Union governance
Address by ACTU Secretary-Elect Dave Oliver
ACTU Congress Day Two
Sydney Convention Centre

I’ve spent most of my working life fighting dodgy bosses.

I never thought I’d have to take that fight to some individuals in our own movement.

But a few individuals have created an issue we must confront.

We must not tolerate the misuse of members’ money.

We cannot tolerate the sorts of things revealed in the Fair Work report into the HSU.

That behaviour is not acceptable in our movement.

I know everyone here, all of us, condemn that behaviour.

We have a significant responsibility to our members to ensure and make double sure that members’ money is only used for purposes to advance our members’ interests.

We won’t tolerate individuals who breach that responsibility.

I do not believe there is any place in our movement for $360,000 salaries for any union official.

The Fair Work Report has been a real wake up call.

So we must get on the front foot and make sure we have the best governance practices in place right across our movement.

I accept that the ACTU doesn’t run individual unions and we know how important the historical legacy of each union, and their own democratic structures are.

Our unions are strong because they are reflective of their industry, because they have grown from workplaces, and they continue to be run by rank and file workers at various levels of the union.

So while the ACTU does not regulate unions – this issue has made us see that there must be standards by which unions should operate.

The HSU situation has impacted on all of us and all of our unions, and that is why we must set a clear set of principles around governance and financial management.

You and your members run your unions, but surely the ACTU must stand up on your behalf and protect our movement’s collective reputation and legacy.

We cannot and will not allow the actions of a number of individuals tarnish our great movement’s reputation.

I know from my own experience, that most unions have stringent processes in place among unions to manage members’ money properly.

In my old union, we have very strict auditing, transparency and accountability processes.

I know this is true of most unions.

Our 2 million members need to know that their money is being used for the purposes of fighting for workers’ rights.

Today, I am moving this resolution to appoint an expert panel to provide recommendations on the best practices in governance, financial controls, accountability and transparency.

We have asked former Federal Court Judge the Hon. Rod Madgwick to chair the panel.

Among other things, as the resolution says, the panel will consider the experience of national unions and branches in the current regulatory environment and existing governance standards and may make recommendations on the following:

  • Good governance
  • Transparency and accountability
  • Financial controls and procedures
  • Dispute procedures; and
  • Appropriate training standards
  • All affiliates will be invited to take part in the process and the results will be made public.

    Delegates the responsibility to protect our members rests with all of us and we need to send a clear message to them that we are taking this issue seriously.

    I urge you to give this resolution and the ACTU your full support.