New ACTU secretary under fire for industrial action comments

Sally McManus, recently confirmed as the next secretary of peak trade union body the ACTU, is in the spotlight after comments she made to the ABC’s 7.

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30 program on Wednesday evening.

“I believe in the rule of law when the law is fair and the law is right,” Ms McManus told the ABC when asked about the CFMEU’s illegal industrial action.

“But when it’s unjust I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it.”

Her comments were seized on by the federal minister for employment, Michaela Cash, who labelled them “outrageous” and called on the opposition leader Bill Shorten to condemn them.

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“This is an extraordinary admission by a newly minted union leader that she believes she is above the law and that unions can pick and choose when they obey the law and when they do not,” she said in a statement.

“Corrupt unions such as the CFMEU have an atrocious record of lawlessness and militancy that has tonight been justified and excused by Ms McManus.”

Ms McManus, the existing ACTU vice president, has been elected to replace Dave Oliver after he announced his resignation in January.

She becomes the first woman to hold the position in the organisation’s 90-year history and will work alongside president Ged Kearney.

After her election to the position earlier on Wednesday, Ms McManus said she’s excited about the future but there are significant challenges facing working Australians.

“My message today to all Australian workers: Join a union,” she said.

“My first challenge is to stop the attack on Australian workers through penalty rate cuts.”

Ms Kearney said the election of the first woman as ACTU secretary is historic for the union movement.

“Her election signifies a commitment to and a shift towards true diversity and gender equity,” she said.

“We … look forward to her leading the fight to protect and expand the rights of working people in this country at a time when corporate power threatens to undermine all we have fought for.”