Builder Lashes Alleged Union Corruption in Victoria

Thursday, January 30th, 2014
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The secretary of Victoria’s powerful construction union has rubbished claims he got a sweet deal on a home renovation in exchange for keeping peace on building sites.

Builder Andrew Zaf told the ABC’s 7.30 program that during the mid-1990s he paid $10,000 for union organiser John Setka to receive a free Colorbond roof and other goods for his house renovation in return for “peace and quiet” on his sites.

“At the end of the day it was cheaper for me to compromise myself than to wear the risk of what was going to happen tomorrow with my truck going out to construction sites,” Mr Zaf told the program on Wednesday.

Mr Setka, the secretary of Victoria’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), released a statement denying Mr Zaf’s claims, saying he bought products linked to Mr Zaf’s business two decades ago at trade prices.

“The claim there was some deal or agreement about any flow-on benefits is a blatant lie.”

Mr Zaf outlined further allegations of corruption, saying the CFMEU asked him to hire the father of a fellow union official known as “Johnny the Greek”, who once threatened to kill him.

He said he agreed for “peace on our job, not cranes to be stopped and people harassing us, slowing down projects”.

Mr Zaf said he also paid more than $10,000 in airfares to bring Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams to Australia at the union’s encouragement.

Mr Setka rejects Mr Zaf’s allegations.

“According to the media, Andrew Zaf made his allegations to the Victorian government’s Construction Code Compliance Unit (CCCU) in December 2012,” he said.

“I have never been approached by the CCCU or any other authority in relation to those allegations.”

The ABC program says a 2006 file by building industry investigators passed onto Victoria Police says Melbourne identity Mick Gatto was paid $350,000 to keep the old Melbourne power station site trouble-free.

Mr Gatto denies being involved in corrupt building industry dealings.

It says the same intelligence file states another developer told investigators Mr Setka demanded he pay Mr Setka’s then-girlfriend’s company $17,000 as a show of good faith she would work on the site.

Mr Setka said if there was substance to allegations against union officials made to the CCCU, police should have taken action.

“Instead, the Victorian Liberal government or its officials have chosen to leak the unproven allegations made to the CCCU for purely political motives.”

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