THE establishment of a new Registered Organisations Commission should be widely supported by the Australian Parliament as a necessary measure to effectively regulate the governance and accountability of trade unions and employer groups, AMMA has told a Senate Committee inquiry.

In its submission to the Senate Committee inquiring into the Fair Work Amendment (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill (the ROs Bill), AMMA said increased penalties for registered organisations and their officials were warranted to ensure members’ interests were adequately protected to the same extent as those of the shareholders of companies.

The establishment of a Registered Organisations Commission has been a longstanding policy of the federal Coalition and one staunchly supported by AMMA.

Despite the Health Services Union corruption scandal involving then-sitting MP Craig Thomson, and further instances of union corruption coming to light from the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, amending legislation has been repeatedly blocked by the former Senate.

The current inquiry is the third undertaken into the legislation and the first under the new Senate. The committee is holding public hearings for the inquiry in Melbourne today.

AMMA is hopeful this important reform has more success in the new parliament, with its most recent submission presenting a compelling case for passage.

AMMA’s submission points out that current maximum penalties under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 are $10,800 for individuals and $54,000 for a body corporate. In contrast, maximum penalties under the Corporations Act 2001 are $360,000 for individuals and up to five years’ jail.

The current bill models its proposed penalties on those facing company directors under the Corporations Act, something AMMA strongly supports.

“The immediate concern, in AMMA’s view, is that we lack a dedicated body, sufficient powers and sufficient resources to properly police the current requirements for registered organisations, let alone the more stringent requirements necessary to actually protect community and member interests,” AMMA said in its submission.

“High-profile cases of union misappropriation and fraud, and further allegations against individuals that remain before the courts, are indicative of an outdated and sub-optimal system of governance and accountability in this area.

“The creation of a new, more empowered regulator will go a significant distance to addressing concerns and protecting both union / employer organisation members and the wider community.”

Click here to read AMMA’s submission to the Senate Committee inquiry into the Fair Work Amendment (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill.

AMMA members with queries or comments on these issues should contact AMMA’s principal adviser workplace policy via [email protected].

Note: In contrast to the union and employer organisations that will be affected by the ROs Bill, AMMA is incorporated as a company, and reports to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).