The Federal Government’s application to the Federal Court to have an administrator appointed to the Health Services Union East Branch is a grave and serious step, and would normally be opposed by unions.

However, ACTU President Ged Kearney said that the circumstances facing the HSU East Branch were extraordinary, and in this instance unions offered very cautious support for the appointment of an administrator.

“The action by the Federal Government is in response to unique and extraordinary circumstances within one branch of one union.

“In no way do they reflect on the union movement as a whole.

“Australian unions have zero tolerance for corruption and or the misuse of members’ funds or maladministration of union affairs. Unions are democratic organisations and their structures are designed to reflect the interests of their members.

“The circumstances and allegations about the governance and financial management of the HSU East branch are almost unprecedented.

“It is important to remember there are branches within the HSU that have been functioning well and growing, and about which no allegations have been made. We note that the action commenced today does not affect the Tasmanian, West Australian, South Australian and Victorian No. 2 and No. 4 branches.

“We know that the staff and delegates around Australia are dedicated to representing and advocating for their members.

“The ACTU’s concern has always been to resolve these issues so the HSU can go back to representing its members as a strong, democratic and accountable union.”

She warned against the interference in unions by Government, and said that the politicians normally arguing for further regulation of unions were the same politicians arguing for the deregulation of the labour market.

“The free and independent operation of unions is a fundamental tenet of Western democracy, and fought for by workers against repressive regimes around the world. We must not forget that it is a right enshrined by the United Nations. This means that Governments should not be interfering or intervening in unions.

“Our cautious support for this process is based on the administrator operating only in the interest of members, that it is temporary and expeditious, and that as soon as possible the union is given back to the democratic processes of the membership.”