The Electrical Trades Union says it complied with the Newman government’s disclosure laws by publishing financial documents on a protest website.
The Queensland secretary of the Electrical Trades Union insists he was complying with new disclosure laws when he published union expenditure details on a protest website.
Peter Simpson has given evidence in the Brisbane Magistrates Court about 12 alleged breaches of the Newman government’s financial disclosure laws for unions and business groups.
The ETU’s Queensland branch is on trial, charged with failing to publish six financial documents on its website, including details of credit card expenditure, loans, grants, donations and political spending.
The union has also been charged with failing to produce the documents for departmental inspectors last September.
New laws introduced last year require unions to publish such information on their website or the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission’s site.
Mr Simpson says the Queensland branch of the ETU (the ETUQ) doesn’t own a website so it published the documents on a site it created for the purpose called www.opposethesefascistlaws.com.
Prosecutors argue the documents should have been put on the ETU’s website www.etu.org.au because that is effectively the state branch’s site also.
“They weren’t on that website because that’s the federal union website,” Mr Simpson told the court.
Defence barrister David Kent, for the ETUQ, also argues the inspector didn’t follow proper processes when requesting the documents be produced.
Crown prosecutor Chris Murdoch disputed that claim and added that if the ETUQ was acquitted it would undermine the laws’ main aim of creating transparency.
“It would have the effect that an organisation could set up any website it wanted to, call it anything it wanted to, put anything it wanted to on that website but provided that on some part or some aspect of the website it happened to also put up these documents,” he said.
Before hearing the case, Labor-appointed Magistrate Bernadette Callaghan, who is also a former union official, asked both sides whether they had any objection to her hearing the case.
Before the trial, dozens of placard-carrying union members protested outside the court, some wearing black pieces of cloth over their mouths as gags.
The gags were a reference to union claims the charges, and the laws that allow them, are an attempt to silence them.
Magistrate Callaghan reserved her decision.