Fair Work may table HSU report

Fair Work may table HSU report

Updated April 05, 2012 09:15:08

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Fair Work Australia may indicate as early as today whether it will show a Senate committee its report into the troubled Health Services Union (HSU), making the document public.

Amid the controversy surrounding the document, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) will meet today to determine whether the HSU should be suspended from its ranks.

Yesterday Chris Craigie, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), revealed a further investigation is required before he can decide whether any of the four people named in the Fair Work report should be prosecuted.

He says the DPP is not an investigation agency, instead assessing matters for prosecution.

Mr Craigie says Fair Work Australia’s investigation was not a criminal investigation or a brief of evidence, but nonetheless he will examine the report to decide what should happen next.

The man at the centre of the controversy, former HSU boss and current Labor MP Craig Thomson, has always maintained his innocence in the face of allegations he used a union credit card to pay for prostitutes.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has backed Mr Thomson, saying she has seen nothing to alter her statements of confidence in him.

But that has not stopped the Opposition hammering the Government and Fair Work Australia over the decision to keep the report under wraps.

The outcome threatens to topple the fragile minority Government if Mr Thomson is forced from his seat.

Coalition workplace relations spokesman Senator Eric Abetz today continued the Opposition’s attack on the issue.

“We know that they’ve refused to make Freedom of Information requests available until appeals to the Information Commissioner were held,” he told AM.

“But now that a bipartisan committee of the Parliament has requested that of Fair Work Australia I would invite them to cooperate just for this once,”

Fair Work’s summary of its investigation does not name anyone or detail any of the 181 breaches.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says the issue has reached an unacceptable impasse, and wants Fair Work Australia to change its report immediately.

“Fair Work Australia needs to ensure that the material it has given to the DPP is useful and if in its current form it is not useful, it needs to ensure that the investigation is converted into a brief of evidence that the DPP can use and it must happen now,” he said.

“If it can’t happen or if it doesn’t happen, the public will come inevitably to the conclusion that there is some kind of protection racket operating here.”

Ongoing process

However, Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten denies the issue is at a dead end and says the process is ongoing.

“What they have actually said is that whilst they are not a criminal investigative body, effectively they are lawyers not policemen, they are going to examine the material to see what should next happen with it,” Mr Shorten said.

“So I don’t think the matter is not going anywhere. I think the DPP said they are going to look at it and determine what to do next.”

Meanwhile, the ACTU says it wants to distance itself from the allegations lapping around the union Mr Thomson once led, and is set to suspend the HSU when it meets today.

The HSU’s acting national president, Chris Brown, says he will do what he can to convince the ACTU not to follow through with its threat.

“Our members have already been through a lot, and for them to be punished even further by our own union movement is extremely disappointing,” he said.

“We’ll be doing everything that we can to try and convince those people on the national executive that will be voting on this that this is a silly course of action to take.”

But HSU national secretary Kathy Jackson says the ACTU’s threat shows total ignorance of the changes the HSU has put in place.

Ms Jackson says she will use today’s meeting to seek support from the executive to call on Fair Work Australia to release the full HSU report.

Topics:unions, alp, federal-government, government-and-politics, australia

First posted April 05, 2012 09:10:54

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