Australia’s national resource industry employer group, the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) welcomed the Royal Commission into trade unions to tackle with the problem of systematic corruption, but said a restored Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) would be more efficient in eradicating bribery, coercion and criminality from Australia’s construction sector.
“A Royal Commission offers a unique opportunity to lift the veil on lawless and criminal conduct going back decades. Not only can it compel unions, employers and individuals to appear and give evidence, but it can get past the shield of legal professional privilege,” says AMMA Chief Executive, Steve Knott.
“While AMMA supports the Government’s Royal Commission into union corruption, it should be just one part of a multi-faceted approach to cleaning out any bad eggs and cultures of lawlessness within the trade union movement.”
According to the media release by AMMA, the resistance of union leaders and the Labour opposition to welcome the Royal Commission into the issue was not unexpected, unlike their opposition to the reestablishment of a regulator with proven results in cracking down on thugs and crooks – the ABCC.
“A restored ABCC could immediately begin to again stamp-out corruption, bribery and criminality from the construction industry, well before any findings from the Royal Commission are handed down,” said Mr Knott.
Upon its introduction in 2005 by the Howard Government right after the Cole Royal Commission, the ABCC significantly increased productivity, compliance with the country’s industrial laws and delivered a more equitable and harmonious Australian building industry.
The Cole Royal Commission, much like the Gyles Commission and later the Wilcox inquiry, has also reported findings of illegal industrial action, unlawful use of trust funds, intimidation of employers to sign agreements or select contractors close with close ties to the union and other criminal conduct.
“These findings were not fabricated or conjured up by political witch hunts. AMMA has a respectful and effective working relationship with the ACTU and key union leaders, but it is time the union movement gets serious about restoring lost public confidence,” Mr Knott says.
“AWU Secretary Paul Howes last week called corrupt union leaders ‘traitors’ to the movement. If today’s union and ALP leaders don’t drop the naive denialism and support a restored ABCC to begin cleaning out thugs and crooks, they too will fail to honour and maintain the contribution of their forebears.”
AMMA has called on all union leaders and the federal Opposition to support the passage of legislation restoring the ABCC through the Senate as soon as possible.