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Fine stayed while Vic government appeals

The Victorian Government will fight a Federal Court ruling and a $53,000 fine that it breached workplace laws.


Federal Court Justice Mordy Bromberg on Friday penalised the government with a fine for breaking federal workplace laws, and ordered the fine be paid to the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

Justice Bromberg found in May the government broke the laws by threatening not to use builder Lend Lease on the new Bendigo Hospital project.

The government is already appealing that decision and a spokesperson on Friday said it would also appeal against the penalty.

“The government considers that it has not infringed Commonwealth law and that imposing a civil penalty in circumstances where the government has fully complied with the court’s ruling since it was made only causes unnecessary cost to Victorian taxpayers,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“The government considers there are good grounds to appeal against today’s decision, as well as continuing with the appeal already underway against the court’s original finding that Victoria has infringed Commonwealth law.” The Victorian Government had said the four-year pay and conditions deal struck by Lend Lease and the CFMEU in 2012 did not comply with its construction code.

Justice Bromberg also found the government contravened the Fair Work Act by trying to coerce a small recycling company, Eco, to change a workplace agreement.

But the fines were stayed while the state government appeals the May judgment.

After the ruling, the CFMEU said the government should stop fighting court battles and instead “focus their energies and resources on creating jobs and saving lives in what is a high risk industry”.

Minister for Employment Eric Abetz said the Federal Government will intervene in the appeal against the federal court decision.

“As the Federal Courts decisions may have significant implications for the operation of the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act, I consider it to be in the public interest that the Commonwealth intervene to make submissions about their correct interpretation,” Senator Abetz said. He said he would not comment further as the matter was before the court.

A Victorian Government spokesperson said the Victorian Code of Practice guidelines for the building and construction industry have been adjusted to comply with the Federal Court’s previous findings, pending the outcome of the appeal by the government.