In brief

  • The Federal Government released the Final Report of the Heydon Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption (Royal Commission) on 30 December 2015.
  • The Royal Commission has made a significant number of recommendations for reform of industrial relations laws, registered organisations laws, and Federal competition laws. As a result of this, we are likely to see further legislation being proposed by the Federal Government this year.
  • The Royal Commission has also made a number of referrals to regulatory bodies and the police taskforce to investigate whether individuals and registered organisations have breached criminal and civil laws.

On 30 December 2015, the Final Report in relation to the Royal Commission was released.1 It comprises of six volumes (and the last volume is confidential).

In the Final Report, the Royal Commission reported 'widespread' and 'deep-seated' misconduct across a number of unions throughout Australia.2 Commissioner Heydon considered that the Royal Commission had uncovered only 'a small tip of an enormous iceberg'.3

The Royal Commission has recommended significant changes to industrial relations laws, registered organisations laws, and Federal competition laws.4

The Turnbull Government is expected to provide a detailed response to the recommendations in the Final Report early this year. In the meantime, in early January 2016, it was reported that the Government will reintroduce the following proposed legislation into Parliament:

  • a revised Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Bill (as previous versions of the Bill have been rejected by the Senate twice), and
  • the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill (known as the 'ABCC Bill' which was rejected by the Senate in August 2015).5

If the proposed legislation does not pass Parliament after it is introduced in February, it has been reported that the Coalition will 'stake the election on it'.6 Further legislative change to the industrial relations legislation and federal competition laws is likely to follow.

Referrals to regulatory authorities and the police taskforce

Three volumes of the Final Report contain case studies and findings in relation to the conduct of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Health Services Union (HSU), Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), National Union of Workers (NUW), Communications, Electrical, Plumbers Union (CEPU), the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU), and other organisations, officials and employers. At least 49 individuals and/or organisations have been referred to regulatory authorities for further investigation of possible breaches of civil and criminal law.7

The police joint-taskforce investigating criminal allegations raised in the Royal Commission, called the Heracles Taskforce, has been extended for a further 12 months until 31 December 2016.8 A cross-agency working group also has been established to investigate breaches of the civil law that arise from the findings in the Final Report.9

Law reform recommendations

The 10 key law reform recommendations that were made by the Royal Commission in the Final Report are as follows:10

Click here to view table.