Shorten faces Royal Commission

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was grilled by the Trade Union Royal Commission yesterday over an undisclosed campaign donation of $40,000 made by labour hire firm Unibuilt.

Unibuilt paid the wages of his then campaign director, Lance Wilson, who was managing Mr Shorten’s campaign for the seat of Maribyrnong in 2007. The $40,000 donation had only been declared to the Australian Electoral Commission on 6 July 2015. The Australian Workers Union (AWU) also allegedly topped up the campaign manager’s total wage of $52,000. Mr Shorten served as AWU state secretary from July 1998 and as federal secretary from July 2001.

The Opposition Leader has been under intense scrutiny over why the transaction was not disclosed earlier.

“I have discovered in very recent times that there was an incomplete form sent to the ALP head office and that is — I take ultimate responsibility for that,” said Mr Shorten.

Mr Shorten said he declared the donation in preparation for his Royal Commission appearance. He discovered the omission and, once his legal team had all the relevant details of the transaction, declared it to the appropriate parties.

Mr Shorten denied that he was waiting to see if the issue would be raised in the Royal Commission and said he only found out about the oversight a few weeks ago. He also denied any personal advantage in the AWU deal and believed that Unibuilt would not have expected anything in return for contributing towards Mr Wilson’s services to his campaign.

According to former Victorian Electrical Trades Union (VETU) Secretary Dean Mighell, the Royal Commission found no evidence that the donation was deliberately concealed.

“If you’re going to take Bill Shorten out for a reporting irregularity — which isn’t at the end of the day a serious crime — you’re going to have to take out half of Parliament,” said Mr Mighell.

The Opposition Leader will face the Royal Commission about this issue again this morning.

What do you think? Should political campaign donations face tougher regulations? Do you feel comfortable that unions and corporations are generally the largest contributors to political campaigns? Do you worry that, because of such donations, the interests of these organisations are taking priority over those of the people? Is this Royal Commission worth the $61 million of taxpayer’s money the Abbott Government is spending?



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