IA court reporter Umberto Ledfooti gives the most comprehensive account of the Craig Thomson trial, from both inside and outside the courtroom.
Read also Umberto’s accounts of:
THE FOURTH DAY of proceedings, Thursday last week, in the Craig Thomson matter before Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court began several minutes after Lesley Taylor, SC, for the Crown arrived in the building.
With a crisp “Good morning, Your Honour," Ms Taylor opened the day after the magistrate took the bench by announcing that firstly, HSU auditor Iaan Dick would be the first prosecution witness to be called; secondly, that a statement from Craig Thomson's former wife, Ms Crista Thomson, would be tendered by consent in both redacted and unredacted form – the former intended for anticipated media consumption if requested – and finally, that the Crown intended to call its last witnesses that day.
The prosecution also entered Exhibit 18 into evidence, which consisted of 34 witness statements. Also, defence counsel Greg James, QC, stated that he needed a day or two to review some of the statements and evidence.
The first witness
Iaan Dick, who held the HSU’s auditing account during the period at issue, testified he had been an accountant for 42 years, that he was experienced in auditing, and that he had performed this function for the HSU from 1999 until 2008. His audit processes included examining printouts from the MYOB system dealing with taxation issues and also dealing with irregularities in the accounts.
Mr Dick testified that it was he who performed the Craig Thomson exit audit in 2008 and that Kathy Jackson had assumed the responsibility for HSU transactions after Craig Thomson had resigned.
During his audit, Mr Dick testified that he had discovered a “thundering loss” during that year. When asked if he has seen the statements for Craig Thomson’s HSU Commonwealth Bank MasterCard, he testified that he may have seen them before, but he does not recall seeing them before the exit audit. The audit process was performed, he testified, over a period of two to three weeks — some of this time was spent waiting for the HSU to supply the documents he requested.
Greg James asked the witness that when he sought records, did he find some of them were missing. The witness replied that he didn’t know they were missing until the time of the exit audit.
Mr James then asked Iaan Dick if he spoke to Belinda Ord about the missing statements. He confirmed that he did, and then he later stated that HSU "whistleblower" Kathy Jackson also provided him with some statements.
Mr Dick testified that he recalls Craig Thomson’s CBA MasterCard statements were in that file, along with three others. When asked if he attempted to reconcile Diners Club credit card statements at issue to the records in MYOB, he replied "No".
Insofar as minutes of committees were concerned in relation to the HSU’s finances, Mr Dick’s evidence was that he was told not to take copies of the minutes — he was to review software copies only.
Mr Dick further testified that each quarter year, expenses were approved by the committee. If an item was omitted, the general practice he observed was that the committee would approve the expenditure in the meeting for the subsequent quarter.
Mr James (pictured right) asked if the witness remembered Dr Kelly. Mr Dick replied that he could not and he “could not put a face to the name.”
Dr Kelly, as readers may recall from Day One's report, was a member of the HSU’s Finance Committee during this time. However, Dr Kelly’s testimony in this matter shows that that she clearly remembered dealing with this witness at various times.
“When you did the exit audit in 2008, did you find a large number of documents were missing?” asked Mr James.
“Yeah,” replied Mr Dick, further adding later that the filing system used in the National Office was not very sophisticated.
At the time of the 2008 exit audit, Mr Dick stated not only documents were missing, but also the meeting minutes of committees. Even the software copies had vanished, he added.
Curiously, for an accountant of his level of experience, Mr Dick testified that he did not think it was necessary to ask for bank statements during his audits; his first port of call was the MYOB system.
The man at the door
Ms Taylor told the court that the next prosecution witness to be called was Kathy Jackson, the identity of whom this writer believes is well-known to most readers of Independent Australia.
Immediately prior to calling her, Ms Taylor stated that the witness had sought independent legal advice.
It should be noted that, earlier in the week, Ms Taylor preemptively stated to the court how two of the prosecution witnesses had sought independent legal counsel in case the witnesses objected to a question and wished to rely on Section 128 of the Evidence Act 2008 (Vic) – that is, privilege against self-incrimination – for not answering such. One of these witnesses was Jeff Jackson, who later waived that requirement before appearing; the other being Jeff's former wife, Kathy Jackson. It is left as an exercise to the reader to decide why someone touted in the mainstream media as a whistleblower would want to have counsel on standby to possibly invoke s128 protection in response to a question.
