When will the new Malcolm Turnbull Government act Kathy Jackson's partner, the disgraced Tony Abbott appointed vice president of the Fair Work Commission, Michael Lawler. Peter Wicks comments.
I HAVE SPENT a lot of time looking at Kathy Jackson, her behavior and rapid accumulation of wealth, while the union she ran appeared to be bleeding funds at a rapid rate.
However, right from the very start of the Jacksonville series of articles, I have also emphasised the importance of one of the key players in this saga, who may not have received as much attention as Jackson, but who is, arguably, just as important.
That man is Michael Lawler.
While Michael Lawler is indeed Jackson’s partner — although whether he is her fiancé or a husband is presently unclear. However, it is what he has been a partner in that should be of greatest concern to the general public.
Jackson and Lawler have been rather bipolar when it comes to stating Lawler’s level of involvement in the Health Services Union affair. There have been times where they have claimed he has has had no involvement in the HSU, while at other times they have claimed that it was his efforts that initiated Operation Carnarvon to bring down Jackson’s former ally Michael Williamson. And, indeed, there have been other times where he has been right at the forefront of the battle, acting as Jackson’s legal representative in HSU matters.
His time acting as the legal representative of a union official, whilst at the same time being a member of the bench for the judicial arm of the Government's industrial relations watchdog, has raised many eyebrows within the legal fraternity and beyond. Also raising eyebrows is the fact that the person for whom he is acting is possibly the biggest union fraudster this country has ever seen. Making matters worse, he has been doing it whilst on months worth of fully paid “sick leave” from the extremely senior judicial role he occupies, for which he is paid approximately $435,000 per annum by the taxpayer.
Also scoffed at is the fact that Lawler used to sit on the bench and, apparently, made unbiased decisions on matters that came before him involving the union at which his partner was the national secretary. Indeed, many have alleged that the pair were in a sexual relationship during the time he oversaw health matters. Whether their alleged sexual liaison’s influenced judicial decisions handed down regarding HSU cases I subject to more speculation.
This kind of behavior by someone paid close to half a million dollars a year by the taxpayer to act in an unbiased arbiter and make independent decisions has seen many call for his dismissal. Lawler’s position as vice president of the Fair Work Commission is, as mentioned, a government appointed position, which means it is up to the government of the day to remove him. The fact that Lawler was appointed to his position by Tony Abbott when he was the workplace minister under John Howard has, no doubt, thrown a spanner in the works.
However, it is important to realise that Lawler is not just Abbott’s issue — he is the Coalition’s issue now. Whilst the cries for his removal have been increasing in volume and gracing the front pages of many issues of The Australian for a while now, it is not just Abbott deflecting and defending the indefensible, it is the entire Coalition, especially current Employment Minister Eric Abetz.
So what is it about Michael Lawler that makes him so important?
The HSU saga was kicked off in a large part by the infamous Fair Work Australia investigation. You may remember, this was the investigation that after dragging on for years made that claims that Craig Thomson had been spending union money on prostitutes. This eventually led to charges against Thomson regarding, amongst other things, alleged brothel visits. The resulting scandal almost toppled a government, however Thomson was later found not guilty on all charges relating to prostitutes.
Although it came close, the FWA investigation did not see the government fall. Had that actually happened however the man who appointed Michael Lawler would have become Prime Minister much sooner.
Michael Lawler of course was the Vice President of FWA during the investigation and working in the same office as the investigator and by coincidence the investigation scope somehow circumnavigated the branch where Lawler’s partner Jackson was Secretary, but only during the period when she was Secretary.
Some have referred to this as an attempted coup, some have called it corruption, and others brush it off as co-incidence. Whatever it was when an independent inquiry was made into the FWA investigation by KPMG, it was noted that Lawler was the only FWA staff member who refused to co-operate with the inquiry.
It is not just Michael Lawler who comes from a position of influence some of his family were impositions of influence also. His brother, John Lawler, was at the time of the FWA investigation CEO of the Australian Crime Commission. Before that his father, Sir Peter Lawler, had been Robert Menzies' advisor and was Australia’s first ambassador to the Vatican.
In relationship to the HSU, pay records show that two of Michael Lawler’s sons worked for Kathy’s Victorian branch of the union in their school holidays, despite being located in a different state.
Details of Michael Lawler’s involvement have emerged during my investigation into the HSU matter. There is evidence of documents being transferred between HSU and Fair Work Australia computers, something I find remarkable and alarming, there is evidence of an attempted breach of the HSU’s network by a computer bearing the name Michael Lawler. Right back at the start, we had reported the alleged intimidating phone call made by Michael Lawler to HSU official Carol Glen to try to stop her resigning from the HSU.
Lawler up until the recent mystery fire, was living with his partner Kathy Jackson in their multi-million dollar property on the South Coast of NSW. Lawler, we were told, through Jackson at the Royal Commission, was disgusted and thought it vile that the Williamsons were living in luxury and Michael was running a union. However, he apparently didn’t raise an eyebrow at any of the multi-million dollar properties owned by Jackson, which were more valuable than Williamsons. This is despite Kathy only working for the union in the past and despite her going through a divorce settlement.
In fact, Lawler was so disgusted that Kathy said he couldn’t stomach being at the Williamson's house when he went there for a party and felt compelled to leave. Below is a photo of him at that party; his disgust, anger and revulsion are clear for all to see.
Since then, of course, there has been all of the investigative work in The Australian by Pamela Williams and Brad Norington on the Lawler/Jackson relationship with David Rofe QC — a relationship that allegedly appears to have become very profitable indeed for Lawler and Jackson since Rofe was diagnosed with dementia. The whole history surrounding the Rofe estate has turned the stomach of virtually all who have read about it.
In fact, the partners currently live in a property across the road from their own which Lawler purchased on behalf of the dementia sufferer allegedly without his knowledge but using funds from his estate.
Lately, we have also heard about the cosy relationship that both Kathy Jackson and Michael Lawler have with the Royal Commission and its staff. A royal Commission that has nothing at all left in the integrity tank.
Now that we have a new prime minister in Malcolm Turnbull, we may see an end to the hopelessly tainted and utterly poisoned Royal Commission witch-hunt — one of the fateful barnacles Abbott just couldn’t bring himself to remove.
In fact, now Abbott has gone and his industrial Rrelations whipping boy Eric Abetz is out on a limb without a friend, he can trust that perhaps the position of Michael Lawler at FWC that Lawler rarely bothers to show up for can be re-addressed. If Turnbull wants to save some taxpayer dollars, that would be a great place to start.
Right from the outset, I have said that Lawler is the big fish in this whole tawdry saga.
Maybe it’s about time someone reeled him in.Peter Wicks is an ALP member and former NSW State Labor candidate. You can follow Peter on Twitter @madwixxy. Read more about the Jacksonville saga HERE. Donate to Peter's Jacksonville book writing fund HERE.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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