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Thursday, 14 November 2013
Page: 336

Registered Organisations Commission

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (14:45): My question is to the Minister for Education, representing the Minister for Employment. I refer the minister to the Fair Work Australia investigation into the Health Services Union that found 181 contraventions of the registered organisations act and HSU rules. Minister, what action is the government taking to ensure that union members can have peace of mind that their organisations are being run properly and their membership fees are administered with some integrity?

Mr PYNE (Sturt—Minister for Education and Leader of the House) (14:45): I thank my friend the member for Mitchell for his question. Today the government moved to introduce the Registered Organisations Commission. We did so for two primary reasons. The first of course is to protect the reputation of union leaders that do the right thing. There are many union leaders out there whose reputations have been seriously damaged by the illegal actions of a few, and we moved today to restore the reputations of those union leaders who do the right thing. But, secondly, we want to make sure that we can reassure union members that this side of the House recognises their desire that their union membership dues are used with integrity. This side of the House once again is demonstrating that we genuinely represent workers' interests.

Members of unions who pay their fees, especially low-paid workers at the Health Services Union, should be able to know that their hard earned dollars are being spent with integrity. We are not the only people who think this. Paul Howes, the head of the Australian Workers Union, said on 26 November 2012:

I actually believe there is a higher responsibility for us as guardians of workers' money to protect that money and to act diligently and honestly.

The reality is I do not have any issue with increasing the level of requirements and penalties on trade unions for breaching basic ethics like misappropriation of funds.

If only the Leader of the Opposition shared Mr Howes's view about registered organisations. The Leader of the Opposition has forgotten the 181 contraventions of the registered organisations act and HSU rules found by Fair Work Australia. He has obviously forgotten that the member for Dobell, the former member, has been charged with 150 criminal related fraud charges against misappropriation of HSU funds. He has forgotten that the former ALP president, Mike Williamson, has pleaded guilty to misusing almost $1 million of HSU members' funds.

While this government is standing up for the unions, the Leader of the Opposition is once again following the lead of his union minders. But do not take my word for it. Bruce Hawker, writing in the The Rudd rebellion, said:

… any firm position on party reform which reduces union influence could easily see Shorten retreat from any support he is now showing for a Rudd revival.

We know that at the end of the day the Leader of the Opposition is simply a union stooge for his union minders.