Political Funds of Trade Unions: How Should They Be Regulated?

Electoral Regulation Research Network Seminar

Friday, 27 November 2015


  • Professor Keith Ewing, King’s College London
  • Associate Professor Joo-Cheong Tham, Melbourne Law School


  • Nicholas Reece, Public Policy Fellow, Centre for Public Policy, University of Melbourne

About the Seminar:

In Australia, the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption chaired by former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon has thrown the spotlight on the political funds of trade unions, in particular so-called ‘slush’ funds. In the United Kingdom, the Conservative Government has been criticized for introducing a Bill that would replace the ‘opt-out’ system in relation to trade union political levies with an ‘opt-in’ system. Developments in both countries pose the question: how should political funds of trade unions be regulated? In this seminar, Professor Keith Ewing spoke to this question, comparing the Australian and UK situations. Associate Professor Joo-Cheong Tham followed with a brief comment from an Australian perspective.

About the Speakers:

Keith Ewing is Professor of Public Law at King’s College London. Before this position he worked at the Universities of Edinburgh (1978–83) and Cambridge (1983–89) and has also held visiting positions at various institutions overseas, including the universities of Queensland and Sydney. He is the President of the Institute of Employment Rights (a trade union funded think tank), and Vice President of the International Centre of Trade Union Rights.

Joo-Cheong Tham is an Associate Professor at the Melbourne Law School. He specializes in the regulation of money in politics and is the author of Money and Politics: The Democracy We Can’t Afford; his research also focuses on the regulation of temporary migrant work.

Nicholas Reece is a Principal Fellow at the Melbourne School of Government at the University of Melbourne. Nick has considerable experience in both politics and policy making, having worked as a senior adviser to an Australian Prime Minister and two Victorian Premiers. He also served as Secretary of the ALP Victoria. Early in his career he worked as a solicitor acting for trade unions.

Joo-Cheong Tham, Nicholas Reece and Keith Ewing
Joo-Cheong Tham, Nicholas Reece and Keith Ewing