Final Report Delivered by Trade Union Royal Commission

Tuesday 5 January 2016 @ 12.17 p.m. | Crime | Industrial Law | Legal Research

As previously reported by TimeBase, the Federal Government has set up a Royal Commission to investigate trade union governance and corruption. On 31 December 2015, the Commissioner, former High Court Judge the Honourable John Dyson Heydon AC QC, delivered the final report.

Recap on Terms of Reference

According to the Final Report, the terms of reference for the Roayl Commission were quite broad, indicating (at paragraph [32]) that the terms of reference "required the Commission to investigate two categories of issue: (1) relevant entities (also known as slush funds); and (2) certain adverse conduct on the part of union officials. "

The first category was addressed in paras (a) – (e) of the Terms of Reference while the second category was addressed in paras (f) – (h). For more on the terms of reference, see the Trade Union Royal Commission Website.

Final Report Delivered

After establishing the Royal Commission in February 2014, open public hearings were run between April 2014 and June 2014. The Royal Commission then called witnesses between August 2014 and July 2015 including former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

After the misunderstanding involving the Commissioner and the Liberal Party in August 2015, the final report was delivered on 31 December 2015.

According to the Media Release, the Commission considered 75 distinct case studies under the Terms of Reference and received evidence from 525 witnesses in public and private hearings on 189 individual hearing days in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra. Many other matters were also considered by the Commission's investigators which did not culminate in public hearings. In conducting its investigations, the Commission issued more than 2000 'Notices to Produce Documents' and generated a database of over 852,000 individual documents comprising millions of pages. The Interim Report, delivered to the Governor-General in December 2014, also referred 26 people to 11 agencies.

Recommendations in the Final Report

In total, there were 79 recommendations in the final report, with, according to the Guardian, a number of common themes:

  • Insufficient record keeping, including the creation of false invoices and the deliberate destruction of documents;
  • The tendency for committees of management to be used as a “rubber stamp” for officials, without enforcing the rules of the organisation;
  • The payment of large sums by employers to unions; and
  • The inflation of union membership figures to exert influence.

The report also recommended that a new national regulator with the same powers as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission should be set up to stamp out corruption in the trade union movemen, as well as new civil penalties to be created to bind all workers and officials on financial disclosure provisions.

The timing of the tabling of the report in Parliament and its public release will be a matter for the Federal Government when they return to sitting on 2 February 2015.

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products.

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