2016 hasn’t been a good year for Canberra’s Jason Hooper…but it’s on the improve.  In the last 7 months Hooper has been knocked from pillar to post and dragged through 3 different courts in what turned out to be an unfounded campaign against his character.  He’s now been cleared.

You probably haven’t heard of Jason Hooper.  Jason is an english-born Canberra plumber who doesn’t get on terribly well with the CFMEU or the CEPU.  He’s more than just a plumber.  He runs a company called Advanced Plumbing based out at Fyshwick.  Advanced Plumbing employs 40 staff and works on larger jobs.

I first heard from Jason late last year.  He’d given evidence at the Trade Union Royal Commission and that evidence was not all that flattering to the CFMEU and the CEPU.Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 2.02.27 pm

Early in October there was a piece of extraordinary evidence tabled at the Royal Commission that made most of us do a double take.  We saw the minutes of an ACT organisers’ meeting dated July 7, 2015.  They stated: “Media release, smear campaign for next three to four weeks, Builtt, Claw, Advance Plumbing, MPR Scaffold, Gungahlin Concrete, Capital Hydraulics, Leamus”

When you turned over the page there was writing saying ‘get Hooper’.

To all appearances the union was out to get Hooper and he’s certainly had a tough time since.

Jason Hooper wrote an email to me while I was still working on the radio at 2CC, in mid December 2015.

Hi Mark

I catch random parts of your show as I am on and off site,  I would like to set the record straight regarding some things I’ve heard on your show over the last few weeks and in other press.

I first started getting bullied and intimidated by the plumbers union back in 2013, that quickly grew to the CFMEU as the plumbers union are very weak in Canberra and relied on the muscle of the CFMEU ACT branch to back them up.

Just like every other contractor who has had problems with the unions it was because I would not sign an EBA agreement at the time and nothing to do with safety. 

Both unions, ( CFMEU and CEPU)  will do anything they can to defame me because I have stood up against them in the Royal Commission.

At the time that I read this, even though I’d seen the evidence at the Royal Commission, I didn’t know whether or not to believe Hooper. Dean Hall from the CFMEU was a regular guest on my program at the time and he talked the talk really well. He and other union people suggested that Jason Hooper didn’t do the right thing by his workers…but I read on.

Since giving evidence in the commission about the unions I have been subjected to a smear campaign which was documented in the Royal Commission before it even started.  The smear campaign to date has included making false allegations to ACTPLA with regards to my companies contractor license, ACTPLA went back to the union after investigating and told them to stop wasting there time.  They have made allegations to Border Control and Immigration with regards to a 457 Visa applicant back in 2013.

In the last few weeks as documented in the Canberra Times and now accepted by the plumbers union is that they have made allegations to the ACT government regarding a project that I am doing at Coombs,  I have no doubt this is part of the smear campaign instigated by the CFMEU as was brought to evidence when Dean Hall was on the stand.  I have also had reports of Dean Hall himself visiting a site in Gungahlin to defame me to potential employees.   Recently it seems the CFMEU have turned their attention to a different tactic and targeted a recent employee, (Megan Williams)  and encouraged them to make false allegations to Fair Work regarding their employment and there duties.  

I don’t think the union will stop bullying, intimidating or trying to cause me serious defamation because they don’t except people standing up to them, I will not quit and for every action of there’s there will be a reaction from me.   I’m looking forward to the Royal Commissions recommendations later this month, as your poll shows people are starting to become much more educated with regards to the union movement in Canberra and there real reason behind trying to control and influence the Canberra construction industry which is nothing to do with safety on site but is only for financial gain of the union.

I read most of the email out on air and tried to get a response from the union, in particular Dean Hall. Hall wasn’t keen on appearing on the program, instead I spoke with an official from the plumbers union, who’s name escapes me right now.

I did hear from Hall off the air on the night of the 17th of December 2015.  He called me on my mobile to talk about Hooper among other things. He furnished me with details of the personal protection order application brought by former employee Megan Williams against Jason Hooper.  It didn’t sound good.

According to Hall, Williams claimed many unsavoury things. She suggested that Hooper had used every swear word under the sun on the day he sacked her. According to Hall, Williams also suggested that Hooper had told her ‘he knew where she lived and that he was going to come by and shoot her horses,’ and that he knew where her kids went to school

As a journalist, I needed to put these allegations to Hooper…and I did.  He was astounded at some of the newer accusations.  He told me that they were a complete fabrication.

I can vividly remember the conversation that I had that night with Jason. I told him that my stance on air that morning had favoured his side of the story and that I was worried I was going to look like an idiot.  I told him that usually where there is smoke there is fire and that there was so much smoke here I could hardly breathe.

“Why should I believe you Jason ?” I said.

Hooper told me that from the time that it had become apparent the CFMEU were out to get him in whatever way they could, he’d begun to wear a Go Pro camera on his helmet all day on site.  And that to protect himself, he’d recorded every conversation he had with everybody either with Go Pro or mobile phone….including the day that he dismissed Megan Williams.  Hooper sent me a sound file of that conversation and it became extremely apparent that the Megan Williams version of events from that day was different to the recorded conversation.  It wasn’t just a little bit different…..it was completely different.

From the moment that I heard the recording of that conversation, I believed that Hooper was being targeted, but by who exactly ?

Megan Williams alleged that Hooper gave false evidence to the Trade Union Royal Commission.  That’s a big claim which was thoroughly investigated and found to have no basis.

A fair work claim was made late in 2015.  This was not followed through by Williams and her team, Slater and Gordon (also CFMEU lawyers) as they preferred to focus on other matters, like the personal protection orders.  These were served on Hooper in early January.  Hooper offered to provide undertakings without admission of guilt, but Williams rejected this because she wanted to go to court, well so she said at the time.  So Hooper set about preparing to defend himself.  All in all he spent in excess of $30,000 on that process, but Williams didn’t play the game. She refused to provide the evidence that was requested and indeed refused to be interviewed by police in the months that followed.

Her damaging allegations were made public through mainstream media, but she never bothered to back up the claims in any way.

All of the cases have now been dropped.

So what was the point of it all ?

It’s hard to know. Hooper alleges that CFMEU were behind it all, but would they really engage in such an exercise ?

I don’t know, but what I do know is that Megan Williams was represented by the CFMEU legal firm Slater and Gordon.

I know that, according to the AFP, a man matching the description of Gary Hamilton from the CFMEU accompanied Williams to Queanbeyan Police Station when she applied for the PPO’s. Williams, to the best of my knowledge had never been a member of the CFMEU. She was an office manager.

And most importantly, I know that Dean Hall called me on the night of the 17th of December and gave me all of the details of those protection orders.  How did he know what was in them ?  Those orders were not served on Hooper till the first week of January.  How did Hall know the intricate details of those orders ?

What’s gone on here is unacceptable and desperately unfair.  The union will continue to tell you that Hooper engages in unsafe practices and doesn’t look after his workers. I haven’t seen a shred of evidence to support that and I can tell you that his workers stand behind him 100%. I take my hat off to Hooper and his family for getting through this whole exercise relatively unscathed.

In a territory where the Government has meekly handed over procurement decisions to the union movement, I daresay that there’s not much prospect of Advanced Plumbing securing any Government work.  I think the whole of Canberra needs to ask whether that’s a fair outcome.