MEDIA RELEASE - Shorten has Questions to Answer About AWU Donations

Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General
Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations
Assistant Minister for Women
LNP Senator for Queensland

media release

25 February 2022


The Registered Organisations Commission (ROC), which ensures that the funds of unions and employer groups are spent legitimately, has found that the Australian Workers Union (AWU) contravened the Registered Organisations Act and its own rules on a number of occasions.

The ROC’s investigation concluded that:

  • The AWU contravened section 237(1) of the RO Act (or its predecessor legislation) on nine occasions by lodging annual Loans, Grants and Donations (LGD) statements between 2006 and 2016 either outside of the statutory timeframe requirements or by not lodging a required statement at all. These contraventions were finally admitted by the AWU in December 2021.
  • In some cases, LGD statements were not lodged until years after the statutory time periods had elapsed.
  • The AWU has admitted it failed to lodge a LGD statement at all in 2007 and has never met that obligation in circumstances in which its internal records showed that it made about $42,000 of donations that have never been disclosed to its members. This included at least three political donations totalling $33,000.
  • The AWU did not follow the processes set out in its own rules, in particular Rule 57, on 20 occasions between 2006 and 2008. That is because its National Executive failed to consider or satisfy itself of the matters set out in Rule 57 of the AWU’s rules in respect of each of the 20 donations. While some records and the relevant Minutes of the National Executive have been produced and examined, the AWU has failed to, and admitted that it cannot, produce any evidence of express resolutions by the National Executive authorising any of the 20 relevant donations.

Senior Labor frontbencher, Mr Bill Shorten, who was head of the AWU prior to the 2007 Federal Election has serious questions to answer about these findings.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese also needs to show some leadership – he should be calling Mr Shorten into his office and demanding an explanation about how the funds of hardworking AWU members were spent when he was their leader.

Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen. Instead Mr Albanese is promising to abolish the Registered Organisations Commission and remove this vital oversight into how the funds of union members are spent.

Mr Albanese pretends he is all about ensuring integrity in public office, but instead he is promising to abolish a vital organisation which ensures the funds of union members are spent appropriately.