David Rofe, QC, then entered the courtroom.
As nearly all of the available seating space was occupied in anticipation of this witness, Mr Rofe entered the court and remained standing.
This prompted Magistrate Rozencwajg to ask:
“Ms Taylor, there’s a man at the door. Is he one of your witnesses?”
At this point, Greg James, QC – a former Royal Commissioner, a retired NSW Supreme Court judge, and now Craig Thomson’s barrister, with a lifetime’s knowledge and experience of Australian law and its characters – turned around, recognised Mr Rofe, and told the magistrate that he would take care of this. He invited Mr Rofe over to meet Ms Taylor, professional pleasantries were exchanged and Ms Taylor told the court that she was now ready to call her witness.
The star witness
“I call Katharine Jackson," said Ms Taylor.
After the witness was sworn in, the Crown then took Ms Jackson (pictured right) though the usual motions of identification this writer has seen often this week — full name, address, confirming the witness’ branch and position in the HSU, and the means by which the witness sat on the HSU’s National Executive.
Ms Jackson testified that the National Executive approved the salary package of Craig Thomson and that this package was linked to the NSW award. The witness testified verbally a list of elements of that package, which included a union-supplied vehicle, superannuation, mobile telephones for business and personal use, and a credit card.
Ms Jackson also testified that the HSU credit card policy was revised after Nurten Ungen’s voluntary resignation from the Union.
In response to a question about whether she was familiar with the Union’s rules, Ms Jackson testified that she was, although there were differences in the rules between the National Office and the various branches of the HSU. The witness added that the gist of the rules are that any union funds spent are done only for the benefit of the membership.
The magistrate then asked the witness if it would be correct to say that there was no procedural rule for the national secretary’s use of cash for such purposes without the prior authority of the National Executive, other than the $50,000 limit. Ms Jackson replied, yes, that was correct.
Ms Jackson testified that unions were required to meet their statutory obligations for Registered Organisations and that procedures within the HSU had now changed.
Ms Taylor asked what happened after Craig Thomson had left the union.
The witness stated that after a "brief hiatus", she effectively became the national secretary of the HSU in December 2007 and that an exit audit had been arranged for Mr Thomson. Her testimony was that an exit audit was customary and so Craig Thomson was not effectively being singled out.
Ms Jackson testified that a green folder containing Craig Thomson’s Commonwealth Bank MasterCard statements had been found. She further stated that she gave it to the auditor, Mr Dick, and the implications were unknown until later. She said she was asked to find other documents in the HSU's Latrobe Street office.
Although not expressly stated in the testimony of this witness, it appears to this writer that, from comments heard this week, the HSU National Office moved into different buildings approximately three times within 12 months; the first move appears to have been in December 2007, shortly after Craig Thomson won a seat in Federal Parliament.
The witness testified that this green folder contained a few Commonwealth Bank MasterCard statements. She further testified that very few receipts were attached to these statements and that “only about 18 month’s worth” of statements were held in that folder. Ms Jackson added that she raised this concern with Iaan Dick and that the "pattern of cash withdrawals" from this card didn’t really match up.
The magistrate asked Ms Jackson if receipts or memos were attached to these MasterCard statements. The witness testified they were memos.
Ms Jackson testified that while the documentation in Mr Thomson’s Diners Club card folder was well-kept, his MasterCard folder was not. The witness stated she then contacted the union’s barrister and attempted to obtain the missing statements from the bank. Ms Jackson testified that the bank records she requested from them were not arriving, only to later discover they were being sent to the HSU No. 4’s post office box.
Ms Jackson told the court that at the HSU National Executive meeting held in March 2008, which was also attended by Iaan Dick, the decision was taken to engage auditors BDO Kendal and lawyers Slater and Gordon.
In response to questions from the prosecution, Ms Jackson stated that yes, she had a union credit card and, no, there was no facility for cash withdrawals from it.
Ms Jackson testified that the cash withdrawn from the Union accounts by her was spent on Union functions — for example, barbeques at hospitals for members and Christmas parties.
