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Federal Court quashes ‘illegal’ ROC investigation into AWU

November 29, 2019

In a major win for the AWU, The Federal Court has quashed the Registered Organisations Commission’s (ROC) 2017 investigation into the union. Federal Court Justice Mordecai Bromberg also ordered the ROC to return all documents that had been seized during the October 20 raid on AWU offices.

The ruling is the end of the two-year court battle between the ROC and the AWU, who argued the raids were unlawful and politically motivated.

“The Liberal Government has no higher priority than destroying the power workers have through their unions,” said acting AWU National Secretary Misha Zelinsky. “To aid this, they created the ROC, which, in turn, can draw on the resources of the AFP. All working people have to defend ourselves is one another and our legal rights. This case shows how important legal rights and standing together are.”

“The ROC has already spend millions of taxpayer dollars and the extensive resources of the federal police on this illegal pursuit. They’ve forced us to spend millions to defend it. The fact that they will still not accept the court’s verdict at this point is deeply revealing and should concern every Australian.”

Labor industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke also criticised the ROC. “This was their first major investigation and they botched it completely – dragging the union before the court for two years and wasting taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Maurice Blackburn principal John Bornstein, who represented the AWU, said the long-running court case was a “ridiculous waste of taxpayers money” over a “trivial matter dating back 12 years.”

The ROC will appeal the ruling. “Documents seized under the search warrants will remain in the custody of the Australian Federal Police, pending an appeal,” the commission said in a statement.

The Federal Court’s judgement follows an earlier ruling that the ROC did not have reasonable grounds to launch an investigation into the AWU over a $100,000 donation made to the political organisation GetUp in 2005, when former Labor Leader Bill Shorten was AWU National Secretary.

The raid captured public attention after media personnel arrived at AWU offices ahead of the AFP to film the raid. The raid was condemned by the Labor Party, the ACTU, and the broader union movement.

It later emerged the media received a tip-off from the offices of then-employment minister Michaela Cash. Cash had initially referred allegations of misconduct to the ROC.

At the time of the raid, National Secretary Daniel Walton called the raids an “extraordinary abuse of police resources and taxpayer funds by a desperate government,” and vowed to challenge the investigation.

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