The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has challenged political involvement in the new joint taskforce established to crack down on union corruption within the construction industry.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Victorian Premier Denis Napthine and Victoria Police revealed the taskforce would be charged with “firmly, decisively and swiftly” dealing with far-reaching cases of corruption in the building sector.
Abbott said the move to create a police corruption taskforce was prompted by evidence given to the Royal Commission into trade union corruption and that it would consist of about 30 officers, mostly from the Australian Federal Police.
The Commission received significant evidence of criminal conduct including widespread instances of physical and verbal violence, cartel conduct, secondary boycotts, contempt of court and other institutional orders.
An ACTU spokesperson said that while “building workers deserve a strong union and a clean union… what we have seen today is simply a re-announcement from an election campaign”.
“What you’ve had is a $60 million PR exercise of a Royal Commission. Any serious matters should have been referred to the police in the first place,” the ACTU said.
The ACTU said it didn’t understand what the proper remit of the joint task force was, adding the police should always investigate any form of criminality.
“Once you get politicians directing policeman, you’re halfway to corruption in the first place,” the ACTU said.
Negotiations to form similar police operations in two other states were “well advanced”, according to the Prime Minister.
The taskforce will be funded from the Royal Commission’s budget.
The announcement of the taskforce comes about a month ahead of the Victorian state election, causing additional pressure for the Australian Labor Party.
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