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Trade Union Corruption hearing into Victoria branch of the CFMEU starts 10AM today


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29 October (Sydney)

  • Tom Boglis
  • Gary Cheetham
  • Andrew Zaf

10AM and here's the assembled crowd awaiting Punch and Judy.

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At 10.05PM the Commission commenced the hearing.

Ms McNaughton is delivering an opening address to explain today's proceedings.   Today will see the conclusion of a CFMEU Victoria case study heard last year involving Andrew Zaf.   New information has come to the attention of the Commission that may bring some doubt to the veracity of certain evidence given by Mr Zaf last year.

The first witness is the man who has brought the allegations against Mr Zaf to the Commission's attention, Mr Gary Cheetham.

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Mr Cheetham was shown two statements he has recently made to the Victoria Police, he agrees they are true and correct and they've been tendered and received into evidence.

Ms Mcnaughton is delivering every possible warning sign to this bloke, "and you were truthful in that email were you?   You told the truth in that report did you? " etc etc

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Something NQR here.

Stand by for a slo-mo train crash.

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At about 11AM Ms McNaughton completed her examination.

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Mr Agius for the CFMEU is cross examining.  He completed his cross examination at about 11.05 after a few questions on the asbestos dumping.

Mr Oakes (Counsel for Mr Zaf I think) has asked for a few minutes to prepare.

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As a few readers have pointed out, our coverage of the Zaf hearing last year elicited some interesting comments, in particular the last two on the thread.

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While Counsel for another party reviews some documents Ms McNaughton is re-examining Mr Cheetham.

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Ms McNaughton continues to telegraph some potential knock-out punches.   She's taking mr Cheetham through some invoices he's delivered to the Royal Commission "did you have any role in gathering those invoices?   Are you sure?""

This cross-examination/re-examination business is hard to follow - Mr Agius is now back on his feet

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Mr Agius had a series of questions about 6 mobile phones said to have been used by John Setka or another CFMEU official at various stages.

We learn that those phones (with whatever texts,photos, call details etc remaining on them) were given to  Fairfax journalist, Nick McKenzie.

Mr Oates for Mr Zaf is now cross examining.

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Mr Oates is a very effective advocate and cross examiner.

He has quite a bit of the Boris Johnson/Colombo presence about him - but his questioning has been devastatingly effective.

"Would you be prepared today to sit at a desk with a computer here at the Commission and allow the Commission staff access to your email account for you to repeat the search you described as having failed to turn up the Nicky Manatanos (phonetic) email?"   Many other barristers apparently taking mental notes.

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Magnificent magic moment at about 12.18 - Mr Cheetham had his head down reading a document and apparently zoning off into space.   A couple of minutes passed with the hearing room in dead silence, most eyes looking at Mr Cheetham, finally the Commissioner said, "Mr Cheetham are you preparing your answer, are you reading a document for that answer?"

Cheetham, "No, oh sorry, no I was just reading, (I thought it was a bit quiet)".

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Mr Cheetham has been quizzed about an incident involving a number of "bikies' and some sort of dispute which is described in written material before the Commission (and not yet published by it). After Counsel for Mr Zaf pointed out to Mr Cheetham that he had told the police in a statement that he was in fear of his life at the time - this morning he has told the Commission that he was not at all fearful.

The Commissioner intervened, "Mr Cheetham, these men were weilding baseball bats in a menacing fashion weren't they?"

Cheetham, "Not all of them, some of them had tyre levers".

The Commissioner has pointed out the penalties of perjury to Mr Cheetham.

Mr Oates is now into Mr Cheetham about his evidence in relation to Mr Zaf allegedly stabbing himself.   

His police statement also includes an allegation that Mr Zaf loosened his own wheel nuts.



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Mr Cheetham brings to mind a copper I knew whose surname was Basham (imagine them married with a child called Robin Cheetham-Basham).   Sorry about that.

Counsel for Mr Zaf has never been seen in the same room as Boris Johnson Mayor of London.

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Mr Cheetham is somewhat philosophical this afternoon.

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I hope the TURC has turned its mind to its final session and that it brings something with a little gravitas and importance before the Commissioner for that last hearing.  

Last year the Commissioner told us that in 2015  he would expose and deal with  'grave threats to the power and authority of the Australian state'.  I don't think Mr Cheetham is one.

At 2.25PM Counsel for Zaf zipped.

Meanwhile as Counsel for Mr Cheetham rose to re-examine, the peanut gallery is completely, utterly and understandably empty.   Only the stalwarts of the bar table were present to hear this year's instalment in the existential struggle that is Zaf 'n' Cheetham.

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At about 2.30PM Mfr Cheetham was excused

Mr Boglis will not be required to give evidence, his statement has been tendered and received.

A further witness Mr Hamish McDonald will not be required, his witness statement was also tendered and received.

Mr Zaf has been sworn.

