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Royal commission calls in the cops

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The Royal Commission on Trade Union Governance and Corruption has referred evidence relating to former Health Services Union official Kathy Jackson to Victoria Police for investigation.

The commission is concerned that Ms Jackson may have obtained property and financial advantages by deception during her time as a senior official of the union.

Police have also been requested to investigate whether Ms Jackson gave false or misleading evidence to the commission.

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The Federal Court ordered in August that Ms Jackson pay $1.4 million to the Health Services Union as compensation for misusing union credit cards.

Ms Jackson is among 25 current and former union officials who have been referred to police across Australia for alleged criminal conduct.

The list includes several high-profile labour movement leaders including the former secretary of the Victorian branch of the Australian Workers’ Union, Cesar Melhem.

Many others have been referred to Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Fair Work Commission for legal breaches.

The commission has referred a matter relating to David Atkin, the chief executive of the construction industry super fund, to ASIC for investigation.

The commission has also recommended that the AWU be investigated at an organisational level by Victoria Police for possible corruption offences.

The matters relate to transactions between the union and several employers including John Holland Constructions Pty Ltd.

The commission has been criticised by the Labor Party as a political witch-hunt.

The credibility of the inquiry was tested in August after it was revealed that the royal commissioner, Dyson Heydon, had agreed to give a speech at Liberal Party fundraiser.

Mr Heydon has recommended a sweeping overhaul of the laws and institutions that presently regulate trade unions.

Some of the 79 legislative changes recommended by the commission

• The establishment of a new regulator – the Registered Organisation Commission to oversee and investigate union finances and governance
• Union officials to be exposed to tougher criminal and civil penalties if they breach new financial reporting rules
• All unions to establish new roles for ‘financial compliance officers’ to monitor financial transactions
• Special legislation to be introduced to disqualify officials of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union from holding office
• The establishment of special building industry regulator with powers to investigate union activities
• New immunity provisions to protect employers and other parties who cooperate with regulatory investigations of the building industry


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