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Queensland government in major backdown on union transparency laws

Date

Amy Remeikis

With no fanfare and no notice, the state government on Thursday night repealed one of its most controversial laws - "for the moment".

Attached to an infrastructure charges bill, the government amended its union transparency legislation, removing the need for unions to ballot members before embarking on campaigns.

The controversial measure was put in place mid-last year, as part of a raft of legislation Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie introduced to parliament to make unions "more accountable".

But a law in New South Wales, which sought to stop political donations to groups, unless from an individual enrolled to vote, was struck down by the High Court in December last year in an unanimous decision.

That law was found to have placed a "burden" on the "implied freedom of communication on governmental and political matters", which is unconstitutional.

The Queensland government, facing a High Court challenge from the unions over its own law, wasn't willing to risk a similar ruling. 

"We've had to take the balloting provision off the books for the moment following the High Court decision between the New South Wales government and unions in December," Mr Bleijie said in a statement.

"Our commitment to transparency in industrial organisations remains the same and we will await the decision of the federal government's royal commission into trade union corruption.

"The employer groups haven't had a problem with our reforms."

The remaining provisions, which include the disclosure of credit card spending and the organisation's top salaries, stay in place.

The repealed law will have no impact on the government's court battle with the Electrical Trades Union over its website disclosures.

Queensland Council of Unions Assistant General Secretary Ros McLennan welcomed the repeal, calling the legislation "poorly drafted", "politically motivated" and "an attack on free speech and democracy in Queensland".

"At the 11th hour, the government has sneakily repealed certain provisions," she said.

"It is a good outcome that unions can now continue to hold this LNP government to account for its unpopular decisions...all that is left is for Premier Newman to have the guts to name the date of the Stafford by-election so that Queenslanders can have their say on this government".

ETU state secretary Peter Simpson said the about-face was "common sense". 

"The unions should be treated the same as big business and everyone else," he said.

"We want to participate in the political process and it gives us the right to do so, as it bloody well should, to be perfectly honest."

For Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, the back down provided an opportunity to revisit a favourite past time - calling for Mr Bleijie to resign.

"This bungle should be the final straw," she said in a statement.

"Enough is enough."

30 comments so far

  • Beauty, first ridiculous, rushed through not needed legislation change. Let us bring on the rest, this party does knee jerk policy, on the go, with no idea of implications, legality or rights for that mater . . . lets bring on the next one being knocked back. What a waste of time, energy and who knows how much money.

    Commenter
    Jamie Stacy
    Date and time
    June 04, 2014, 8:16PM
    • Remember that legislation is acted upon by the public service - more legislation = more public servant work required. (oh that's right they were cut by thousands, no issue of additional workload there)
      Add in all the lawyering that occurred after this was passed and it is (and may be again) a massive waste of Qld taxpayer money.

      Commenter
      Quasimofo
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      June 05, 2014, 7:40AM
  • Tick tock... every day reveals a new LNP blunder at both state and federal levels... and every day brings the federal election that much closer... It would be nice, though, if the ALP had to at least work at convincing voters they have earned their votes - right now, all they have to do is show up to romp home.

    Commenter
    lsco3453
    Location
    2016 on my mind
    Date and time
    June 04, 2014, 8:20PM
    • A very sneaky backdown for an equally preposterous proposal in the first place. And particularly now that we have less transparency of large donations to political parties thanks to recent changes. Do the LNP have any capacity to understand how their hypocrisy reflects on them as a party? They surely appear borderline corrupt to the average person on the street given their antics in the short time they've been in power. Egads! The mind boggles at what brain dead plans and ideas they have come up with in the back room and haven't gotten around to implementing yet... Bring on March 2015. And get your act in gear Anna. The campaign has started!

      Commenter
      MT
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      June 05, 2014, 1:27AM
      • Funny how they never made private companies ballot their shareholders before making political donations

        Commenter
        MJ
        Date and time
        June 05, 2014, 11:36AM
    • How many times is this arrogant Government going to change legislation, they have no idea what they are doing, can't wait to SACK them at the next by-election and State election.

      Commenter
      Alex
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      June 05, 2014, 5:39AM
      • The Conveyancer-General strikes again. Newman is ultimately responsible for promoting a junior solicitor to the most senior law officer in the state. Both should resign post haste for their sheer incompetence, let alone the rest!

        Commenter
        Mark
        Date and time
        June 05, 2014, 7:34AM
        • I don't see the appointment s a problem, you won't always have a senior ex-lawyer in government for the role of A-G, BUT the usual expectation is that if you don't have the knowledge yourself, you take advice from the experts. Across the board this government has made a pretense of listening to the people and ignored the experts. Bleije's claim this morning on ABC radio that they "listened to the people of Queensland" is garbage, but they hide behind listening to "the people" without backing it up with who they listened to and in what forum. You know "it's Mabo, it's the vibe"....

          Commenter
          Timmo
          Location
          Brisbane
          Date and time
          June 05, 2014, 12:50PM
      • Good to see this back-down.

        But even the diehard LNP supporters must see that this is an incompetent Attorney-General, and an incompetent government that rushes into things without consultation and then has to deal with consequences afterwards.

        The LNP too, has to deal with reality. Who would have thought it?

        This LNP rabble, jumping from one crisis to the next while building casinos and trying to trash anyone who might question it like the unions or the Environment Defenders Office, is not what Queensland wanted when it voted overwhelmingly to get rid of the sneaky Bligh Government for selling assets in 2009.

        It sounds like Labor has learnt its lesson and won't do something that stupid for a while if it gets back in next March.

        Commenter
        Thank goodness for the High Court (and journalists!)
        Date and time
        June 05, 2014, 7:37AM
        • D'oh , The LNP must have suddenly realised that we aren't that far away from an election!

          As a reforming Government the LNP must find the election cycle so very frustrating. They must feel the Constitution is also holding them back on implementing many of the changes they would like.

          Commenter
          Leonard
          Location
          Brisbane
          Date and time
          June 05, 2014, 7:41AM

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