AUSTRALIAN GREENS SENATORS' DISSENTING REPORT
The Australian Greens oppose the Fair Work (Registered Organisations)
Amendment Bill 2014 [No. 2] (the bill) in its entirety.
Registered organisations are not corporations
The Minister for Employment and other supporters of the bill claim that
it puts corporations and registered organisations on even footing, implying
that unions and other registered organisations ought to be treated in the same
way as corporations because they are fundamentally the same. This is not the
case. Unions are required under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act
2009 and other legislation to be democratic organisations, while corporations
are not. Unions are required to publish their accounts and financial returns
every year online, but proprietary limited companies are not.
The government fails – or refuses – to understand that employee
organisations do not exist for the same reason as businesses. Businesses exist
to make profit: that is their sole purpose and the measure of their success.
Company directors are legally required to act in the best interests of their
shareholders and continue to make a profit.
Unions exist to advance the interests of their members, and in doing so,
help all workers. Unions advise people of their rights and entitlements at work
and ensure those entitlements are honoured. Unions ensure that the lowest paid
workers enjoy something approaching what others take for granted: a decent
income and quality of life. Unions fought for shorter working weeks. Unions are
responsible for the existence of the weekend. It is thanks to unions that
workers are entitled to annual leave and penalty rates. These things were not
granted to workers by benevolent corporations; unions fought for every single
Unions drive changes to our workplace laws not for their own benefit,
but for the benefit of their members and all Australian workers. Unions receive
no direct financial advantage from their work. Registered organisations are
fundamentally different to profit-making corporations and they must be treated
The bill is unnecessary and unfair
The bill is unnecessary: current laws prevent officers of registered
organisations from using their positions for their own personal benefit and
those that do are prosecuted. Rather than extending the current requirements
demanded of unions to corporations, the bill allows the government to
micromanage unions in a way that would be unthinkable of private companies,
while still imposing the same penalties on unions as apply to publicly listed
The bill is simply another stage of the government's attack on workers'
rights. Just as successive budgets have revealed the true callousness of this
government, the bill reveals the government's hidden anti-worker agenda.
The government may insist that WorkChoices is dead, buried and cremated,
but it has simply learned that such blatant attacks have real electoral
consequences. With this bill, the government is undermining Australians' rights
at work in a far more subtle and underhanded fashion.
The bill works on one simple principle: 'we will come for the unions
first so that there is no-one left to protect the workers when we come for
them'. It is a transparent attempt to burden workers and their unions with
unnecessary red tape in order to prevent them from advancing the interests of
the people they exist to protect.
The Australian Greens recommend that the Senate reject the bill.
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