The NSW branch of the CFMEU took more than $100,000 in donations from a Chinese-backed development company, the royal commission into union corruption has heard.
The union, an ardent critic of Australia’s free trade agreement with China, is also being investigated over whether it entered into an agreement with businessman Jian Qiu Zhang that meant the CFMEU would not pursue a collective bargaining agreement with his company in exchange for financial gain.
Mr Zhang has been the director of more than 40 Australian companies, including one known as JQZ, which according to its website has past and current developments with an estimated value of more than $2 billion dollars.
The JQZ website says the company, formerly known as the Tong Group, was established in 2010 and has grown to be one of the most prestigious “Australian-Chinese based” providers of development and construction services in NSW.
The CFMEU has strongly campaigned against the China FTA, warning Australian jobs are at stake.
But between 2011 and 2014, the union accepted more than $130,000 in donations from Mr Zhang’s companies, counsel assisting the commission Sarah McNaughton, SC, said.
Ms McNaughton said the commission would be enquiring as to whether there was an agreement between Mr Parker and Mr Zhang, pursuant to which the CFMEU would not require Mr Zhang’s companies to enter into EBAs, in return for financial gain for the union.
“Matters to be examined include the circumstances in which the CFMEU received over $130,000 from Mr Zhang’s companies in donations between 2011 and 2014,” Ms McNaughton said.
Ms McNaughton told the commission in an opening statement that despite the size of Mr Zhang’s developments and the number of workers apparently employed at various sites, the CFMEU has not entered into an EBA with any of Mr Zhang’s companies.
“This apparently sits in marked contrast to the professed view that such agreements are important and beneficial to workers,” Ms McNaughton said.
Ms McNaughton said the “common thread” related to whether Mr Parker or any other officers of the union obtained secret commissions or other unlawful benefits or payments as a result of their dealings with certain individuals and companies.
“Another aspect of the enquiry concerns whether the union itself benefited by dealing with certain companies at the same time as those companies were not paying proper worker entitlements or were being permitted to pay workers at non-EBA rates.”