The activities of five unions will be specifically scrutinised by the royal commission into union corruption, the details of which were announced by the federal government this afternoon.
Former High Court judge, 70, will lead the inquiry whose terms of reference specify that it should look at the activities of the Australian Workers Union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, the Electrical Trades Union, the Health Services Union, and the Transport Workers Union.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “Honest workers and honest unionists should not be ripped off by corrupt officials and honest businesses should be able to go about their work without fear of intimidation, corruption (and) standover tactics.”
The first item in the terms of reference specifies that the inquiry should look at “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”.
The commission is also asked to look in to “the adequacy of existing laws as they relate to such entities” and “the accountability of officers of registered employee associations to their members in respect of the use of funds and other assets”.
It will also look at whether funds collected by those associations were used to further the interests of unions and other individuals.
As a lawyer working for Slater and Gordon in the 1990s, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave advice on the establishment of the AWU Workplace Reform Association for her then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson. Gillard would later describe the association as a “slush fund” to her employer.
Gillard has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has said she knew nothing of the association’s dealings.
While corruption in union ranks is the target of the inquiry it is inevitable some companies will come under scrutiny for their dealings with union officials, following allegations that contracting companies were offering kickbacks in exchange for union support in their bids to secure business.
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