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Issue 574, 5 October 2007 - All unions should back the Greens

There's a big fight ahead for the union movement

Constructing Fear is a 40-minute documentary that explains the role of the Howard government’s Building ndustry Commission (ABCC). Director Joe Loh spoke to Socialist Worker’s James Supple.

"My father was a building worker and also an active unionist so I grew up having an understanding of the building industry. [When I heard] some of the stories about what the ABCC was up to and what its powers were I knew there was a good story to be told.

Very few people in the community know about [the commission].

"When you tell people what's going on and the extent of the [commission's] powers people tend to be shocked. I don't think there is a lot of support in the community for these kinds of laws but there's also not a lot of discussion about the fact that they exist.

"I basically just spoke to people who'd been directly affected by the ABCC's actions and got it straight from the horse's mouth about the impact on their lives.

"The story told itself because you basically just had to meet these people and speak to them and it became clear that what was going on was a real act of bastardry.

"There were people [I talked to] who in the end decided they didn't want to appear in the film because they were afraid of retribution. But the people who did speak to me were very courageous. It's not an easy time to say what you really think and to stand up for yourself, and I think it really adds to the film that these people are taking a risk in speaking up.

"I spoke to members of the Western Australian 107 who are all facing individual $28,000 fines for illegal strike action-huge fines they can't afford to pay.

"I also spoke to people who'd been through the interrogation process-who have been hauled in, forced to answer questions, [and] forced to dob in their mates under threat of six months' jail and then gagged as to what took place again under threat of six months' jail. A lot of them are quite traumatised by the process.

"A lot of people who've seen it have ended up in tears [from] the emotional impact. But the general feeling is just outrage and shock. People want to see these laws change. I've lived with the Howard government all my adult life.

"I don't know how you get rid of something like this-it's certainly not going to happen if the Howard government's re-elected and I wouldn't guarantee you'd get rid of it under a Rudd government either. So there's a big fight ahead for the whole union movement."