On 22 March 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced legislation to criminalise the giving, receiving or soliciting of ‘corrupting benefits’ between employers and trade unions.

The Fair Work Amendment (Corrupting Benefits) Bill 2017 (Bill) was introduced in response to recommendations of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, to promote better governance of registered organisations.

The Bill amends the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) to make it a criminal offence:

  • to give a registered organisation, or a person associated with a registered organisation a corrupting benefit
  • to receive or solicit a corrupting benefit
  • for a national system employer other than an employee organisation to provide, offer or promise to provide any cash or in kind payment (other than certain legitimate payments) to an employee organisation or its prohibited beneficiaries and
  • to solicit, receive, obtain or agree to obtain any such cash or in kind payment.

For the purposes of the Bill, a corrupting benefit includes, but is not limited to, a benefit that was given with the intention of influencing an officer or employee of a registered organisation to perform his or her duties or functions as an officer or employee improperly.

The Bill also requires full disclosure by bargaining representatives of financial benefits they stand to gain under an enterprise agreement before employees vote on the agreement.

The Bill imposes significant penalties in relation to the giving, receiving or soliciting of ‘corrupting benefits’. Individuals face a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, a fine of $900,000, or both, whereas body corporates face a maximum penalty of $4,500,000.