Rumours around the traps: union

A senior Canberra construction union official has admitted to hearing rumours about a former colleague who is alleged to have pocketed cash bribes.


Assistant secretary of the ACT CFMEU branch Jason O’Mara told a Sydney hearing of the royal commission on Thursday there was discussion about Halafihi “Fihi” Kivalu “around the traps”.

In July the commission heard allegations the former organiser pocketed thousands of dollars from companies in Canberra in exchange for work.

Mr Kivalu has since been charged with blackmail, but has vowed to fight the allegations.

Like other organisers on Wednesday, Mr O’Mara said “there was the odd discussion here or there”.

“I thought everyone was doing the right thing – we’ve since heard not,” he said.

When pressed further he said no direct allegations were made to him about cash payments.

But one company owner, Elias Taleb, did allege to him that Mr Kivalu was pressuring him to use a labour hire company, of which he thought the union organiser was a director.

Checks with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission revealed that wasn’t the case, Mr O’Mara said.

However, he recalled another incident when they had to talk to Mr Kivalu, because they were not happy he chose to socialise with builders at a rugby union match without telling senior management.

Mr O’Mara’s colleague, organiser Kenneth “Dusty” Miller told the commission on Wednesday “around the traps” there was talk that Mr Kivalu “wasn’t treating people fairly”, but no formal evidence was brought forward.

On Thursday he denied there was a code of silence within the union to keep everything in-house and that only “dogs” call the police.

When asked by lawyer Adam Morison during cross-examination what would happen if there was a “punch-up” in the union, Mr Miller said he would punch back.

“That’s how I live,” he said strongly.

The commission was also played a tape between Mr O’Mara and his colleague Tony Vitler in which Mr Vitler told him organisers were going to have a “f***ing crack” at a worksite without a union enterprise bargaining agreement, where concrete was about to be poured.

A previous hearing was told about an incident at the Milin Builders site in Turner earlier this year when four CFMEU officials turned up to block a concrete pour.

Mr O’Mara told counsel-assisting Jeremy Stoljar his “language is a bit funny, but I take that to mean they were going down to check on the safety on the project”.

“It’s the language of someone who’s about to go into combat isn’t it?” Mr Stoljar asked.

“Unfortunately sometimes when you go on jobs that’s how people treat you,” Mr O’Mara replied.

The commission was told CFMEU secretary Dean Hall and organiser John Lomax – who has also been charged with blackmail – will not face hearings until a later date.