A lawyer for two sacked CFMEU officials has accused Australia’s biggest union of “bleeding dry” his whistleblower clients after it vowed in court Tuesday to fight the consolidation of three cases against it.
The proceedings all centre on the termination of ex-union organisers Andrew Quirk and Brian “Jock” Miller, who went public in 2014 about alleged infiltration of the CFMEU by organised crime.
The union fired the pair in April 2015 for “gross misbehaviour” after their stories were published by the Sydney Morning Herald and aired by ABC’s 7.30 Report.
“They were terminated not because anything they said was false but because they had not ‘got permission’ to say it,” Quirk and Miller’s lawyer, Chris McArdle, told Lawyerly after a case management hearing in the Federal Court Tuesday.
“The CFMEU leadership would do a much better job spending their member’s money on routing out people like [underworld figure] George Alex rather than trying to bleed dry honest men like Andrew Quirk and Jock Miller.”
In Tuesday’s hearing, McArdle told Justice Nye Perram that the three separate actionss brought by Quirk and Miller against the CFMEU should be joined.
On 8 June, Judge Nick Nicholls ordered the two matters in the Federal Circuit Court to be heard alongside the Federal Court matter. The setup did not serve efficiency, McArdle said.
CFMEU lawyer Brendan Docking pushed back, saying the evidence in the cases did not line up neatly enough to combine the proceedings. With two cases against the NSW arm of the CFMEU and one against the union’s federal body, different evidence would be required for each, he said.
“We think it’s going to be easier to follow by keeping the three separate,” Docking said.
The cases, which have been running since June 2015, already have a procedural history as well, Judge Perram noted. “If we start the whole process again, we might move back several steps,” the judge said.
The judge set an interlocutory hearing on consolidation for August 6.
Lawyerly has reached out to the CFMEU for comment.
McArdle is the principal lawyer at McArdle Lawyers. Docking is from HB Higgins Chambers and was instructed by Taylor & Scott Lawyers.
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