Monday, 19 June 2017
Questions without Notice
Leader of the Opposition
My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Cash. It relates to developments in questions asked last week in question time. Can the minister further update the Senate on recent reports concerning officials of registered organisations and potential conflicts of interest?
I thank Senator Paterson for the question. Yes, I can. Further to serious questions being raised regarding the failure of the AWU to accurately disclose a range of transactions in which industry super funds gave money to the AWU when Bill Shorten was national secretary and running for parliament in 2007, I can advise that last Thursday the AWU, in an attempt to protect Mr Shorten, amended their 10-year-old disclosure statement. Specifically, they reclassified a $27,500 donation from AustralianSuper to the AWU to say that it was not, in fact, a donation but rather an 'other receipt'.
Despite this convenient reclassification, questions regarding conflicts of interest still remain and have not been answered. I remind senators that Mr Shorten, in 2007, wore three hats: being a director of AustralianSuper, National Secretary of the AWU and the Labor candidate for Maribyrnong, all at the same time as money was changing hands. Mr Shorten must now come clean with the Australian people and explain as follows. Did he disclose these conflicts and how? And, if not, why not? Did he remove himself from any decisions around these payments and how? And, if not, why not? Did he personally ask for any of these payments or did others ask for these payments on his behalf? Further, and just as importantly, Mr Shorten should now outline what conversations he and his office have had with the AWU which led to the AWU filing just last week the amended return. (Time expired)
Ten years after this questionable flow of money occurred, the AWU are still trying to get their story straight about conflicts of interest with their former boss. Organisations like AustralianSuper and the AWU have an important duty to protect the interests of their members. They manage the retirement savings of hardworking Australians, which they hold on trust. I do not believe there would be any Australian who believes that their hard earned retirement savings should be used for political campaigns or events, and that is why greater transparency is needed and Mr Shorten needs to come clean and answer these important questions. He needs to tell the Australian people why payments were made from the superannuation fund of hardworking Australians which ended up benefiting his union.
The payments between Australian Super and the AWU, and then between the AWU and Labor, have primarily benefited the interests of Mr Bill Shorten. It is not clear what benefits have flowed to Australian Super or AWU members, and these questions need to be answered. The Turnbull government believes that unions and employer groups should at all times be acting in the interests of their hardworking members and not their officials. We have critical legislation before this parliament to prevent corrupting and secret payments between registered organisations and employers and full disclosure of any legitimate payments that are made. If it is not a legitimate payment, why is it being made? All registered organisations—employer and union—should be transparent.