Gillard may be quizzed in probe

Andrew Probyn Federal Political Editor
Gillard may be quizzed in probe

Former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard faces the prospect of being hauled before a royal commission into union corruption to explain her role in setting up a union slush fund in WA more than 20 years ago.

Companies and business executives who have been complicit in bribery, corruption and kickbacks have also been put on notice they may be called to give evidence.

The terms of reference released by the Abbott Government yesterday for a royal commission names Ms Gillard's former client, the Australian Workers Union, as one of five unions of particular interest. At the height of the "AWU affair" that dogged Ms Gillard's prime ministership in 2012, Mr Abbott accused her of acting criminally.

As an industrial lawyer with Slater & Gordon in 1992, Ms Gillard helped her then boyfriend - an AWU official - establish an association to promote workplace reform. The association was later used to siphon more than $400,000 from companies including Thiess and Woodside.

Ms Gillard, who along with five other former Labor ministers has been summoned to attend a royal commission into the 2009 home insulation program, denies any wrongdoing.

The union corruption royal commission's terms of reference also name the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Electrical Trade Union, the Health Services Union and the Transport Workers Union.

Business groups welcomed the royal commission. The Australian Industry Group said it had long expressed concern about union funds set up by unions and hefty commissions paid to unions from insurance products pursued during bargaining.

The Ai Group and the Australian Mines and Metals Association said a restored Australian Building and Construction Commission would have a more immediate effect on stamping out coercion and corruption.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the restoration of the ABCC would be one of the first items before the Senate this month.

He said some employers would also be investigated because "this whole culture of corruption takes two sides to be created".

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it would be better to set up a multi-agency task force led by the Australian Federal Police.