Attorney-General George Brandis has confirmed an extension to the length and funding of the Trade Union Royal Commission was not based on legal requests, but a decision of the Abbott Government.
In a startling admission during a Senate Estimates hearing last night, Senator Brandis was asked why the Government had extended the reporting time, terms of reference and funding in October, despite Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon not requesting it.
The Attorney-General provided the startlingly honest answer that: “the government made the decision to extend the Royal Commission.”
The Electrical Trades Union said the statement confirmed the worst fears of the union movement that Prime Minister Tony Abbott was wasting tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to prosecute an ideological agenda.
The union said the Federal Government needed to come clean about why they had made that decision, especially as Commissioner Heydon had written to the government saying he was not applying to widen the terms of reference or extend the reporting date.
“This is a startling admission from one of the most senior members of the Abbott Government,” ETU national secretary Allen Hicks said.
“Senator Brandis has effectively confirmed that this Royal Commission is not being driven by the law, but by the political agenda of his government and their ideological hatred for trade unions.
“Despite devoting nearly a year, and more than $50 million dollars to the task, the Royal Commission has done little more than rehash decades old smears and provide a soap-box for people with personal vendettas.
“It is a shameless misuse of the Royal Commission process and an abuse of political office.”
Mr Hicks said it came as a stark contrast to the government response to the findings of the Senate Economics References Committee that a Royal Commission into the Commonwealth Bank was warranted.
“The Senate committee uncovered allegations that Commonwealth Bank financial advisors had engaged in forgery, dishonest concealment of material facts, and other misconduct that resulted in investors losing millions of dollars, yet the Abbott Government refused to act,” Mr Hicks said.
“It is increasingly undeniable that unions are being singled out for special treatment by a conservative government more interested in grinding axes than protecting consumers.”