Tony Abbott at a Brisbane forum last year.
Tony Abbott at a Brisbane forum last year. Rae Wilson

Abbott orders Royal Comission on union links to crime

THE Abbott Government will launch a Royal Commission into links between union officials and criminals in the building industry, with a Cabinet meeting likely to approve the plans today.

As parliamentarians head to Canberra for the first sitting week of 2014, the Royal Commission is set to dominate Question Time throughout the week.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed the plan today, saying the Royal Commission would shine a light into the "dark corners" of national life.

But as fears of the growing cost of two existing Royal Commissions - one into institutional responses to child sexual abuse and the other into the previous government's home insulation scheme - it is understood the investigation will focus on financial aspects of union-crime links.

That focus will likely emphasise payments made between unions and questionable companies and slush funds, as well as previous revelations of fraud in the Health Services Union.

While the government has emphasised the need for the Royal Commission, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten this morning said a police taskforce would instead be more appropriate.

Mr Shorten acknowledged any criminal activity needed to be investigated, but Labor will remain opposed to the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission - legislation for which will come before parliament this week.

It comes as Fairfax Media this morning also reported new revelations of criminal links in the building union, CFMEU, including the potential involvement of a Queensland labour hire firm in kickbacks and possible bribery.

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