Geelong Trades Hall secretary Tim Gooden released the statement below on April 27 about the move by the federal government to put the Health Services Union (HSU) East into administration.
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I am very concerned by the announcement of minister Bill Shorten that the federal government will seek to have the HSU East put under the control of an appointed administrator.
The reason given by minister Shorten was that he is “acting in the interest of union members”. I am not aware that the HSU East is insolvent or that as a union it has breached any criminal or statutory regulations. Even so, this would be a matter for the authorities to investigate as appropriate.
It is a very dangerous precedent to have the state remove elected officials from a union and effectively take control through an appointed administrator.
A union is not a city council or local government, nor is it a private corporation. It is an organisation of the workers, by the workers, for the workers and often find itself in opposition to the state on many issues. Indeed we are often in struggle against the state.
It is an intolerable situation for the state to unilaterally move against this union, or any other union for that matter. I don’t accept some unions supporting the government on this. Would they be so keen if it was Peter Reith attempting to use this power against the Maritime Union of Australia in 1998 or John Howard against the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union during the East Timor crisis?
I do not know the goings on inside the HSU East or whether it is right or wrong that is a matter for the union members and the union members alone of the HSU East and the HSU nationally. It is not a matter for the state how workers dictate their affairs.
I can think of a number of large corporations that have allegations of wrongdoing that add up to millions of dollars. In the interest of those shareholders is minister Shorten going to apply for those corporations to be put into the hands of administrators and have all directors suspended — I think not.
I am currently writing to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Victorian Trades Hall Council to express my concerns and will move a resolution to this affect at the next Geelong Trades Hall Council this Tuesday night. The resolution I will put to council will call on the ACTU and unions in general to withdraw support for state intervention into one of our unions.
This is my opinion alone and this statement is public.