Kieran Moran

Royal commission into union finance kicks off

THE Abbott government's royal commission into union finance is officially under way, after letters patent were issued by the Governor-General this week.

Official terms of reference for the inquiry were released by Attorney-General Senator George Brandis and Employment Minister Senator Eric Abetz on Friday.

The commission will be led by former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon as Royal Commissioner, and will investigate the finances, governance and allegations of corruption inside several unions.

Among those in the sights of the government's inquiry include the CFMEU, Australian Workers Union, Health Services Union and the Transport Workers Union.

A statement from Senators Brandis and Abetz said the commission fulfilled the Coalition's election pledge to establish a judicial inquiry into the AWU slush fund scandal, which dogged former Prime Minister Julia Gillard's term.

"Workers and trade union members are entitled to know that the unions they belong to are using their money in pursuit of the objectives of the organisation," the statement reads.

"This Royal Commission is designed to get to the bottom of widespread and systemic problems ingrained across institutions."

The inquiry will also investigate any allegations made to it involving bribes, commissions or other unlawful payments made to and from union officials.

While it is expected to report to the government by the end of this year, the full term of the commission will be up to Commissioner Heydon.

The first hearing of the Royal Commission is scheduled on April 9.