McManus was asked by the ABC
if the ACTU would distance itself from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union for more than 100 court cases in which it was accused of breaking the law or contempt of court.
“There is no way we’ll be doing that,” McManus said.
“It might be illegal industrial action according to our current laws and our current laws are wrong.
“It shouldn’t be so hard for workers in our country to take industrial action when they need to.”
When asked if she believed in the rule of law, the union leader replied: “I believe in the rule of law when the law is fair and the law is right, but when it’s unjust I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it.”
The comments drew criticism from the Coalition and even the Labor leader Bill Shorten
When he was asked about the comments, Shorten said: “I just don’t agree.”
“If you don’t like a law, if you think a law is unjust, use the democratic process to get it changed.
“We believe in changing bad laws, not breaking them.”
In a statement, the Coalition’s Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash
, said this is an “extraordinary admission” by a newly minted union leader.
“All reasonable Australians fundamentally understand that a key pillar of our peaceful, democratic society is adherence to the rule of law,” she said.
“Ms McManus has tonight belled the cat on the principles of militant unions in Australia: they will obey the law if and when they choose.
“Corrupt unions such as the CFMEU have an atrocious record of lawlessness and militancy that has tonight been justified and excused by Ms McManus.”
McManus also told Fairfax Media her highest priorities include growing union membership, winning stronger rights at work and taking on corporate greed.
"That's about making sure that working people have stronger rights but also that we can tip the balance back in favour of ordinary Australians because ... so much wealth has gone to the top 1 per cent," she said.
"Part of that is about corporations paying their fair share of tax."
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Sally McManus, the first female secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has been blasted by the Turnbull government following her controversial comments on her first day on the job.