Industry welcomes the Federal Government’s revived commitment to ensuring greater compliance and lawfulness among all registered organisations by pressing ahead with the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017, known as the Ensuring Integrity Bill.
It comes amid law-breaking union officials grabbing headlines in recent weeks with widespread calls for CFMMEU Victorian leader John Setka to step down following alleged comments about anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty, among of string of other alleged offences.
The government has now renewed its commitment to passing the legislation that would enable it to deregister law-breaking unions and ban officials for misconduct.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor confirmed the recently re-elected government would use its increased majority in the lower house and a new Senate composition to attempt to pass the Ensuring Integrity Bill.
The Bill seeks to implement recommendations of the Heydon Royal Commission to enable the Federal Court to ban union leaders from holding office if they break the law, repeatedly fail to stop their organisation from doing so or are “not a fit and proper person”.
It would empower the court to deregister a union if it, or members, repeatedly breached industrial or other laws, took “obstructive unprotected industrial action” in large numbers or if its officials were found to have engaged in corrupt conduct.
Parliament must support Ensuring Integrity Bill: AMMA
Australian Resources and Energy Group has urged the 46th Parliament of Australia to pass the Ensuring Integrity Bill.
AMMA and its members have long backed the measures within the Bill and have restated the group’s strong support to new Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter.
The changes brought about by the Ensuring Integrity Bill are necessary to disincentivise law-breaking and remove recidivist offenders from holding positions of office within Australian registered organisations, including both trade unions and registered employer groups.
Specifically, the Ensuring Integrity Bill would:
- introduce a public interest test for amalgamations of registered organisations
- allow for automatic disqualification of registered organisations for “serious criminal offences”
- establish an offence for a disqualified person to continue to act as an official
- allow the Federal Court to:
- prohibit officials from holding office if not “fit and proper persons”
- cancel the registration of an organisation
- hear applications for a range of other orders
- order remedial action to deal with governance issues
- appoint an administrator to an organisation
“These measures are common-sense, uncontroversial and necessary to protect members of trade unions and employer bodies from unlawful activities,” said AMMA Chief Executive Steve Knott.
“Insidious cultures and activities, including those uncovered by the Heydon Royal Commission, highlight the need for greater rigor in ensuring registered organisations and their officials comply with the law.
“Holding office in an Australian registered organisation is a privilege. The Ensuring Integrity Bill only poses an issue for unions, employer groups and officials of such organisations who abuse this privilege, break the law and betray the trust of their members.
“AMMA is hopeful that the 46th Parliament of Australia, including the new Senate Crossbench, will take a sensible approach to reforms; reforms intended to protect everyday Australians from corruption and unlawfulness by those they entrust to represent their interests.”
Builders push for improved compliance
Other industry groups, including the Master Builders Australia, want the Bill passed to ensure that fit and proper people are in charge of unions and employer organisations.
“Attacks on the Bill as anti-union are way off base. Rights and obligations govern our society and when obligations are repeatedly flouted, then rights are restricted. Unions and union officials should be no different to the rest of the community,” Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia said.
“Master Builders has strongly and consistently backed the Bill for this reason, and we are encouraged by reports that the Government will it bring it back before the Parliament,” she said.
Ms Wawn said Setka and his antics are merely the tip of the iceberg.
“Construction unions constantly demonstrate their total contempt for the law and hundreds of their officials have followed suit while remaining in positions of responsibility, retaining their rights and privileges under the current laws,” she said.
Ms Wawn said the Ensuring Integrity Bill is about making unions more accountable and bringing them into line with the community’s expectations.
“The Bill will make sure that any organisation or its officials that don’t live up to their obligations will face real and meaningful consequences,” she said.
“Union officials should not be exempt from community standards of behaviour. The Ensuring Integrity Bill means that union officials who repeatedly break the rules they will have their privileges restricted just like everyone else.”