Release type: Media Release


Putting workers first as Corrupting Benefits law comes into effect


Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash
Minister for Employment
Minister for Women
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
Senator for Western Australia

Strong new laws banning secret and corrupting payments between employers and unions come into effect from today, ensuring Australian workers’ interests are put first when workplace agreements are being negotiated.

Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, said these reforms will protect workers from dubious deals struck between big unions and big businesses.

“The Turnbull Government’s reforms will ensure Australian workers are the first priority in negotiations between unions and their employers,” Minister Cash said.

“For too long some union officials have been paid private kickbacks used for personal expenses, to bolster union coffers or bolster their own status and power, all at the expense of workers. From today, such corrupting payments will be illegal.”

The Heydon Royal Commission uncovered a raft of payments between unions and employers designed to ensure companies got favourable treatment from unions. Many of the worst examples identified by the Royal Commission included payments by employers to the Victorian branch of the Australian Workers Union then run by Bill Shorten.

“As Secretary of the AWU, Bill Shorten traded away the pay and conditions of some of Australia’s lowest paid workers in return for payments to his union,” Minister Cash said.

“It will never be forgotten that low paid workers at Cleanevent had their penalty rates stripped while the AWU received secret payments of $75,000 to maintain such arrangements.”

Australian workers should have confidence that negotiations between their union and employer are conducted honestly and fairly, without any money secretly changing hands.

The Fair Work Amendment (Corrupting Benefits) Bill was passed by the Parliament on 9 August. The provisions associated with the legislation commence today.

“Secret and corrupting payments have been an ugly stain on Australia’s workplace relations system,” Minister Cash said.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence that workers were being dudded, Bill Shorten and Labor fought these reforms every step of the way. This was a key test for Bill Shorten to see whether he would put honest workers before crooked deals – he failed.”