The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption provided its final report on December 28, 2015, and as a result of that $46 million Royal Commission 30 individuals had been referred to 11 agencies for possible charges; 11 people had been referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and 10 were referred to state DPPs. By March 2016, only one conviction has been obtained while 5 others have had their charges dropped or were found not guilty1.
Given the failure of the Trade Union Royal Commission, the Government established the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) which was designed mostly to impose regulations on unions and other organisations. Its functions are: promoting the efficient management of organisations and high standards of accountability; providing education, help and advice to organisations and their members; monitoring the acts, practices and reporting obligations of organisations; conducting inquiries and investigations into organisations; and enforcing compliance by organisations2. It was also infamously involved with Michaelia Cash in the Senate hearings on the raid on AWU offices3. The ROC directed the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to raid the offices of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) in Sydney and Melbourne. The timing of the AWU raids was leaked to the media, from a staffer in Cash’s office, who presumable obtained the information from the ROC. On top of that, the rationale for the raids was shown to be at best ludicrous4. So, what happens to this organisation’s budget in the 2018 federal budget? It gets an increase of $8.1 million.
The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has uncovered systemic corruption, including alleged bribery, forging of documents, lending money to those unable to afford repayments, selling insurance to those who cannot afford it, lying to regulators, charging fees for services not provided, and charging fees to clients who have died5.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is the organisation tasked with keeping tabs on corporate Australia, including the banks. It is Australia’s corporate, markets, financial services and consumer credit regulator. ASIC aims to promote investor and consumer trust and confidence; to ensure fair and efficient markets; and provide efficient registration services6. So, what happened to ASIC in the 2018 Federal budget? It had a funding cut to the tune of $28 million over 3 years, reducing its budget from $348 million this year to about $320 million in 2020-2021. This will be a decrease of 30 positions next year7. This will, to some extent, hamstring its future work.
If anyone expected the government to take account of the nefarious activities uncovered by the Banking Royal Commission to make ASIC more effective, they probably believe in fairies. Similarly, the failure of the Unions Royal Commission should have clearly shown that the need for an organisation to hammer unions, or raid them under false pretences, is probably limited. However, that would be logical, and this sort of logic is not how this government operates. The ‘logic’ that drives them is that of the neoliberal ideologue. The reason for their seemingly counterintuitive funding changes is simply because it knows which side its bread is buttered on. Weaker unions allow wages to be kept low, and corporate profits to be concomitantly maximised. This allows their corporate donors to spare more cash for donations. It’s a win-win for the Liberals and their donors.