Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption Established

14 March 2014

Joint media release

Senator the Hon George Brandis QC

The Hon Eric Abetz
Minister for Employment

The Governor-General has issued Letters Patent to establish the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption and appoint the Hon Dyson Heydon AC QC as Royal Commissioner.

We are pleased that such an eminent jurist as Dyson Heydon has agreed to lead this important Royal Commission.

The establishment of the Royal Commission delivers on the Government’s pre-election commitment to establish a judicial inquiry into the Australian Workers’ Union slush fund scandal. Workers and trade union members are entitled to know that the unions they belong to are using their money in pursuit of the objectives of the organisation.

This Royal Commission is designed to get to the bottom of widespread and systemic problems ingrained across institutions.

The Governor-General has directed the Commission to inquire into and report on:

  • the governance arrangements and alleged financial irregularities associated with the affairs of trade unions, related funds, organisations, accounts and financial arrangements;
  • matters relating to the activities of entities or funds established by, or related to, the affairs of trade unions, as well as the adequacy of existing laws as they relate to the governance and financial management arrangements of these entities;
  • allegations involving union officials establishing and benefitting from funds or accounts set up for purposes unrelated to the needs of their members, and the conduct of officers of relevant entities.

The inquiry will also cover bribes, secret commissions or other unlawful payments made in the context of these entities.

The Government is committed to a truly national inquiry. The Prime Minister will be writing to his state counterparts across Australia to seek their agreement to the issue of letters patent in the same terms.

The terms of reference are not limited to any particular organisation or association, or any particular industries. It is intended that the Royal Commission would have discretion to inquire into a range of matters, depending on the evidence presented.

The Royal Commission will now get on with its work and proposes to hold its first hearing on 9 April 2014.  It is due to provide its final report to the Government by 31 December 2014.

The Letters Patent are attached.