Ms Taylor asked the witness what the authorization process was for the use of HSU cash. Ms Jackson replied that in her branch (No 3), a spreadsheet was filled out and a application form (copied from a Commonwealth cash advance / expenses document) was filled out.
The magistrate then asked Ms Jackson how she got cash; the witness replied this was done via a cheque which was cashed at a bank and that two signatures were required to validate a cheque.
Ms Taylor asked Ms Jackson if Craig Thomson had any authority to carry out Union functions after he left the HSU on December 14, 2007. The witness replied he did not, and steps were then taken to cut off his Union supplied phone and his credit cards.
With the prosecution having no further questions, Mr James then began the defence's cross examination.
The Split, the boy’s club, the cult, the green folder, and the blogosphere
Mr James, noting that Ms Jackson appeared unwell, opened his cross examination by stating that if she needed the court to take a brief pause, to let the court know.
Firstly, Mr James asked the witness about the HSU’s origins — its descendant unions. There was a discussion with the witness establishing, for example, that HSU No. 4 branch under Dr Kelly was originally descended from the Medical Scientists Association of Victoria, that the HSU No 1 branch (formally under Jeff Jackson) was descended from the Health Workers Union and so on.
And in New South Wales, of course, there was Michael Williamson.
Mr James suggested to Ms Jackson that Williamson had effective control of the Union, by virtue of the numbers of members in NSW. Ms Jackson agreed. Mr James also suggested that if you wanted to get anything done, you had to effectively have Williamson on-side. Ms Jackson agreed somewhat, further testifying that
“... it was a boy’s club at the HSU.”
Ms James reminded the witness about her earlier statements arising from the prosecution’s questions about why she felt unhappy about the HSU. The witness testified that, from the period of 2002 to 2007, she took time away from work as a Union official for maternity leave and to raise children because the workload made her feel like
“... a member of a cult."
The witness also testified that “the boy’s club” effect encouraged her to have limited communications with the Union during that time.
Ms Jackson testified that there were differences in how the rules were written and applied in different branches and in the National Office. They were “not uniform across the nation”, she said. When asked why this was so, Ms Jackson said that the union’s history needed to be discussed relating to what she called "The Split".
The magistrate said that the Labor Party split in 1954 and speculated if the witness intended to go back that far in history, at which point there was much hilarity throughout the courtroom.
Mr James asked the witness if she was referring to the DLP. The magistrate wondered if the DLP even existed any more, to which Mr James replied they have run candidates in recent elections.
After this aside, Ms Jackson clarified her statement, discussing how the ALP worked towards the creation of “super-unions” in the late 1980s and early 1990s, where several unions having members in a particular employment sector amalgamated into a larger body.
After that, "The Split" was not discussed any further.
Ms Jackson was asked about the national secretary’s travel, stating that it was reasonable to travel interstate to various branches if those branches invited you and if they were friendly towards you. The witness also stated that she didn’t travel interstate very often.
Mr James asked Ms Jackson to confirm that Craig Thomson’s salary package was linked to the NSW Industrial Award; the witness testified it was.
Then Ms Jackson said:
“You have a right as a union official to have a life."
Next, Mr James asked if Craig Thomson’s salary remuneration package based on a 40 hour week; the witness replied that the salary was the same if you worked 40 hours or 100 hours a week:
“It’s on full time.”
Ms Jackson further testified that if you came in to work during your leave, the day was credited back to you – at least in her branch – and agreed that days off and other “make ups” were often handled informally.
Mr James suggested to the witness that paying cash was a more convenient way to deal with some of the Union’s expenses and Ms Jackson agreed that is was — particularly if, for example, some union members called to official functions by Union officials were reimbursed by the official for their cab fares to the function; the official could ‘kick the tin’, so to speak. The witness agreed with Mr James that an official having what amounted to a cash float available was an efficient way to conduct the union’s business.
Kathy Jackson testified that she held three HSU credit cards — a Citibank MasterCard, a Diners Club card, and a Commonwealth Bank MasterCard.
Next, Mr James asked the witness is she recalled booking a family ski holiday using an HSU credit card. To this, the witness reacted angrily, denying the accusation, before shaking her pointed finger at Mr James, saying:
“You got that information from the blogosphere!”
