Fairfax "investigative journalist" Kate McClymont won a Walkley Award for a story on the HSU and Craig Thomson; Peter Wicks shows why it wasn't worth a cracker.
MOST OF US believe everyone deserves a fair trial. Everyone has the chance to have their day in court, so the saying goes.
We have heard all the arguments against trial by media, an argument I once wrote about at The Hoopla — comparing Craig Thomson's woes with Lindy Chamberlains.
We are also supposed to believe in unbiased reporting in the mainstream media. However, somewhere along the way that seems to have gone a bit AWOL.
I'm not talking about shock jocks like Ray Hadley, and Paul Murray, or opinion writers like Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt and Piers Ackerman, we all expect them to be big on mock outrage and light on fact. I am talking about news journalists and investigative journalists.
Now, I would have thought that an unbiased journalist would want to see somebody in the public eye have the best defence possible in a trial that may as well be held at a stadium for the public interest it will carry.
That is why it is so intriguing to see Fairfax journalist Kate McClymont come out on the attack for attempts to obtain a decent defence for Craig Thomson.
Fairfax journalist Kate McClymont seems to have taken on the Kathy Jackson role of Thomson attacker over the last week or so. Kathy still needs a mouthpiece since she has either taken off overseas for her lavish wedding to FWA (now FWC) Vice President Michael Lawler, or has wisely decided to keep a low profile while under police investigation — something McClymont has noticeably chosen not to report.
McClymont's public attacks on Thomson, and the attempts by others to help him raise funds for an adequate defence, do not portray her in a neutral light. To the casual observer, it seems like she is out to get Thomson; to the curious onlooker, it may even make them wonder why she has stuck her neck out so far.
I don't recall McClymont making any public comments about the assistance offered to James Ashby for his legal woes, or the assistance given to Kathy Jackson by lawyers who are also members of Liberal Party think tanks; apparently it is alright for them to seek outside assistance.
McClymont herself came out in defence of union thug and factional bully Marco Bolano during his failed election campaign against Diana Asmar.
McClymont told the story of Bolano's girlfriend, who was sick of all the horrible things people were saying about her boyfriend. It was a desperate plea for public sympathy from the woman seen in video's standing next to Bolano as he involved himself in brawls at union meetings, even whilst she was pregnant.
Since the story of the fund that has been set up to assist Thomson with his legal defence broke on Independent Australia and Wixxyleaks, Kate McClymont has been on the warpath in a desperate bid to stop the public donating.
The Thomson Defence Fund site was set up by two men who thought Thomson deserved a decent defence.
Below is a link to a video posted on Fairfax's competitor's site, the Daily Telegraph, that shows McClymont attacking the fund and its creators.
Kate seems to think it's funny that a Labor Party supporter would set this fund up; did she really think it would come from a Liberal? Kate also seemed to find it amusing that the account was set up in Bathurst — for what reason; I don't know; I've been there and didn't find anything odd about the place.
One of the account holders, Mark Worthington, is the former Labor candidate for the Federal seat of Calare, McClymont tells us in an arrogant smug tone.
McClymont needn't have been so smug, it turns out she was completely wrong.
Back in the 70's Worthington stood for the State seat of Bathurst, and has never stood for a Federal seat.
Appearing on Sydney radio station 2UE, McClymont was adamant that those who wish to support Thomson in his bid for an adequate defence should not have that opportunity.
Instead, McClymont suggested that Thomson's defence should be covered by the taxpayer under Legal Aid. That would create the ironic situation of those in the media and the Opposition actually funding Thomson's defence.
However, although McClymont may have been keen on Thomson using the taxpayer funded Legal Aid scheme, as most people would realise, someone on the salary of a Federal MP would not qualify for free legal support. McClymont seems to be so clouded in her judgement of Thomson that little things like facts, such as Legal Aid regulations, are of little consequence.
However, these are not the only times McClymont has been wrong about matters involved in the HSU investigation.
After the vast majority of civil claims against Thomson by the Fair Work Commission, formerly FWA, were postponed in court, McClymont went on the attack on social media regarding an article published on Independent Australia, accusing us of claiming the case had been "thrown out".
Once again, this was completely incorrect, as that claim was never made, however McClymont was reluctant to apologise for her error even after it was pointed out to her.
To her credit, though, McClymont won a Walkley Award for her article on the HSU case titled "Thomson: New Credit Card Claims".
Given that being the article for which McClymont received the Walkley, one would expect it to be of the highest journalistic standard and, at the very least, the most accurate of her many articles on the subject.
The article uses Craig Thomson’s name in the headline, although he hardly rates a mention after that point, with the piece being based around HSU printing supplier Communigraphix and Michael Williamson.
The article centred around a "Herald Investigation" into rumours of credit cards from Communigraphix being used to provide "secret commissions".
THE Labor MP Craig Thomson and the union leader Michael Williamson, who is on the ALP national executive, allegedly received secret commissions from a major supplier to their union.
The two men, both senior figures in the Health Services Union at the time, were provided with American Express cards by John Gilleland, who runs a graphic design business, a Herald investigation has found.
McClymont offered absolutely no evidence to back her allegations of "secret commissions", so I thought this was worth looking into.
I attempted to contact McClymont last week regarding any evidence she may have on this and other aspects of the article regarding Communigraphix, but have not yet to receive any response.
It turns out that Communigraphix had actually supplied invoices to the HSU for these American Express Cards; some of the invoices can be seen via the link below, or viewed on Wixxyleaks' Jacksonville resource page.
So, given all charges on these cards were invoiced, then that makes them neither secret, nor a commission according to NSW's Crimes (Secret Commissions) Amendment Act 1987. In fact all expenditure on these cards was being paid by the HSU and would have been reported as expenses to the Australian Taxation Office.
