Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Australia’s top union leader have expressed dismay at a report's findings that millions of dollars were ripped out of the Health Service's Union’s east branch over 15 years.
Ms Gillard said today that the findings of the report by Ian Temby, QC, and the accountant Dennis Robertson, would distress everyone who cares about working people.
Coalition workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz said the Temby Report had ‘‘blown the lid'' on the union's ''rotten culture''.
More than $20 million in questionable payments was paid to suppliers to the union without any form of tendering or contract.
Ms Gillard said that the report - which also finds that more than $5 million went directly to companies operated by former union boss Michael Williamson and his wife, Julieanne - highlighted ''real problems''.
‘‘It’s clear that there have been real problems at the HSU,’’ Ms Gillard told reporters in Sydney. ‘‘That’s distressing I think to everyone who cares about working people.’’
Australian Council of Trade Union president Ged Kearney said the Temby report was ‘‘deeply disturbing and troubling’’.
Ms Kearney told reporters in Canberra that it vindicated the ACTU’s decision to suspended the HSU from the council earlier this year and to support the appointment of an administrator.
Ms Gillard said her message to those in the union the movement was that the government had already responded to the allegations about financial mismanagement at HSU east.
‘‘We’ve already acted by having an administrator appointed to the HSU,’’ Ms Gillard said.
The Prime Minister said that the government had also toughened up penalties for trade unions and registered organisations.
Ms Gillard told reporters that despite the activities going on at the HSU east branch, most trade union officials were decent and professional.
‘‘Overwhelmingly, trade union officials … are in there doing it all for the right reasons,’’ she said.
Ms Kearney agreed that the revelations in the report did not match the ‘‘broad values’’ of the trade union movement.
‘‘HSU east branch members deserve a strong functioning union that will look after their rights and put them at the forefront of their operations,’’ she said.
‘‘We do not want our members to think in anyway what has happened to the HSU East branch is reflective of what happens in other unions.’’
Senator Abetz said the Temby Report had ‘‘blown the lid on the rotten culture at the Health Services Union East Branch.’’
“It is clear from the numerous prosecutions by Government agencies that this culture of entitlement and illegality is not confined solely to the HSU," he said.
Senator Abetz said that the same penalty that applies to company directors (5 years imprisonment and a $200,000 fine) should apply to union bosses if members funds were misappropriated.
When asked if union punishments should match the rules for illegal corporate behaviour, Ms Kearney said the punishment should match the wrongdoing. But because she was not a legal expert, the union leader said she could not specify what those punishments should be.
"Just like we can never guarantee that every CEO of every bank is never going to have any amount of wrongdoings in their organisation, I can’t guarantee that will never happen with unions. That would naive of me to do that,’’ Ms Kearney said.
Greens Acting Leader Adam Bandt, a former industrial relations lawyer, said he was ‘‘disgusted’’ by the revelations and said it was not something he had ever come across when he worked with unions.
With Kate McClymont