Ms Jackson then testified that the HSU Victorian No.1, No.3, and No 5 branches held a conference one weekend at the Astra Alpine Lodge (pictured right) and whoever paid for this may have used the HSU Citibank MasterCard issued to Ms Jackson to pay for this.
When asked by Mr James about how much money the Union paid for this conference, the witness did not recall.
Mr James suggested it had cost the union $15,000; Ms Jackson again testified that she didn’t recall.
Ms Jackson was then asked by Mr James if the union had ever paid for a child care service for her children. The witness testified that the HSU had approved payments for this, adding that the Union felt it was less expensive to pay a child care service for Ms Jackson than to have her absent from work.
Greg James asked Kathy Jackson how many cheques she had made out for cash per year. Ms Jackson replied she had made out cheques for $100,000 per year for her branch and the National Office.
Regarding her requests for expenses made for cash, the witness said that, as far as she recalls, none of these were knocked back by the HSU’s Branch Committee of Management.
The matter of Craig Thomson’s Commonwealth Bank MasterCard statements was then pursued by Mr James. Ms Jackson testified that the few statements that could be found in the green lever-arch folder had very little attached documentation in the form of receipts or explanatory memos.
When asked how many statements had attachments, Ms Jackson said:
“Not more than five."
Mr James suggested it must have been more.
“At least ten?” he asked.
“Twenty?” asked Greg James.
“No, not twenty.”
Ms Jackson added there was an email she had received from Belinda Ord about the green folder and the missing documents that would jog her memory about the matter and she had this email available on her person. Ms Jackson then set about looking through some documents she retrieved from her handbag.
The magistrate decided to adjourn for lunch, allowing Ms Jackson time to locate the missing email needed to jog her memory.
So far, this writer has confined the commentary in these articles to what has been taking place in the courtroom while the magistrate has been present. However, this writer also observed some rather curious events which may interest readers.
Things seen and heard in passing (1)
Seen only: During the lunch break, where she was given the opportunity to jog her memory by reviewing Belinda Ord’s email to her, Kathy Jackson was surrounded by MSM journalists and her fan club in the public area outside Court 22.
Things seen and heard in passing (2)
Partly-overheard conversation seen between Marco Bolano (pictured right, with Kathy Jackson) and another male, laughing at Ms Jackson’s testimony that the HSU was a “boy’s only club” and how
“... the case against Thommo [is] going pretty well for us.”
Things seen and heard in passing (3)
Partly-overheard excited conversation seen between an alleged female MSM journalist to another alleged journalist (male), as both were walking together, past this writer, up William Street:
“… and this is a big win for us!”
We’ll come back to this one later.
After they returned, Kathy Jackson took the stand again and was immediately asked by Mr James if she had, during the lunch adjournment, discussed the Belinda Ord email with any other person.
The witness said she had not.
Mr James then asker the witness if she recalled Ms Ord’s words about the Commonwealth MasterCard file. Ms Jackson testified that Ms Ord was surprised that this MasterCard existed.
"She was surprised at the existence of the folder?"
The witness then said that Ms Ord told her that Craig Thomson had the rest of the records. Mr James then asked the witness if she passed these records on to Iaan Dick; Ms Jackson confirmed that she did and that she did not examine those records herself, but left that task up to the auditor.
With Mr James having no further questions for the witness, the magistrate dismissed Kathy Jackson as a witness at 2:20pm.
The magistrate stated that the court appeared to have spent a lot of time on this issue of missing documents and asked Mr James of the relevance. However, Ms Taylor quickly stated that the prosecution held no contention that Craig Thomson had ever willfully destroyed any of the missing documents. Mr James appeared to be satisfied with this position.
Ms Taylor announced that that she would then call her last witness, the informant, Detective Sergeant John Tyquin of the Victoria Police Fraud and Extortion Squad.
Regarding this witness, Ms Taylor said that his evidence would mostly be in the form of tendering exhibits – in the form of documents seized by the police – and also various witness statements. The prosecution, she said, had a large number of exhibits, but only part of these would be relied upon for the prosecution’s case.
Mr James replied that he was happy to let Ms Taylor lead (the witness through his testimony), to which Ms Taylor said, “I can’t!”. Mr James said he was generally happy to assist the proceedings to move quickly ahead in any way possible. Ms Taylor then requested a brief adjournment while the police brought their documents into the court.
