Royal Commission to examine new evidence

by Nicola Middlemiss19 Oct 2015
The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption has reportedly discovered new evidence pointing towards clandestine deals between the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and employers.

The commission told the ABC that this week, it will question witnesses over the evidence, which relates to incidents that occurred earlier this year.

“More information has come to light since the AWU hearings began in late May [and] the commission has further evidence that it will put to the witnesses over the next four days,” a spokesman for the inquiry said.

Tribunals scheduled for today and Tuesday are set to focus on an arrangement between the AWU and Cleanevent, which dictated the cleaning company would pay $25,000 per annum to the union in order to maintain its enterprise bargaining agreement.

The so called “case study” will include a public statement, due to be made by the commission later today. It will be a statement received by the commission in July from Paul Howes, Bill Shorten’s 2007 successor as head of the AWU.

Howes – who, according to the ABC, will not be called to appear in person – previously claimed that he was not involved in the AWU “side deal”, saying that as national secretary he signed off on the enterprise bargaining agreement only.

Later this week, the commission will also revisit a case involving Chiquita Mushrooms, whose enterprise bargaining agreement was negotiated by Shorten for the AWU during his tenure as Victorian secretary for the AWU.

It was alleged that under this arrangement, workers were worse off than under prior agreements.

The commission has already heard allegations that the purposes of various payments received by the AWU were disguised.

Among these was a donation from a construction company towards Shorten’s 2007 election campaign.

When he appeared before the commission in recent months, Shorten defended his actions during his time as union leader.

A spokesman told the ABC yesterday that Shorten had “acted in the best interests of workers on each and every occasion”.

Cesar Melhem, Shorten’s successor as Victorian head of the AWU, is due to give evidence to the commission on Thursday.

The week’s hearings will be the final block of public sessions, although examinations of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) are scheduled to take place at the end of the month.

The inquiry – which has heard evidence from over 400 witnesses – is due to submit its report by the end of this year.


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