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Public Submission

Matthew Gardiner - 14 February 2014

  1. I am currently the Branch Secretary of United Voice NT Branch (formerly the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union).

  2. I have been employed by United Voice NT Branch since 23 April 2007.

  3. I have been the Branch Secretary since January 2008.

  4. I was employed as an Organiser with the Australian Nurses Federation (now the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation) in 2006.

  5. I have been involved with Unions NT, the peak body of trade Unions in the Northern Territory, in numerous positions since 2006 including Council member, Executive member, Junior Vice President, President, Secretary and Treasurer.

  6. I first become aware of discussions around the property known as “Stella Maris” during my time on Unions NT on or around 2006 when informal discussions were had about the site not being utilized and falling into disrepair. There were discussions around how the International Transport Federation (ITF), an international organisation representing Transport Unions, including the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), were paying money into the use and upkeep of the site yet the site was being neglected.

  7. I believe there were discussions held between representatives of the ITF and the MUA with representatives of the Catholic Church to determine what the future of the lease arrangements and where the money was being spent.

  8. From my understanding, Territory Unions including our predecessor Unions, the North Australian Workers Union (NAWU) and its predecessors the North Australian Industrial Union (NAIU), the Northern Territory Workers Union (NTWU), the Amalgamated Workers Association (AWA) have had links to this site through having members as Railway Workers prior to World War One through to the 1970’s.

  9. I was informed it was redeveloped in the 1970’s and included a “Worker’s Club” on the site yet that had not operated as such for many years and that the MUA had strong links to the site through their association with the Darwin Port Welfare Committee.

  10. I was involved in both formal and informal discussions which were held on how the site and its history could be preserved in such a way that linked both its past, while providing a viable long term future for the site as part of strategic plan discussions. At around this stage Unions NT was developing its Strategic Plan for 2008-10 with the assistance of Mr. Peter Shepherd. This Strategic Plan looked at many aspects of Unions NT operations including developing goals, structural change and opportunities for future stability.

  11. This Strategic Plan was the first time that a formal proposal was put to members of Unions NT. The initial proposal including shared use of the site by Unions NT, with offices and meeting rooms to be used by affiliate Unions, community groups and a Registered Training Provider who would run training courses from the venue. This initial proposal included both a commercial operator to use the site and the Mission to Seaman having use of the site.

  12. This original proposal led to the forming of a sub-committee of Unions NT in December of 2008 that would further explore the prospect of using the site in the ways that were put forward and see if these ambitious goals could be achieved.

  13. Mr. Peter Shepherd worked with members of the sub-committee to develop a proposal that could develop the concept further. From my understanding the project would have to be self sustaining, generating enough income to cover its own costs and to recoup the costs it would require to turn the non-heritage buildings back to a stage where they could be safely used by members of the public. The initial concept would utilize a variety of funding sources and affiliate unions and their members providing a large amount of “in-kind” support.

  14. Meetings with Government were held around this time after a letter being sent from myself, in the role of Secretary of Unions NT, clearly defining that the concept was to be run as a not for profit “providing programs and services that are not provided by other entities for the benefits of workers in the NT.”

  15. Due to my involvement in the 2010 Federal election campaign, where I was endorsed as a Senate candidate, to reduce any perceived conflict of interest, I resigned my position as Secretary of Unions NT. I did however remain an ordinary council member but as such was not in any overall decision making process. I did not return to Unions NT Executive until late 2012.

  16. I was made aware that the current Chief Minister used parliamentary privilege to imply that Unions NT was unwilling to co-operate in the solution of this matter and used that as a catalyst to set up this inquiry yet there is numerous communications between Unions NT and Departmental representatives and latter when between Legal representatives and Departmental representatives then finally between Unions NT representatives requesting meetings with the Minister who refused to meet to discuss the matter.

  17. It has been raised in various public forums and under parliamentary privilege that Unions NT was planning to lease out 38 Woods St. The building at 38 Woods St is strata titled and has five owners and Unions NT only own a small portion of the site.

  18. Unions NT have always, as far as I know, leased parts of their offices to smaller Unions at significantly below market rates to provide support for others in the Union movement and because of the inherent difficulties of leasing commercial office space inside Union offices. These lease arrangements are negotiated with the State Secretaries of the relevant Unions and representatives of Unions NT.

  19. There have been preliminary discussions with all owners, of developing the Woods St site but this has never progressed past discussions. It was made clear with all parties that there was processes that had to be followed as all the building owners have boards or committees that would have to take any proposal and put it through their own due diligence before gaining approval. Discussions on the site have not progressed and with the current vacancy rates of both unit accommodation and office space in the CBD this looks like it will not go ahead.

  20. I have not participated in any of these discussions as a representative of Unions NT but as a representative of my own Union, United Voice which has been a resident on, and owned either all or part of the Woods St site since 1916.

  21. I was elected as the NT Branch President of the NT Labor Party at the 2012 Conference and due to this role I was appointed as a director of Harold Nelson Holdings, the ALP NT Branch property trust in July 2013.

  22. Despite what was said under parliamentary privilege, my links to the NT Labor Party have always been declared and I have not represented the Labor Party or Harold Nelson Holdings in any negotiations that have taken place nor do I receive any personal or financial gain for either position.

  23. I am willing to appear before the Inquiry to answer further questions and provide any further documentation as I believe this will clear myself and those organisations that I represent of any wrongdoing in this matter.

  24. In closing I would like to state my extreme disappointment of the use s.8(1) of the Northern Territory Inquiries Act to access information held in the Unions NT Offices on the 13th February 2014, before the time for submissions had expired and when all of the information would have been willingly handed over with a simple request from the Commissioner, as opposed to having an investigator and two police officers arrived unannounced at the offices.