Senate debates

Monday, 17 August 2015

Bills

Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 [No. 2]; Second Reading

8:22 pm

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I too rise to speak in support of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 [No. 2]. This bill implements the government's election commitment outlined in the policy for better transparency and accountability of registered organisations. It will enhance the accountability and transparency of registered organisations by broadly aligning the obligations of office holders and the penalties and powers of the regulator with the Corporations Act 2001. Having a look at the detail of this bill, it absolutely blows my mind that anybody in this chamber could possibly not support the provisions of the bill. The fact that so many people on the other side are not supporting this, to me, very personally demonstrates so much of what is wrong with politics today.

Since the introduction of the 2013 bill, the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption has been established. The royal commission is inquiring into, amongst other areas, slush funds and other similar funds and entities established by or related to the affairs of trade unions. In its interim report, the royal commission made findings in relation to the conduct of officers of registered organisations, including that the maximum penalties for breaches of general duties in relation to financial management are too low, that breaches of officers' duties are significant and widespread and that, in some instances, there is a deliberate disregard for the law. Again, how is it possibly in workers' interests for the trade unions to have been allowed to get away with this sort of behaviour for so long? These interim findings of the royal commission, combined with the Health Services Union saga, illustrate the need for the measures proposed in this bill.

The bill increases civil penalties and introduces criminal offences for serious breaches of officers' duties similar to those applicable under the Corporations Act. The bill also establishes the Registered Organisations Commission as independent but within the office of the Fair Work Ombudsman. Most importantly, especially for those opposite who claim this to be a partisan venture, the policy principles behind this bill are supported by a range of Labor luminaries—your colleagues and ex-colleagues. Who have we got supporting this? We have got Simon Crean.

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