The QTU is not affiliated with any political party, nor does it donate funds to any political parties. Under the QTU Constitution, political party affiliation could only occur after a referendum of all members.
The QTU is affiliated with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU), the peak Australian and Queensland Union bodies. Neither of the bodies is affiliated with, or donates funds to, any political party.
The QTU does reserve the right to support/oppose (before and during election campaigns) candidates, depending on their attitude and actions in relation to QTU policy positions - in particular public education and industrial relations. This is because decisions which affect QTU members are made by governments via the political process. For example, the QTU strongly supported the "Your Rights at Work" (YR@W) campaign to defeat the Howard government because of its anti-worker, anti-union "Workchoices" Legislation.
The QTU therefore expends funds on the production of material and advertising during election campaigns to promote its position, and to oppose policies harmful to QTU members.
The QTU may also elect to have representation at rallies, functions and campaign launches as part of its involvement in the political process.
The following resolutions in relation to these issues were carried at QTU State Council on 29 August 2009. These resolutions re-affirm the QTU's long-standing position:
THAT State Council requests the senior officers and Executive to begin to develop a political strategy for the QTU which will provide a framework for union action over the next two years through to the next state election, including targeting of high profile Bligh government ministers who are not supportive of the QTU EB position, to unseat them in the next state government election.
THAT State Council notes that QTU activity during the previous state and federal elections was based on a position endorsed by State Council of supporting those candidates who supported the QTU’s position in relation to industrial relations and public education, and that this position continues.
THAT State Council notes that this strategy involved a range of activities, including inviting supportive candidates to schools and QTU branch meetings and support for such candidates in the form of attendance at rallies, campaign launches and functions.
THAT State Council requests senior officers and Executive to identify those state MPs who are supportive of the QTU EB position and have displayed positive views and actions in relation to industrial relations and public education policies supported by the QTU, as well as other MPs who clearly display the opposite attributes.
THAT State Council notes that the QTU cannot be (without a referendum of members) and is not affiliated to the ALP or any other political party and does not donate funds to the ALP or any other political party.
THAT State Council requests that senior officers ensure that no QTU political activity be such that it is classified as a reportable political donation under the relevant state or federal electoral acts.
The two most relevant "returns" are the Disclosure Return following an election (relating to state election) and the biannual Disclosure Return of Donors to Registered Political Parties (documents available shortly).
The expenditure listed on these returns is explained in this article by Graham Moloney, Deputy General Secretary
Keeping the pollies at arm's length
Like the anniversary of the moon landings, elections and enterprise bargaining disputes always seem to revive conspiracy theories, in the QTU’s case, over the Union’s links with political parties. The reality, however, is far more mundane than the theorists would have you believe...
While many unions are affiliated with the ALP, the QTU is not and never has been. Under the QTU Constitution and Rules (rule 8.2(a)(v)), the QTU cannot affiliate with any party political organisation or institution until a referendum of members has supported it.
Of course, that does not mean the Union cannot get involved in elections or other political campaigns. The Your Rights at Work campaign is an example of a community political campaign in which the QTU and its members were heavily involved.
Indeed, when the employer is the government, it makes even more sense for the QTU and its members to take an active interest in politics and to campaign politically. One of the QTU strategic objectives adopted in 2006 is to seek to have supportive governments and candidates elected. But the QTU runs its own state election campaigns; it does not donate to political parties.
In July 2009, the QTU lodged an expenditure return for the March 2009 state election, outlining $73,000 worth of electoral expenditure. An urban myth has arisen that this was a donation to the ALP. In fact, virtually all of the expenditure was directly related to the QTU’s enterprise bargaining campaign. Because it was directed at the state government, it fell within the definitions of election expenditure, which we have to report to the Electoral Commission of Queensland.
The expenditure included:
- a full page ad and two half page EB ads [3 March and 10 March] in The Courier-Mail
- production and distribution costs of the EB6 DVD to schools
- the hosting cost of EB newspaper ads on the QTU website
- the distribution costs of the QTU Members’ Newsflash comparing party policies.
- No donations were made to any candidate or any political party.
The QTU also contributed to the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) campaign for public sector jobs during the state election, but it is the QCU that has to report that expenditure. Again, the QCU ran its own campaign and no donation was made to any political party.
Queensland electoral legislation requires biannual reporting of donations to political parties. In the past year, there has been only one piece of expenditure by the QTU which has been classified as a donation, attendance at a function involving the Deputy Prime Minister. Given her dual roles in industrial relations and education, the QTU Executive decided to make an exception to the QTU’s usual practice.
The ongoing political involvement of the QTU was specifically reviewed by the QTU State Council in August. In the context of the enterprise bargaining campaign, the Council requested that a political strategy be developed over the two years through to the next state election, to include the targeting of Bligh government ministers who did not support Queensland teachers during the enterprise bargaining campaign. As in the past, it is anticipated that the strategy will involve a range of activities, including invitations for supportive candidates to QTU events and support in the form of attendance at campaign launches and functions. However, State Council reiterated the Union’s position of not donating to political parties or the campaigns of individual candidates.
Source: Queensland Teachers' Journal, Sep 2009
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