Royal Commission will focus on 5 unions

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Royal Commission will focus on 5 unions

The Australian Workers Union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, the Electrical Trades Union, the Health Services Union and the Transport Workers Union have been specifically mentioned in the terms of reference for the Federal Government’s Royal Commission into trade unions, announced yesterday by the Prime Minister.

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The Australian Workers Union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, the Electrical Trades Union, the Health Services Union and the Transport Workers Union have been specifically mentioned in the terms of reference for the Federal Government’s Royal Commission into trade unions, announced yesterday by the Prime Minister.
 
The anticipated Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption will inquire into alleged union financial irregularities associated with these specific unions, but also ‘any other person, association or organisation’ against whom credible allegations have been made.
 
Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed that he will be recommending to the Governor General that former High Court judge, John Dyson Heydon AC QC, be appointed to head the Royal Commission. The government will also be requesting all premiers to ‘confer equivalent State commissions’ to the Royal Commission.
 
Mr Abbott also confirmed that he wants the Royal Commission to do ‘its work as quickly as possible’ and to report before the end of this year.
 
Asked by Radio National’s Fran Kelly, whether he was prepared to be called before the Royal Commission, Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten said that he would ‘cooperate’ but continued to push his view that an Australian Federal Police taskforce working with the Australian Crime Commission would be more appropriate for ‘a law and order and a crime issue’.
 
Mr Abbott, however, maintains that he does not see any reason why ‘a Royal Commission cannot run concurrently with police investigations and indeed prosecutions’.
 
Employer reaction
 
Support for the Royal Commission from employer and industry groups was immediate upon its announcement:
Australian Industry Group (Ai Group): ‘The allegations of unlawful and inappropriate behaviour amongst some union officials warrant the thorough investigation that a Royal Commission can deliver.’ — Ai Chief Executive, Innes Willox.

Business Council of Australia: ‘[G]iven the serious and broad nature of the allegations coming forward about the conduct of officials in key unions, it is clear a wide-ranging investigation is warranted.’ — BCA Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott.

Australian Mines and Metals Association: AMMA welcomes the Royal Commission into union corruption, but believes a restored Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) can have a more immediate impact in stamping out bribery, coercion and criminality from Australia’s construction sector, according to AMMA chief executive, Steve Knott.

Master Builders Australia:
‘The Royal Commission is an important step in reassuring the public that no party is exempt from the rule of law by addressing concerns about unlawful and corrupt behaviour of unions and others.’ — MBA CEO Wilhelm Harnisch
Opposition parties and union reaction
 
Labor, the Greens and the union movement raised several objections:
Labor: The Royal Commission was labelled ‘a show trial’ and a ‘witch-hunt’ by Shadow Minister For Employment And Workplace Relations, Brendan O’Connor.

The Greens: ‘[T]he Abbott government’'s Royal Commission is a cynical ploy to turn the nation against unions and the workers they support, all the while distracting from the real issues set to come before Parliament this week.’ — Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne.

ACTU:
‘The terms of reference ... confirm it is a politically-motivated witch-hunt designed to weaken unions.’ — ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver.
 
Terms of Reference
 
The Royal Commissioner will inquire into and report on:
1. The governance arrangements of any separate entities established by registered employee associations or their officers, purportedly for industrial purposes or for the welfare of their members, with particular regard to:
a. the financial management of such entities;
b. the adequacy of existing laws as they relate to such entities with respect to:
i. the integrity of financial management; and
ii. the accountability of officers of registered employee associations to their members in respect of the use of funds and other assets in relation to such entities;
c. whether such entities are used, or have been used for any form of unlawful purpose;
d. the use of funds solicited in the name of any such entities, for the purpose of furthering the interests of:
i. a registered employee association;
ii. officers of a registered employee association;
iii. members of a registered employee association; or
iv. any other person, association or organisation.
2. Without limiting the matters in paragraph 1, alleged activities relating to the establishment or operation of any such entities as they relate to the various registered branches of the following employee associations:
a. the Australian Workers Union;
b. the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union;
c. the Electrical Trades Union;
d. the Health Services Union;
e. the Transport Workers Union; and
f. any other person, association or organisation in which in respect of which credible allegations of involvement in such activities are made.
3. The circumstances in which funds are sought from any third parties and paid to such entities.
4. Where such entities and activities related thereto exist, the extent to which persons represented by registered employee association:
a. are protected from any adverse effects or negative consequences arising from their existence; or
b. are informed of their existence; or
c. are able to have influence or control of their operation; or
d. have the opportunity to hold officers of such associations accountable for any alleged wrongdoing.
5. Any conduct which may amount to a breach of any applicable law, regulation or professional standard by any officer of a registered employee association in order to:
a. procure an advantage for themselves or another person, association or organisation; or
b. cause a detriment to a person, association or organisation.
6. Any conduct in relation to such entities which may amount to a breach of any applicable law, regulation or professional standard by officers of registered industrial employee associations who hold, by virtue of their position, a position of responsibility in relation to any such entities.
 
7. Any bribes, secret commissions or other unlawful payments or benefits arising from contracts, arrangements or understandings between registered employee associations or their officers and any other party.
 
8. The participation of any persons, associations or organisations other than registered employee associations or their officers in conduct of the type described in paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7.
 
9. The adequacy and effectiveness of existing systems of regulation and law enforcement in dealing with any conduct of the type described in paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 6, 7 or 8, and in particular, the means of redress available to registered employee associations and their members who have suffered a detriment as a result of such conduct.
 
10. Any issue or matter reasonably incidental to the above.
Definitions
 
registered employee association means an organisation registered under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009, its predecessor legislation or equivalent State legislation, and as defined by section 12 of the Fair Work Act 2009.
 
law means a law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory.
 
officer of a registered employee association means any employee or elected officer holder of such an organisation.
 
organisation includes any registered industrial organisation, corporate entity or association, whether incorporated or not.
separate entity means a fund, organisation, account or other financial arrangement that is either a separate legal entity to a registered industrial organisation and/or is not covered by the statutory financial reporting obligations that the organisation is subject to under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009, its predecessor legislation or equivalent State legislation.
 
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