Union commission report: Kathy Jackson, Cesar Melham referred for possible criminal offences

The highly anticipated of the royal commission into trade union corruption has been released its final report after two years of hearings.

The findings of the royal commission into trade union corruption have been released.

The final report was made publicly available this morning after Commissioner Dyson Heydon delivered it to the governor general on Monday.

The entire report contains six volumes, including a publicly unavailable confidential volume. 

The report makes 79 recommendations, running over 28 pages, calling for a regulator to oversee the governance of trade unions. 

A slew of officials from various unions have been referred to prosecutors over possible criminal conduct.

But Mr Heydon says it's not only union officials that have been involved, with adverse recommendations against numerous executives of large commercial organisations.

He says the misbehaviour can be found in any area of Australia, in any unionised industry, in any industrial union at any period of time.

"These aberrations cannot be regarded as isolated," he said.

"They are not the work of a few rogue unions, or a few rogue officials.

"The misconduct exhibits great variety. It is widespread. It is deep-seated."

He believes what has been uncovered is just the "small tip of an enormous iceberg".

"It is clear that in many parts of the world constituted by Australian trade union officials, there is room for louts, thugs, bullies, thieves, perjurers, those who threaten violence, errant fiduciaries and organisers of boycotts," he said.

Calls for a single regulator

The report proposes the regulator would have investigative powers similar to ASIC.

"Commonwealth and State governments give consideration to adopting a national approach to the registration, deregistration and regulation of employee and employer organisations, with a single regulator overseeing all such organisations throughout Australia," the report said.

Read the full report

Professor Anthony Forsyth at RMIT's Business and Law school said he welcomed calls for a specialist regulator.

"What's come out over the last two years, the evidence and now the findings, I think it is hard to argue against a specialist regulator," he told ABCNews24.

"There has been a concern it took the Fair Work Commission quite some time to do the investigation into Craig Thomson and the HSU. I think now it would be better if there was a separate regulator to ensure that these laws can be administered in the best possible fashion."

The report recommends greater disclosure and regulation of financial compliance of union funds. 

The report also calls for a tightening of the Fair Work Act, including creating a criminal offence for bribes offered by employers.

It also recommends greater provisions to protect whistleblowers, increased fines for criminal acts committed while in office; and prohibitions on the use of property resources to fund a candidate's campaign to office.

The report recommended special legislation be introduced to allow Parliament to prohibit people it deems "not fit and proper persons" from holding any union office, and to give the existing building and construction regulator "compulsory, investigatory and information-gathering powers". 

37 individuals referred to authorities for potential criminal offences

The name of people referred to police or the Fair Work Commission is listed in the report over 22 pages. They include multiple referrals for indivduals and organisations. 

The list includes 37 individuals; plus eight organisations or businesses, including the AWU and the CFMEU NSW branch.

Former trade union boss turned Victorian MP Cesar Melhem has been referred by the unions royal commission to Victorian prosecutors for consideration of possible corruption and false accounting charges.

Former Health Services Union secretary Kathy Jackson has also been referred to prosecutors to consider whether she should be charged for obtaining property and financial advantage by deception, the commission's final report released on Wednesday says.

Commissioner Dyson Heydon has also asked the Victorian Commissioner of Police to investigate whether she may have given false or misleading evidence.

The NSW branch of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has been referred to the corporate watchdog and Commissioner Heydon has asked the NSW government to consider an inquiry into it "concerning charitable fundraising".

The Australian Workers' Union has also been referred to Victorian prosecutors over deals with Cleanevent, Thiess John Holland, Chiquita Mushrooms, ACI Operations and Winslow Constructors.

John Holland Pty Ltd and Chiquita Mushrooms have also been referred to prosecutors.

'Raise the white flag'

Liberal senator and former workplace relations minister Eric Abetz urged Prime Minister Turnbull to act on union reform.

"Raise the white flag, accept the recommendations and support the Government once and for all weeding out corruption in the trade union movement and get rid of the corrupt CFMEU from our building and construction sites and support the Australian Building and Construction Commission," he told reporters in Hobart.

Senator Abetz said he backed the recommendation for tougher penalties for officials who break the law.

"I hope it becomes a priority for the Government and, indeed the Parliament, to ensure the penalties fit the crime," he said.

"At the moment, if you are a trade union official ripping off members, your penalty is $10,000 whereas if you are a company director ripping off shareholders, you could potentially go to jail for five years and face fines of $300,000.

"I don't see any material or moral difference between a company director ripping off shareholders or a trade union official ripping off their members."

Labor says findings politically motivated

Labor is rejecting the trade union royal commission report as a political witch hunt, despite damning findings against the union movement and a Victorian Labor MP.

Opposition workplace spokesman Brendan O'Connor has continued Labor's attack on Commissioner Dyson Heydon - who earlier this year came under fire after agreeing to address a Liberal fundraiser - and slammed the government for releasing the report during the quiet holiday period.

He told reporters in Adelaide on Wednesday Labor does not condone misconduct and has announced reforms to tackle union governance.

Mr O'Connor says criminal activity should be met with the full force of the law but insists instances of misconduct are "isolated".

The government should have the Australian Securities and Investments Commission investigate union misconduct rather than establish a "new bureaucracy with no history and no expertise".

Mr Heydon's report says union misbehaviour is "deep-seated" and widespread.

He's recommended that all regulatory functions of the Fair Work Commission related to registered organisations be transferred to a new independent regulator called the Registered Organisations Commission.

Mr O'Connor says the misconduct would have been uncovered sooner if the $80 million spent on the royal commission had been handed to police to investigate, but that was "never the motive of the government".

"The motive of the government was political, not dealing with criminal matters," he said.

"This is not a court of law. The commission is an executive inquiry established by the government to act on behalf of the government."

Key facts of unions royal commission:

  • ran for almost two years
  • called 525 witnesses in private and public hearings
  • former Labor PM Julia Gillard and current Labor leader Bill Shorten called to testify
  • cost taxpayers about $46 million
  • probed eight unions
  • sat 189 days
  • commission not a court of law, can only refer people to enforcement agencies for consideration of charges
  • charges laid against nine people - all union officials or employees
  • no convictions to date.
  • those charged: Lisa Zanatta, Maria Butera, John Setka, Shaun Reardon, Michael Greenfield, Luke Collier, John Lomax (charges dropped), Halafihi Kivalu, a Queensland man arrested in May
Source: AAP, SBS News

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