CFMEU officials refuse to assist police probe into alleged worksite attack

Two CFMEU officials who were allegedly bashed at a Hawthorn East construction site in June last year have refused to co-operate with investigators from Victoria Police and WorkSafe.

More than 250 union members gathered outside the Toorak Road site on July 1 in response to the attack that left one of their colleagues unconscious, while CFMEU Victorian state secretary John Setka said “no one should go to work and be brutally attacked”.

Police line up outside the Toorak Road worksite as CFMEU members gather on July 1,Credit:Penny Stephens

However, a Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed to The Age that its investigation had reached an impasse more than six months after the incident.

“Police are yet to receive a formal complaint in relation to this alleged assault and therefore the investigation has been concluded at this stage. Should anyone wish to make a report in the future, police will resume the investigation,” a police spokeswoman said.

A WorkSafe spokesman said its investigation had concluded. But a WorkSafe source, who was not authorised to speak on the record, said investigators had been repeatedly frustrated by a lack of assistance from the alleged victims.

A spokeswoman for the CFMEU confirmed the alleged victims had elected not to make statements to police, but could not explain why.

The two men had arrived at the site about 7.30am on June 30 last year and, according to a CFMEU statement at the time, had “all their paperwork in order”.

One of the officials was knocked unconscious when allegedly struck on the back of the head with some kind of object, believed to be a piece of wood, before being kicked while on the ground, according to the statement.

Mr Setka condemned the alleged attack at the time and defended the gathering of union members outside the site.

“Of course, emotions are running high within the construction industry, as these young officials were simply doing their job when met with an organised assault by a group of cowards,” Mr Setka said in a statement on June 30 last year.

Hundreds of workers protest outside the Hawthorn East building site on July 1 last year.Credit:Penny Stephens

The construction site is linked to developer Raman Shaqiri, who was slapped with massive fines in 2019 over the illegal demolition of Carlton’s Corkman Pub.

In December Mr Shaqiri and the co-owner of the Corkman site, Stefce Kutlesovski, were sentenced by the state planning tribunal to 30 days in jail for contempt of court. The pair have appealed the sentence, and are now awaiting a date for their hearing.

At the time of the alleged bashing, Mr Shaqiri’s lawyer, Mathew Francke, provided a different account of the incident.

Mr Francke, said in a statement that the two union officials attended the site without entry documents and “without any forewarning or appointment”.

“They were asked several times why they were seeking entry to the site, they would only respond with one word, ‘ARREO’ [the acronym for authorised representatives of registered employee organisations],” he said.

“They were denied entry and asked to leave. They then became physically aggressive and two staff members of the builder acted defensively. No weapons were involved.”

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