The man hitches a ride
“Your Honour, have you finished with my friend?”
“Who is your friend?” replied the magistrate.
“Kathy Jackson, sir.”
“Yes, I’ve dismissed her," said the Magistrate, "she’s been excused.”
“You’ve dismissed her? Does that mean she can go home?”
The Magistrate said he made it clear she was excused and was free to go wherever she liked.
“Well, that’s good, because she’s got to drive me home.”
The magistrate then adjourned the court for a few minutes so the police could carry in their documents.
Things seen and heard in passing (4)
Overheard by every person present in the courtroom during the brief adjournment: the entirety of a mobile telephone call to Mr Rofe and his baritone-voiced caller, who was asking
“How did Kathy go?”
Things seen and heard in passing (5)
Kathy Jackson leading David Rofe QC out of the courtroom hand in hand, as the Murdochracy – busily swapping fictions in a corner – watched and snickered.
Ms Taylor called DS Tyquin, who then stood up, walked over to the witness stand, and swore his oath quickly and without any fuss.
DS Tyquin gave very little testimony as such — he was in the box, essentially, to swear the prosecution’s material into evidence and the magistrate would then assign a court exhibit number to the document or thing. It was observed that this magistrate assigned numbers to the prosecution exhibits and letters to the defence exhibits in this matter. The police have exhibit numbers of their own, for their own identification of documents.
And there were a lot of documents to be entered.
For example, court Exhibit 21 consisted of Police Exhibits numbered 120, 127, 158, 168, 179, 185, 189, 196, 204, 212, 219, 232, 239, 244, 250, 317, 321, 327, 345, 352, 363, 368, 376, 384, 390, 396, 405, 411, and 448, amongst others.
The court was not verbally told the contents of many of these documents.
Other documents and things tendered included:
- Exhibit 4 — a large box of documents seized by the police.
- Police exhibit 11 / prosecution exhibit 19 — Craig Thomson’s application for a credit card.
- A CD containing Microsoft Outlook raw calendar data — prosecution Exhibit 20, which the magistrate wanted time to review.
- Phone bills and call charge records. Examples were Exhibit 28 – phone records of brothels calling hotels in which Craig Thomson was staying – and Exhibit 29 – a record of incoming and outgoing calls from Craig Thomson’s mobile phone.
- Records of a transaction on Craig Thomson’s personal credit card in 2006 — Police exhibit 241 (this writer missed noting the prosecution’s number allocated by the magistrate for this one).
- A copy of the booking book from Club 121 from October 9, 2003 — prosecution Exhibit 42.
As the reader may imagine, there was a vast mountain of documents tendered that afternoon.
The magistrate wanted time – as did Mr James – to examine these documents, as requests by the media for access were anticipated. However, this writer does not recall that the magistrate granted the media any access to any of the witness statements or these documents entered that afternoon for that reason.
Mr James stated that even if he worked for the entire long weekend, it would not be enough time to review all of the documents, so he suggested that the magistrate allow some time next week to permit this.
The magistrate then adjourned proceedings until Tuesday January 28, where it is expected that submission may be made and some media applications may be decided upon.
Things seen and heard in passing (6)
As this writer was returning home, a number of reports purportedly about the events of the day appeared in the mainstream media. Some of these allegedly reported the witness statements from a handwriting expert, and so on.
This writer has no recollection of these prosecution witness statements ever being released to the media. Two other people present in the court all that day also have no recollection of them being released.
Of course, all three of us may have missed hearing the magistrate grant approval, but this writer isn’t so sure that we did.
Questions raised in passing for the reader to ponder
- If the magistrate didn’t authorize the release of the prosecution’s witness statements, then who did?
- Did the mainstream media quoting the witness statements mention that these statements mostly related to the 79 charges that were dismissed by the magistrate last year? If not, why not?
- What was being spoken about in the public area outside Courtroom 22 during lunch?
- Where exactly was shlock jock, Michael Smith, who said he was flying to Melbourne on Wednesday morning? Did he catch up with any of his former work colleagues from Port Melbourne police station, where DS Tyquin was also once stationed?
- What exactly was “… [the] big win for us!”?
- Did David Rofe, QC, enjoy his car ride home in luxury and comfort?
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