Chief Commissioner orders discovery of information relating to union election
The Chief Commissioner has ordered the discovery of documents relating to a union’s officeholder elections, after a member alleged that there were irregularities in the conduct of the election.
The applicant is a member of the Australian Nursing Federation, Industrial Union of Workers Perth. The applicant, who was an unsuccessful candidate for the position of Secretary, complained there were election conduct irregularities. An application was brought against the Union as the first respondent, the Returning Officer, Western Australian Electoral Commission as the second respondent, and the Registrar, Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission as the third respondent.
The applicant contended that there was insufficient time for members to return their ballots by the election closing date, especially those living in regional or remote areas. The applicant contended that there were discrepancies between the roll of voters for the election and the first respondent’s membership records. The applicant contended that this materially affected the outcome by preventing or hindering the full and free recording of votes and the correct ascertainment or declaration of the results of the election. The applicant contended the requested documents were too broad.
The first respondent objected to the discovery of the roll of electors and the register of its members, as this would prejudice the privacy and security of confidential information in the records. The first respondent contended that no orders should be made for discovery and inspection, until further particulars were furnished by the applicant in relation to various aspects of her application. The first respondent opposed the contentions of the applicant in relation to the conduct of the election.
The third respondent contended that her status should be changed to that of an intervener, and that the Registrar’s role under the Act was to facilitate, rather than to conduct, the election, and it would not be appropriate for her to be a protagonist in the proceedings. The third respondent contended that the correspondence requested could bring into play other proceedings involving the first and third respondent.
The Chief Commissioner found that the centrality of the allegations involving the roll of electors and the member register, along with member names and addresses, meant that it was axiomatic that the discovery and inspection of the records was just, as a matter or equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case.
The Chief Commissioner found that the applicant could access the records and that access should not be limited to the applicant’s solicitors and counsel. The Chief Commissioner found that any potential insecurity of the documents being provided in electronic form were not a basis to refuse production of the documents.
The Chief Commissioner issued orders for discovery of documents, and ordered that the third respondent’s status be amended to that of an intervenor.
The decision can be read here.