I hope Fairfax has paid their defamation insurance premium, because accusing people of paying secret commissions based on what seems to be a sloppy investigation and a questionable source could be seen by the courts as quite damaging.
So who was the source? McClymont tells it like this in her article:
At a HSU function this year Mr Gilleland's wife, Carron, privately complained to senior union officials that Mr Williamson had ''run amok'' with the credit card.
According to one official, Mrs Gilleland said, ''He even paid his private school fees on it'' and ''this was not part of the deal''.
In fact, the conversation as reported by McClymont allegedly never took place. There was a conversation, it seems, and it was indeed in private, but it was not as reported in McClymont's piece.
The conversation was allegedly between the Gillelands and Jeff and Kathy Jackson, whom at the time were close friends. It was in a hotel room, at the end of a very long night, after a HSU function.
The conversation was based around the Gillelands seeking advice from the Jackson's as Union officials.
So the officials quoted in the McClymont piece must, it seems, be Kathy and Jeff Jackson, given they were the only Union officials allegedly involved in the conversation and the only other people in the room.
The conversation, could not have taken place in 2011 as reported in the article, however, as the Gilleland's say they did not attend any Union functions at all in 2011. Instead, they date the conversation as taking place in the evening of 9 March 1999, after dinner at the HSU Annual Convention at the Novatel in Brighton-Le-Sands. Twelve years earlier — in the previous millennium.
McClymont's claim that Mrs Gilleland complained about private school fees being charged on the card is another example of the errors in the article. Williamson's children did not attend a private school until the year 2000, so it would be a bit strange to be paying for a school that his children don't attend. Besides, the cards in question were cancelled by the Gillelands in March 1999.
It's worth noting here that McClymont decided not to report on Kathy Jackson's child care being paid for by the union. Jackson had, of course, denied this in many interviews — until the payment details were published by Independent Australia.
In her Walkley Award winning article, McClymont states:
According to the HSU's accounts for 2009-10, Mr Gilleland, 64, and Mrs Gilleland, 51, receive about $680,000 a year to produce 10 issues of the union's newsletter, Health Standard.
These production figures were up to 10 times the amount other unions paid for similar things, industry sources said.
The couple's company, Communigraphix, produces the newsletter from an office in their two-storey house at Palm Beach.
The "newsletter" McClymont refers to is actually a full gloss magazine that was, on average, 48 pages in length. It had a print run of approximately 60,000 and was mailed to over 53,000 members. Even if the 10 issues quoted was correct (it was actually 11 issues), using McClymont's incorrect number, that would mean $6,800 per issue for 60,000 copies of a 48 page glossy magazine.
Even without the cost of mailing it to 53,000 separate addresses, that figure seems highly unlikely. I struggle with the idea that any printing firm could produce what Communigraphix did for $6,800 as McClymont claimed her "industry sources" told her.
Who was her source for this comment, Merlin the Magician? In fact, $680,000 was the figure quoted in the Temby Report as the amount Communigraphix earned in total — this also included other work.
McClymont's Walkley Award winning article about Communigraphix appears to be full of mistakes, such as non-existent school fee's; full of ridiculous claims, like her "industry source" pricing; as well as false claims, like those about "secret commissions".
McClymont has repeatedly made these claims against the Communigraphix owners and has mentioned them in many of her articles. It should be noted that the NSW Police have had the documentation regarding this for over a year and have not felt any need to lay charges — but that hasn't stopped McClymont repeatedly smearing them in Fairfax media.
So, if one of Australia's leading investigative journalists could get things so wrong, it begs the question: "how could this happen?"
The thing that jumps out at me is the witness or witnesses she seems to take the word of without any evidence to back it up.
Kathy Jackson, as we all know, is currently under police investigation for serious allegations of fraud and the theft of union funds — something else McClymont has chosen not to report on.
Jeff Jackson, meanwhile, has decided not to contest FWC charges, including fraud, and is appearing in court soon to have his fines handed to him; details are on the below link to a FWA Media Release, and FWA Investigation.
FWA media release: HSU 19 Sep 2012
FWA investigation in Vic No.1 Branch - Final Report - March 2012
These include visits to brothels on a Union credit card, as I have reported in previous articles and posted the evidence that supports it. You may also remember, Kathy Jackson saying there had never been any previous cases of a Union card being used at brothels prior to the allegations against Thomson.
This was clearly a lie, as her ex-husband has not contested these charges.
Jeff Jackson Credit Card Details
Jeff Jackson Card Summary
Jeff Jackson's "running amok" on a Union credit card, including brothel visits, is yet another aspect of the case McClymont has chosen to ignore.
In a case as complicated as this one, I feel it is vitally important to have the documentation to back up your case, rather than relying on the word of questionable witnesses who, as in the case above, have clearly lied repeatedly. This is why I created a page on my site that has all of the documentation to back my articles. In contrast, the evidence Fairfax used – of the questionable "Thompson with a P" credit card slips – has actually been removed from Fairfax's websites, presumably in shame.
As I mentioned earlier, I have tried to contact Kate McClymont regarding issues raised in this article, but as at time of publication have not received a response.
If McClymont's award-winning article could be this wrong, I also wonder about the accuracy of her other articles on the subject.
My hope is that the McClymont article is just down to poor investigation, and a bad choice of witness, rather than some kind of personal vendetta or vested interest.
Given McClymont's current behaviour concerning Craig Thomson, many are not so sure.
(Read Kate McClymont's self-righteous speech about investigative journalism at last week's MEAA Press Freedom Dinner here. Get up-to-date on IA's full Jacksonville investigation by clicking here.)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License