New laws force unions to toe the line on accountability

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New laws force unions to toe the line on accountability

Tougher laws on the accountability of unions have passed Federal Parliament, including a tripling of penalties for union officials.

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Tougher laws on the accountability of unions have passed Federal Parliament, including a tripling of penalties for union officials.

The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2012 passed the Senate last night, and breaches of the Act now mean unions face fines of $33,000 and individuals $6600.

Under the changes, the five highest paid officials of each union, plus the two highest paid in each branch, must disclose their pay, including extra pay for board membership and substantial non-cash benefits.

HSU scandal
 
The changes follow the HSU scandal in which Fair Work Australia found that MP Craig Johnson, a former HSU national secretary, had misspent union funds, including payments for prostitutes.

Johnson has since been suspended from the ALP and sits on the cross benches.

The Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten said the legislation will result in greater transparency about the financial management of organisations, in the interests of their members.

‘I place on record, once again, my confidence in the vast majority of unions, employer groups and other registered organisations who do a great job for their members, and already have in place measures to properly and accountably manage their members’ finances,’ he said.

Higher penalties
 
‘However, this Bill delivers stronger compliance measures including significant increases in penalties and greater investigative powers for the regulator. These changes will help restore public confidence in all registered organisations in Australia.’
  • require that the rules of all registered organisations deal with disclosure of remuneration, pecuniary and financial interests
  • require education and training to be provided to officials of registered organisations about their governance and accounting obligations
  • triple penalties for breaches of the Act
  • enhance the investigative powers available to Fair Work Australia.
‘This reflects lessons learned so far with regard to parts of the HSU.’ He said.

‘Registered organisations are now required to disclose to members the remuneration and other benefits received by their highest paid officials.’

Cooperate with police
 
‘The amendments also strengthen the investigative powers available to Fair Work Australia under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act.

‘In particular, FWA’s general manager now has the express power to provide information to bodies such as federal or state police and other regulatory agencies.’

Opposition IR spokesman Eric Abetz described the changes as ‘soft’.
 
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