Australian Resources and Energy Group AMMA reinforced its support for the Ensuring Integrity Bill as the proposed legislation undergoes scrutiny from an inquiry by the Education and Employment Legislation Senate Committee.
AMMA and its members have long supported the measures contained in the Bill, over various iterations since it was first introduced in Parliament in 2017, to improve the governance and conduct of all registered organisations in Australia – including both registered trade union and employer organisations.
Appearing before the Committee inquiry into the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019 last week, AMMA Head of Policy and Public Affairs Tom Reid advocated the merits of the legislation as necessary to restore regulatory balance and public confidence in the conduct and operation of all registered organisations in Australia.
“In contrast to trade union and employer organisations that will be affected by this Bill, AMMA is incorporated as a company and is regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. AMMA and its members benefit from the greater discipline associated with the much higher governance and reporting standards required under the Corporations Act 2001,” Mr Reid said in his opening statement before the inquiry.
“The Bill provides appropriate and necessary safeguards that protect the interest of members and meet community expectations around governance and conduct of registered organisations.”
Mr Reid highlighted the threat of potential disqualification from office, or at the very least the prospect of having to defend their actions before a Federal Court as an important safeguard.
“Judicial members have publicly expressed their frustration at the repeated lawbreaking of the CFMMEU in particular and the ineffectiveness of the pecuniary penalties currently available to the Courts in deterring such behaviours,” he said.
“Where a registered organisation continues to breach industrial laws, it is appropriate that the organisation is exposed to the potential loss of the rights and privileges that it enjoys under those laws.
“This repeated, unlawful and abhorrent behaviour has significant impacts on members and the broader community including high cost of infrastructure projects, delays to critical infrastructure and services and additional resources on the regulator in prosecuting.”
Mr Reid also detailed there is no sound reason why registered organisations should be exempt from proper governance and standards of accountability that incorporated entities are subject to under the Corporations Act given the significance of the financial dues they are responsible for and the trust their members place on them.
In addition, the provisions within the Bill for future amalgamations to be tested under the public interest was important to avoid the industrial chaos created via a monopoly on the supply chain from pit to port, with further concerns that:
“The notorious culture of intimidation and law breaking could spread to other industries affording the opportunity to choke-hold on all elements of the resources and energy supply chain and further discourage investment and employment opportunities in Australia including risking benefits to the Australian community delivered through taxes and royalties,” Mr Reid said.
In conclusion, AMMA reiterated its support for the passage of all the measures within the Bill as a matter of urgency.
The Bill is a critical first step to ensure legitimate governance and transparency of registered organisations in Australia and provides members with necessary protection and the continued operation of these organisations for their stated purpose.
Those registered organisations capable of functioning within the parameters of the law should have no issue with these measures being introduced that protect the rights and interests of members and the wider community.
AMMA continues to urge the Australian Parliament to support passage of the Bill to protect everyday Australians from corruption and unlawful conduct by those they entrust to represent their interests. More broadly, the Bill would ensure influential registered organisations’ repeated unlawful or anti-competitive behaviour does not damage Australia’s reputation as a place to invest, do business and employ people.
The Australian Government has committed to ensuring greater compliance and lawfulness among all registered organisations and this Bill is the first step towards achieving this commitment.
AMMA supports the passage of the Bill in its entirety as outlined in AMMA’s written submission here.
For more information on AMMA’s submission or to provide comment or feedback please contact [email protected].