Time to ensure unions obey our laws and heed our courts

23 Jul 2019 |

The Government has called time on union officials with deep pockets, arrogant attitudes, and combative lawyers thumbing their nose at our laws, our courts and our community, Australia’s largest and most representative business network, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said today.

“The business community is calling on the House of Representatives to pass two Bills (the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019 and the Fair Work Laws Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill 2019) that will come before it this week. We urge Senators to do the same in due course”, Australian Chamber CEO James Pearson, said today.

“Unions and registered employer organisations enjoy significant rights and privileges in Australia and they need to meet proper standards of conduct and accountability.

“The two Bills will:

  • Properly empower our courts to disqualify union officials who flout the law.
  • Make it an offence to act as a shadow official, bringing the rules for unions into line with those for directors of corporations.
  • Ensure individuals convicted of serious criminal offences (e.g. blackmail, extortion, or threatening to harm public officials) cannot hold office in unions, again consistent with the Corporations Act.
  • Streamline sanctions against unions or branches that fail to comply with the law, in line with the powers of our courts to wind up businesses.
  • Make it easier for courts to appoint an administrator where unions cease to function effectively, officers engage in financial misconduct, or the union fails to act in the best interests of its members.
  • Apply a new public interest test before unions can merge, again in line with corporations.
  • Ensure the flow of monies into funds backed by trade unions is voluntary and properly transparent.

“These Bills implement the specific recommendations of a Royal Commission, our highest level of inquiry.

“Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon AC QC found “widespread” and “deep-seated” misconduct in Australian trade unions.

“The Royal Commissioner concluded that in some unions “there is room for louts, thugs, bullies, thieves, perjurers, those who threaten violence, errant fiduciaries and organisers of boycotts”.

“Claims that the proposed changes are at odds with Australia’s international treaty obligations are wrong. International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions do not require any country to exempt trade unions from the rule of law applicable across the wider community.

“We urge Members of Parliament and Senators to stand up for our laws and community standards by supporting both bills.”

The Australian Chamber is Australia’s largest network of employers, speaking for over 300,000 businesses employing millions of Australians in every sector of the economy, in every corner of Australia. Our Small Business is a Big Deal campaign gives voice to what small businesses need from the federal government, and our Getting on with Business recommends ways to make Australia the best place in the world to do business, so that Australians have the jobs, living standards and opportunities to which they aspire.

Emily Kennelly

Senior Adviser - Public Affairs & Advocacy

E  |  [email protected]

P  |  0438 730 772

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