist press - usually no friend of the worker – has introduced its reports on IB’s story as follows: He was an innocent witness to a minor scuffle, but was interrogated for hours. The law forbids him from telling his story, and we cannot name him nor show his face. This is happening in Australia…(Sydney Morning Herald, December 15, 2007)

So who is IB? Well, IB is potentially you and potentially me - and will be for as long as we allow this ghost of fascism past, the ABCC, to continue the now-departed Howard Government’s crusade against building and construction workers.

It is in all of our interests that Rudd and Co be forced by a reinvigorated Your Rights at Work campaign to muzzle the ABCC.

In fact, it should be disbanded now!

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