Date: May 25 2012
THE Gillard government will next week introduce legislation strengthening the requirements for organisations like unions to have strict rules about financial accountability and spending.
The new requirements - to be finalised at a meeting with business and union leaders this morning - will include much tougher financial penalties for breaches.
They aim to fill the regulatory inadequacies exposed by the investigation into Labor MP Craig Thomson's spending and behaviour as national secretary of the Health Services Union.
But they do not go as far as the Coalition's policy that penalties for unions and employer groups should be the same criminal sanctions as those imposed on company directors through the Corporations Act.
It is understood that under the plan rule breaches would still earn civil penalties, but with bigger fines than at present.
The Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, said the government would also beef up Fair Work Australia's investigative powers, including the completion of inquiries ''as soon as practicable'', after condemnation of the investigation into the Health Services Union which took almost four years.
The government will also allow Fair Work investigators to call in outside experts to help speed up their work.
The Coalition has proposed investigations be handed over to a new independent commissioner, operating from the office of the Fair Work Ombudsman.
''We believe that, when an individual is found to have done the wrong thing, and it's established in court, then there should be appropriate penalties commensurate with the breach of trust these actions represent,'' Mr Shorten said.
''We also believe that registered organisations should be transparent with the remuneration that they provide officers of that association.''
The government could also make further changes to the regulation of so-called ''registered organisations'' after it receives the findings of a review by KPMG.
The Fair Work report found 181 contraventions of the Registered Organisations Act, 156 relating to Mr Thomson.
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