Annastacia Palaszczuk and Michael Ravbar
Annastacia Palaszczuk and Michael Ravbar

What led to union’s divorce from Labor

The State Government's re-election chances have been dealt a devastating blow, with a key union slamming shut its massive financial war chest and declaring it doesn't care if the out-of-touch Labor Party wins or loses.

The powerful CFMEU announced it will pull all funds and volunteers - and will even consider actively campaigning against the government - just hours after Deputy Premier Steven Miles said he expected the union's help in October.

The stinging public rebuke comes amid internal turmoil over the preselection of candidates, a question mark over whether Townsville-based minister Coralee O'Rourke will run again, and last week's savaging by respected Labor figure Cameron Milner.

In a rare and extraordinary press conference, union boss Michael Ravbar slammed the government for being more interested in getting itself elected with "spin" and "bright ads" rather than a real economic plan that would create jobs for the working class people it was meant to care about.

It followed the announcement that the union would quit the Left faction, labelling it "little more than a protection racket for dud members such as (former deputy premier) Jackie Trad".





"We've made it clear, there will be no finances, there'll be no resources, there'll be no people on the ground," Mr Ravbar said, adding that could cost Labor millions.

"At the end of the day, they rely on organisations such as us for our support, whatever it might be, financially or on the ground, so yes it will hurt."

Mr Ravbar wouldn't rule out campaigning for minority parties such as Katter's Australian Party, and said its 24,000 members may well vote against Labor on October 31.

He said that if Labor lost because of the move, then "so be it", but "sometimes it takes someone within the party to make a stand for them to wake up and realise you've got to govern for all, not a select few".

"At the end of the day, governments come and go."

The CFMEU construction division has had a long-running campaign against the government over its Cross River Rail project - initially overseen by Ms Trad, now by Kate Jones - and its mining division has pushed for the next stage of the New Acland coal mine to finally be approved.

Mr Ravbar said he wanted to see prescribed clauses that would ensure local jobs in major infrastructure projects and requirements for more apprenticeships, traineeships and Indigenous employment.


State Development Minister Kate Jones
State Development Minister Kate Jones


He said while the Government had done a good job of managing the health implications of COVID-19, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk did not have an adequate economic strategy going forward.

"At the end of the day, we're not convinced about her plan, her vision and her leadership in regards for jobs, jobs security, stimulating the economy," he said.

Mr Ravbar's comments come just days after respected Labor figure Cameron Milner savaged the government for arrogantly assuming it had already won the election while having no plan to fix Queensland's battered economy.

Echoing that criticism, Mr Ravbar said Labor was super confident but voters expected more.

"What's your vision for how you're actually going to deliver the jobs? What type of jobs are they? Are they secure jobs? How does that affect my family? What's the economic stimulus?" he asked.

Mr Ravbar claimed Queensland Labor was making the same mistakes that led to federal Labor's annihilation across regional Queensland at the 2019 election.

"We'd love to see them get re-elected, but when you go off track and you're not actually looking after the interests of all and when you're a bit anti-coal, I would have thought that the Labor Government would have learnt from the last Federal Election last year," he said.

"It seems to be that they're actually making the same mistakes that they did."

The public broadside also comes amid simmering anger within some Labor members over the parachuting of two Right candidates into the winnable Whitsunday and Burleigh electorates by Ms Palaszczuk.

Tracey Cameron was forced to rescind her nomination for the Whitsunday seat 10 months after she was preselected to make way for Angie Kelly - which led to the party's local branch closing after members' mass resignation.



Annastacia Palaszczuk
Annastacia Palaszczuk


Michael Ravbar
Michael Ravbar



In Burleigh, Ms Palaszczuk endorsed surfer Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew, sparking anger within the party including from the seat's former MP, Christine Smith, who resigned as a member saying the move left her "disgusted".

There is also a question mark over whether Townsville-based Minister Coralee O'Rourke will run again in her marginal seat.

Ms Palaszczuk said questions over Ms O'Rourke's political future were "speculation" after Ms O'Rourke failed to guarantee she would run in October.

On the CFMEU, the Premier denied claims Labor had walked away from workers and said she didn't believe there were "dud politicians" in her team.

Just hours before Mr Ravbar let loose, Mr Miles, who is the party's parliamentary leader of the Left, said the Government would continue to "work very closely with all unions, but particularly the CFMEU" to keep their members in work through the pandemic.

"I understand they're staying affiliated with the Labor Party, I expect they would continue to campaign with us at the election because they know that it's the Labor Party who works with them to support jobs and their industry just as we have demonstrated," he said.

Mr Ravbar said he was disappointed factional powerbroker and United Workers' Union state secretary Gary Bullock "hasn't been listening to our concerns," and accused Queensland's Labor headquarters - led by state secretary Julie-Ann Campbell - of being too inward-looking and focused on protecting Ms Trad's job.

Mr Bullock said the CFMEU's decision was its own.

"Working people know Labor will do better by them, they remember what happened the last time the LNP were in government," he said.

"At this time, everyone's priority should be getting through the COVID-19 crisis and standing up for what is best for Queenslanders.

"In my view, that's what the Premier and this Government have been doing.

"The people of Queensland will have the final say on election day."





Originally published as What led to union's divorce from Labor