Curtis Island case against CFMEU reps 'a bloody disgrace'
TWO CFMEU delegates met with workers on Curtis Island then took a special night ferry ride back to Gladstone with two Bechtel staff, on which they were told to do a safety drill.
Aboard the vessel Riverside Freedom, the delegates Travis O'Brien and Ben Loakes were accused of not complying with the marine safety requirements in not taking part in the 'Passenger Challenge Drill' - a drill that is only done monthly and referred to as a safety quiz in court proceedings.
It involves questions about life jackets and emergency procedures, the questions referring to what they took in on the safety video that is played at the start of every voyage.
Twenty months later, and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, the men won their case in a defended hearing before Gladstone Magistrate Jeffrey Clarke to the charge they offended by omitting to do an act which prevented the Master of the vessel from implementing a safety drill in August 2014.
After a full day hearing Mr Clarke found in their favour, with Mr Loakes (no longer CFMEU) labelling the case "a bloody disgrace" as he later walked from the Courthouse.
In evidence deckhand Tony Berry told the court that while the Safety Video was played he saw one passenger (Loakes) on his phone with earphones in, and the other union delegate (O'Brien) get up and go to the bathroom.
"I told the Master, Miles Jackson, I observed a passenger not fully watching and I suggested we go ahead and do this drill," Mr Berry said.
"The Master said yes, go ahead. I understood it to be an order."
When he told the four passengers Mr Berry said there was no verbal response from Mr Loakes who had pointed at his mobile phone.
He said Mr O'Brien told Bechtel employee Lyndall Soetens that she do it.
"From his demeanour he was taking it as more of a joke," Mr Berry said, stating he did not ask them to put on life jackets.
He said that he told the Master that Mr O'Brien refused to participate in the drill.
"He gave the impression he was refusing which is no," Mr Berry said.
Barrister Tim Ryan asked Mr Berry if he gave the passengers 'a direction' to do the drill.
"Yes I did. I informed him that the Master requested a passenger drill," he said.
"But not a direction," said Mr Ryan.
Asked by Mr Ryan if he got his "nose out of joint" because Mr Loakes had been abrupt to him, "Yes I did" Mr Berry said.
Mr Berry also agreed that he had been offended by Mr Loakes continuing to talk on the phone, "yes I was".
He also claimed Mr O'Brien after returning from the bathroom played a game on his phone instead of taking an interest in the drill.
"I saw the reflections (phone screen) in the window. I assumed it was a game as it was a colourful screen."
After hearing lengthy evidence and legal submissions, including defence barrister Mark McCarthy's submission that there was no case to answer, Mr Clarke evaluated the evidence and found that the Prosecution case had not been made out.
Mr Clarke found that nothing had been conveyed to the two union officials "that meant they were compelled to participate in the drill".
He dismissed the charges but noted that this particular piece of legislation under which the charges arose was not straight forward or simple. .
Mr Clarke refused a submission for defence costs saying that the prosecution had acted in good faith in the belief there was an arguable case.