With the Union Royal Commission preventing cross-examination, Jackson and Bolano faction candidates and cronies were allowed to smear the rival HSU faction with impunity in advance of a Union election, writes Peter Wicks from Wixxyleaks.
ANYONE WHO HAS EVER SAT for a few hours to watch paint dry will know the excitement that was yesterday’s Union Royal Commission hearings into Branch 1 of the Health Services Union — nevertheless there are some interesting issues arising from proceedings.
After an initial delay, which was clearly down to legal issues, the day’s proceedings started with the lawyer representing the current Branch Secretary and General Manager, Diana Asmar and Kimberley Kitching respectively, Remy Van de Wiel QC seeking to stop proceedings.
Van de Wiel’s attempts to halt proceedings were the most interesting part of the day and raised an important issue.
Due to the Royal Commission's practice directions on the HSU, which are different to the practice directions the Commission is using into matters involving other unions, the witnesses that appeared yesterday are not able to be cross-examined until weeks later. This means that these witnesses can hop on the witness stand and make all kinds of allegations without them being challenged at all.
Van de Wiel sought to be able to cross-examine the witnesses that appeared, but as is turning out to be a habit with the Jackson faction, they all turned up to appear before a Royal Commission with no legal representation.
Some will say:
However, given that this is a battle between two rival factions and a Union election will have commenced before cross-examination can commence, meaning members will only one side of this story before voting, I’d say it’s a pretty big issue.
Van de Wiel (pictured right) put it like this to the Commissioner:
This is not an inquiry, I believe, in relation to matters of improper use of funds, destruction of workers’ rights, the actions of people that are involved in a help yourself union, if you like.
This is an inquiry you are conducting in terms of considerable matters of corruption and abuse of power.
Van de Wiel seems to be just short of calling the Royal Commission part of a corrupt process, as the act of delaying cross-examination would almost appear to be an attempt to rig an election.
Most in the media room were also amused at Van de Wiel referring to the union under Bolano and Jeff Jacksons control as a
"... help yourself union."
I cannot understand why there is the need for the different practice directions for the HSU hearings; it is more expensive, causes witnesses greater inconvenience and put the integrity of the Commission itself into question.
After the Commission dismissed the objections of Van de Wiel, seven witnesses appeared before the Commission; their statements can be viewed on my resource page, except Flynn's which is as yet unavailable in electronic format.
Those witnesses and their positions were:
- Leonie Elizabeth Flynn (assistant branch secretary and treasurer, Victoria No. 1 Branch, pictured right)
- Robert John McCubbin (former lead organiser, Victoria No. 1 Branch)
- Pik ki (Peggy) Lee (former industrial officer, Victoria No. 1 Branch)
- Robert Phillip Morrey (former member of the Branch Committee of Management, Victoria No. 1 Branch)
- Barbara Denise Gregor (former member of the Branch Committee of Management, Victoria No. 1 Branch)
- Jayne Faye Govan (former organiser, Victoria No. 1 Branch)
- Patrick O’Brien (member of the Branch Committee of Management, Victoria No. 1 Branch)
From here on, in it turned into Groundhog Day.
All of the witnesses told slightly differing versions of the same story — and we listened to them again, and again, and again, and again…
By the time lunch came around, many of the media had left and those that stayed were mostly finalising their stories, rather than listening to another repeat of the same old story.
So what was the story that bore repeating so many times?
The allegations that we heard over and over again were that the right of entry tests for several union organisers were completed by either Kimberly Kitching or Pik ki Lee — something that has been denied in the past by Kitching and Asmar and is a matter now before the Fair Work Commission.
I do not want to understate the seriousness of this matter, as it does breach the law if true. However, given the allegations surrounding the faction making these claims – a faction that faces allegations of misuse of members funds amounting to well over a $1 million, the cheating on a test taking up a whole day of a very expensive Royal Commission appeared to me to be not the best bang for taxpayers' bucks.
Luckily, the witnesses had more shocking claims to go with the cheating on a few tests.
In what will no doubt come as a shock to all, those on the opposing ticket to Asmar did not receive the royal treatment from the Asmar team when they became the few members of a rival faction in the Union management.
In allegations that were nothing short of appalling and deeply disturbing and will no doubt send shockwaves through the union movement, witness after witness told of being interrupted during meetings.
I don’t mean to belittle workplace bullying, but bear this in mind: this is a trade union we are talking about; these are people are employed in an organisation that is supposed to fight for people's rights and stand up to standover tactics from rogue employers.
So, if these people can’t deal with being interrupted or spoken over in a meeting, may I be so bold as to suggest a career in a different industry may be more appropriate?
One thing I did notice with the testimony of many of the witnesses in regards to the right of entry tests, is that they seemed happy to sign false declarations to say they sat the tests themselves and now claim they lied about. Some would go so far as to say they have admitted to committing fraud. However, even though they were apparently lying before, they are telling the truth now so we should accept what they say as gospel.
Makes perfect sense.
To support these allegations, they offer no evidence other than whispers in corridors that nobody else has heard, or emails that seem to have gone missing somewhere. Perhaps another highly selective flood? An online flood, maybe?
Despite the lack of any evidence, we are now expected to believe these members of Marco Bolano’s factional team who have already testified that they have signed false declarations. Self-confessed liars whom we are now supposed to believe have come good?
Why did they not refuse to go along with the fraud at the time and take their claims to the police — like any decent law-abiding citizen would have done? Why did wait until now, just before a Union election.
My opinion is that the words “reliable witnesses” do not go together in this case at all, based on their own testimony.
These matters are already before the Fair Work Commission and that is where they should have stayed.
My hope for today is for something of importance, rather than factional electioneering spin will be discussed.
You can watch TURC online here. Follow Peter Wicks on Twitter @madwixxy. Watch Peter speak to Scott Clarke about TURC and Kathy Jackson below on Youtube , or download the podcast of this interview here.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License