Bob Hawke has reportedly called on the Labor Party and the ACTU to consider cutting ties with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.
His former leadership rival, Paul Keating, has also warned that trade union influence inside the party must be reduced.
The two former Labor prime ministers told The Australian newspaper they are appalled by the evidence of systemic union corruption.
“The unions need to clean up their act and get their house in order … It just is appalling. I mean, I wouldn’t tolerate it,” Mr Hawke said.
Asked if the CFMEU should still be affiliated to the ACTU and Labor, Mr Hawke, who was ACTU president throughout the 1970s, said: “Well, I would be very happy for them not to be at this stage.”
Mr Keating said there should be a rethink of party-union connections.
“The preponderance of trade union weight in the Labor Party’s councils is now too large, given organised labour’s influence in the current and contemporary labour market.”
Hawke and Keating reportedly gave the interviews to The Australian before the release of the Royal Commission’s report into trade union corruption.
Both men have also returned to the news because of the January 1 release of cabinet documents from their times in power.