The big news over the Christmas/New Year break (if you had one) was the release of the final report of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.
Unsurprisingly, it found that there is a ‘widespread’ and ‘deep-seated’ culture of lawlessness among many union officials, stating that the corrupt and illegal conduct will not stop unless there is immediate and effective Parliamentary intervention, meaningful reform and strong leadership.
The Government will re-introduce legislation in the first sitting week of 2016 to re-establish respect for the rule of law in the construction industry, but given the composition of the Senate, there is no guarantee that this will be passed.
Under Commissioner Justice Dyson Heydon, the Royal Commission lasted approximately 21 months, hosted 155 days of public hearings and 46 days of private hearings, received evidence from over 500 individual witnesses and was completed on time and under budget.
The report listed 79 recommendations to improve the governance of registered organisations, to improve the management of construction work-sites across the country, and to make unions more transparent and accountable to their members.
The Royal Commission has also made 93 referrals for proceedings relating to possible breaches of laws. More than half relate to potential criminal prosecutions.
Taskforce Heracles – the existing Federal and State Police Taskforce attached to the Royal Commission – will be funded to continue its work investigating referrals and to ensure the very serious criminal allegations that have been identified are dealt with.
A specialised Interim Working Group of regulators will be established to deal with civil referrals made by the Royal Commission. This working group will include the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Crime Commission, ASIC and the ACCC.
The Royal Commission’s final report is available at: https://www.tradeunionroyalcommission.gov.au/reports/Pages/Final-Report.aspx