Union corruption so out of hand Abbott convenes a Royal Commission

As the months drag by and more and more revelations of union corruption surface in investigations by the Independent Commissions Against Corruption pressure has been building to have a more fuller Federal inquiry.

Tony Abbott has now convened a Royal Commission to look at union corruption.

Five of the nation’s most powerful unions linked to the ALP have been named as targets of a wide-ranging royal commission on union corruption – in which former prime minister Julia Gillard and other MPs and union officials are expected to give evidence.

The announcement came as Fairfax Media learnt Opposition Leader Bill Shorten had referred to police a secret dossier compiled by a whistleblower that made explosive corruption allegations that centre on the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

Other unions are also set to be dragged in and the government says construction firms accused of paying kickbacks to union officials to curry peace or win contracts will also be in the gun.

The CFMEU is one of the five unions named in the terms of reference, along with the Electrical Trades Union, the Transport Workers Union, the Australian Workers’ Union, and the Health Services Union. ??

Setting a soft report date of the end of the year, Prime Minister Tony Abbott left open the possibility of the inquiry taking longer, costing more, and even broadening its remit if the head of the inquiry, retired High Court judge Dyson Heydon requested it.

The decision by Mr Shorten to refer the dossier – he is himself the former head of the AWU – underscores the seriousness of the allegations raised by the whistleblower. It places tension on the relationship between Mr Shorten and the CFMEU, which donated $618,000 to the ALP in 2012-13.

A spokesman for Mr Shorten declined to say if the party would continue to accept donations from the union, but confirmed the material had been passed on to police for investigation.

”The police are the appropriate authorities to be investigating these matters,” he said.

Fairfax Media has been told a union whistleblower approached Labor transport spokesman Anthony Albanese last Tuesday with a dossier that outlined a string of allegations regarding the NSW branch of the CFMEU.

Mr Albanese passed the documents on to Mr Shorten, who in turn handed them to the police.

On Monday, Mr Shorten declined to answer questions about what further knowledge of union corruption he might have and said police, not a royal commission, should tackle the problem.

Fairfax Media has seen a copy of the dossier handed to police by Mr Shorten. It alleges inappropriate ties between union officials and figures in NSW organised crime. It also outlines attempts to hide how those links led to union whistleblower Brian Fitzpatrick receiving a death threat.

Allegations of inappropriate fund-raising and kickbacks are also raised.