In August the Senate passed the Turnbull Government’s Fair Work Amendment (Corrupting Benefits) Bill designed to ensure that Australian workers are put first in dealings between employers and unions.
The Heydon Royal Commission uncovered a raft of payments known as ‘corrupting benefits’ between unions and employers designed to ensure companies got favourable treatment from unions. Many of the worst examples included payments by employers to the Victorian division of the AWU in which the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Shorten, was involved. (see Attachment)
The Bill now bans secret and corrupting payments from businesses to unions, and requires the disclosure of any legitimate payments arising from enterprise agreements. When corrupting payments are made, both parties are equally culpable. The Bill ensures that the same prohibitions and sanctions will apply to both employers and unions.
The Bill passed the Senate despite strident opposition from Bill Shorten and Labor, who again made a choice to protect workplace corruption and put their union masters before hardworking Australians.
“Bill Shorten and Labor today voted against protecting Australian workers from secret deals between employers and unions that all too often disadvantage workers. It is staggering that the Labor Party would put the interests of crooked unions and crooked employers ahead of the interests of honest workers, who deserve to know that their employers are not engaging in secret deals and that their unions are acting in their best interests,” Minister Cash said.
The Heydon Royal Commission found that as Secretary of the Australian Workers Union Bill Shorten arranged payments from numerous businesses to benefit the union rather than its members.
“As Secretary of the AWU, Bill Shorten traded away the pay and conditions of some of Australia’s lowest paid workers. The AWU later received secret payments of $75,000 from Cleanevent to maintain this arrangement.” Minister Cash said.
“In addition, when Bill Shorten ran for Parliament in 2007, a building company spent $32,000 hiring a staff member to act as his campaign manager whilst at the same time negotiating an enterprise agreement with Mr Shorten’s union. These payments created a clear conflict of interest and were highly unethical, yet remarkably, they were not technically unlawful. This legislation ensures that they now are.”
Minister Cash said secret payments are a blight on Australia’s workplace relations system and that workers should have confidence that negotiations between their union and employer are conducted honestly and fairly, without any money secretly changing hands.
“Today’s vote was a key test for Bill Shorten to see whether he would put ordinary workers or crooked deals first – he failed,” Minister Cash said.