Constructing Fear – Australia’s Secret Industrial Inquisition

Australian Workers Film Guide


A documentary exposing the victimisation and intimidation of construction workers by the Howard Government’s Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). Faced with draconian fines and threats of imprisonment, the film shows how workers are subjected to a compulsory secret tribunal and interrogations, in which they have no right to silence, must answer any questions and cannot communicate to anyone else what has taken place during the process. Failure to comply will result in $28,600 fines or 6 months imprisonment.

A number of workers are profiled in the film. Brodene Wardley is a safety delegate forced into a secret tribunal over a safety stop work meeting. Also profiled are some of the 107 workers from the Mandurah railway project in Perth who were fined $28,600 for striking in defense of their dismissed union delegate Peter Ballard.

La Trobe Valley worker Charlie Corbett was fined $44,000 for organising an overtime ban to re-instate a sacked apprentice. At a work site near Port Campbell, 130 workers were served with fines for a stop work meeting in response to their union delegate being sacked over safety concerns. A non-union supervisor at the work site talks about how he was also sacked for raising safety concerns with management.

With unions excluded from work site safety issues, a rapid decline in safety standards and increased accidents is explored in detail. The film also includes comments from politicians and union officials, as well as from a lawyer representing workers who now also fears being subjected to interrogation. The film includes some footage from the 1998 waterfront dispute at Webb Dock and concludes with a protest march in Melbourne.

Special Notes/Achievements

The film was sponsored by Film Victoria and the CFMEU.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 36 mins 26 secs

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Film Producer: Dennis K. Smith, John Lewis,

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Film Composer: Phil Gionfriddo, Andrew McGee,

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