RESOURCE industry employer group AMMA (Australian Mines and Metals Association) has renewed its call for trade unions and employer organisations to stop being treated as a protected species and to be subject to the same standards and penalties as corporations, after the Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption today reported serious criminality and disregard for our laws.
“The interim report of the Royal Commission has identified alarming criminal conduct among some Australian trade unions, including intimidation and coercion, blackmail, fraud and frequent misuse of members’ funds to set up union election slush funds,” says AMMA chief executive Steve Knott.
“There is nothing short of a culture of lawlessness in some trade unions, and a key driver of this is the ongoing treatment of registered organisations, including unions and employer groups, as special cases when it comes to governance standards, regulation and penalties for breaking the law.
“Having separate rules leads some union officials to think they are different from company directors, and that compliance with the law is optional. Examples include the prosecution of the CFMEU over its illegal boycott of Boral and this week’s conviction of former HSU official Craig Thomson.”
The Australian Government’s approach, through the Fair Work Amendment (Registered Organisations) Bill 2014, is to create a separate Registered Organisations Commission to oversee enhanced regulation of unions and employer groups. This Bill is before the Senate and has been opposed by the Opposition.
“This is a step in the right direction, but creating another unique body to oversee unions and employer organisations is not the best approach,” Mr Knott says.
“It is well beyond time to stop treating unions and employer groups as a protected species with their own set of rules. Unions and employer organisations should be regulated by Australia’s Corporations Law under the watchful eye of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC).
“Trade unions and employer organisations are often multi-million dollar businesses and in AMMA’s view, should be treated no differently to corporations, with the same responsibilities, oversight and penalties.
“Just as the community expects corporations to meet standards of probity and proper governance, the community is entitled to expect trade unions to meet the same standards, a point reinforced by the unacceptable conduct revealed by the Royal Commission.”
The Royal Commission’s findings, released by Employment Minister Eric Abetz, also present an undeniable case for the urgent reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) – which was abolished by the former ALP government under trade union pressure.
“No part of our community, be it businesses, trade unions or any other organisations, should be able to engage in acts of willful defiance of our laws, maintain unaccountable slush funds, or fail to properly serve the interests of their members,” Mr Knott says.
“As Minister Abetz noted, 1800 pages of evidence now back the reintroduction of the ABCC, including today’s finding of ‘a culture of willful defiance of the law which appears to lie at the core of the CFMEU’; and that such criminality ‘reveals grave threats to the power and authority of the Australian state’.
“It is time our parliamentarians reflect community sentiment and deliver effective regulation that will to rid our nation’s union movement of crooks, criminals and thugs.”
FUNDAMENTAL workplace relations reform is critical for Australia’s resource industry to reclaim its place as the top global destination for billions of dollars in major project investment, Australia’s resource industry employer group AMMA will tell the Productivity Commission in the review announced today.
The federal government has released the terms of reference for the Productivity Commission to review Australia’s workplace laws, and with investment tightening and commodity prices falling, improvements to our workplace system cannot come soon enough.
“The urgent need for fundamental structural reform has become clearer in recent months as concerning signs emerge in our economy and labour market,” says AMMA chief executive, Steve Knott.
“In a short period of time, our nation has seen just how poorly thought-out workplace regulation can very quickly impact on our ability to compete for capital in a rapidly evolving global market.
“Only a few years ago, investment and jobs growth in Australia’s resource sector showed little signs of slowing, with direct employment, economic and social benefits flowing to every Australian.
“Since then, due in no small part to the inflexible and regressive Fair Work system penned by Julia Gillard in close consultation with the ACTU, our nation has fast changed from being one of the most attractive places in the world for major project investment, to being viewed with concern and risk.
“While Australians think of ourselves as living in the ‘lucky country’, blessed with natural resources, our prosperity relies on sound policy and regulation. Structural reform, including workplace reform, may be difficult to confront, but will ultimately position Australia for success in the longer term.
“The IMF, OECD and World Economic Forum have all clearly identified labour market reform as critical to Australia meeting its growth targets and maintaining living standards. These global organisations caution Australia against complacency, and ignoring this critical area.
“The launch of the Productivity Commission’s review provides an opportunity to address fundamental structural concerns before they further impact on Australia’s living standards, competitiveness and investment.”
While various political and vested interest groups deliberately ignore the impact of workplace relations on productivity and competitiveness, resource employers are calling for sustainable, long-term reforms that can survive across political cycles and position Australia as a world leading economy for generations to come.
Mr Knott says employers, unions and others should take up this opportunity to consider how our workplace relations system can better support our industries and communities into the future.
“We need to seize this opportunity to consider how we regulate work in this country and have a mature national debate on how we can realise our economic and social potential. The resource industry is well advanced in providing relevant and factual input to this process,” Mr Knott says.
“In consultation with our members, AMMA’s experienced workplace practitioners and lawyers have been preparing the industry’s evidence for this significant review for more than eight months.”
The public is invited to comment on an amendment to the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 associated with strengthened export controls around the supply, publication and brokering of items listed in the Defence and Strategic Goods List.
The Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill 2015 (the Bill) has been drafted to change the scope of regulation associated with the strengthened export controls introduced by the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 (the Act).
The Act’s provisions relating to strengthened export controls are subject to a two-year transition period which began on 16 May 2013.
During this transition period, the Department of Defence, through the Defence Export Control Office, has been working closely with stakeholders. This work has resulted in a number of proposed legislative and policy changes.
In addition to strengthened export controls, the Act introduced a treaty between Australia and the United States of America – the Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty.
The Bill does not affect this treaty.The Bill and its associated documents, including the DTC Amendment (Decision Criteria) Regulation 2015, are now open for public consultation until 30 January 2015.
Public consultation sessions will occur in all capital cities from 19-30 January 2015.
Informal stakeholder engagement and consultation will continue across all sectors after the formal period of consultation has concluded.
The relevant documents and further information can be accessed from the Defence Export Control Office (DECO) website: www.defence.gov.au/deco/