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Ms McNaughton opens with the tried and tested "Did you tell the truth last year when you gave evidence to this Commission?"

Mr Zaf said that he did.   But almost immediately the "yes" has had to be qualified with a 'but not really".

He agrees he issued false invoices and that issuing false invoices is "wrong".

He does not admit to dumping asbestos.

Mr Cheetham remains reclined in the rear of the room where his posture is infectious.

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This bloke is very Walter Mitty.   He's out there on the edge with the outlaw bikie gangs, the pistols, the waking up on a Stanley knife, et cetera.    Ms McNaughton I think has managed that very well, she's simply put to him those matters on which he may have a case to answer and given him the opportunity to deny the allegations against him.

Mr Agius is a bit excited at the chance to chew the Zaf-fat in defence of his noble clients John Setka and the CFMEU.   His papers are bristling with pink post-it notes, many of them seem a little fluro too.

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Mr Agius has distilled the thrust of Mr Zaf's strategy.  It's Zaf with a whiff of Whitten - he's there to 'stick it up the union'.

Mr Agius, "That's what you're doing, isn't it?   That's what your plan is, to stick it up the union, isn't it?"

In answer Mr Zaf said something about a bloke and a rifle taking pot shots at cars, then calling Nick McKenzie who would direct the next shot for the day (apparently).   Does that sound weird or what?

Mr Agius moved to what turns out to be the even weirder topic of the 6 mobile phones in a shopping bag.

Apparently Tony Spaglia, who does a bit of finance for Mr Zaf, he's a rogue and a half, but that's another story.  Now what happened is that Spaglia and Setka each had the same model of mobile phone and you wouldn't read about it, one day Spags picked up Sets phone or vice versa.   

Anyway, next thing you know, Sets won't give Spags his phone back unless Spags gives Sets his phone back first.  So a couple of years go by and one day Spags tells Zaffie that he's got Setka's old phone.

WEEEELLLLL!!! Says Zaffie.  This sounds like a job for Super Nick, the investigative journalist.  

But Zaffie couldn't be conventional and just give the phones to Mr McKenzie on account of insufficient mystery if he did it that way.

What happened next was, right, the phones were in a bag in the gas meter box (the Zaf/McKenzie dead-drop location).   Nick McKenzie had to attend on the dead-drop location (when clear of Kaos or Mr Evil operatives) and pick up the phones to then rendezvous with a MOPF (insider talk, member of police force for civilians - not you Zaffie).

God help me, this bloke is nuts.

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Just after 1530 hours (roger) Operative Agius disengaged from Agent Zaf.

The next bloke up has the arms folded in Geoffrey Robertson pose and Special Agent Zaf is rising to the challenge - he's got a story for Geoffrey Junior that's even better than 6 mystery lucky dip old Nokia phones in the Coles plastic bag inside the gas meter box out the front.

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Agent Zaf spoke of fabricating material for Stocklands for Bernie, but then there were all these Hells Angels and this kid filming it all and the other bloke with the rifle taking shots at the car and everything.

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Hang on, we're not onto the BullDozer driver Paul who gave you guys Peter's name and yes, we did discuss a couple of things but he couldn't say much, he showed us the disgusting photos that were sent (by the way I am just typing exactly what this poor bugger says).

Will someone pull the plug please?   Next thing Zaffie will want his own Four Corners show with extra video diary.

Meanwhile back in the world poor Commissioner Heydon has to work out what to say about the evidence disclosed in this expanding weirdness.

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This one night Agent Zaf was under sedation and he drove home and then in the driveway when he was getting out of the car there was this big flash and he was king hit by Dr Evil's henchmen or something.   But he got better.

Young Geoffrey with the folded arms has one little point he wants to clear up.

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"Now Spags, Mr Spaglia, he had a nickname didn't he?"

Operative Zaf resonded, "Yes The Devil.   That's the name I gave him, The Devil old Spags."

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Imagine how bad it's gonna look for Double Oh Zaf when news gets out that he came unstuck a bit with a mystery assailant armed with a Stanley Knife.   What would M say?

Zac can't see how he might have told such a story - the old story about the bikies running over him on purpose - well says Zaf, maybe he might have rung up that bird from the Herald Sun Ms Crawford with that one if he was "pissed as a parrot".

Just before 4PM Secret Agent Man was excused.

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Then a very funny moment in TURC history happened.

The Commissioner started to deliver the very detailed timetable for lodgement of submissions, submissions in response etc.He speaks softly and all the barristers were scribbling to get the details down lest they screw up and miss a deadline.

Boris Johnson for Zaf was no exception.

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In comes a very excited Andrew Denis Denuto Zaf fresh from centre stage wanting to have a chat with the team.

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"Can I help you mate, glass of water?"

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"Just shut the flop up will ya.'"



Meanwhile on planet Zaf life goes on - a new manila envelope with a new mission  - should he choose to accept it.

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