Four Corners of Jackson and Lawler — and the Abbott connection

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We'll see...

Has ABC Four Corners decided to risk its reputation by going into bat for the HSU rorter Kathy Jackson and her industrial judge partner Michael Lawler — and what is his tie to Tony Abbott? Peter Wicks sheds more light.

WE HAVE COME A LONG WAY in the Jacksonville saga. 

Kathy Jackson, the so-called “whistleblower” is now no longer considered the heroine she once was just a few years ago. Michael Lawler, her partner, is no longer seen as a man worthy of honour, as he was in the days before he hooked up with Jackson.

It may have taken a few years, but finally the reputation of the couple has turned from noble to decidedly dodgy in the eyes of the vast majority.

The mainstream media have done a sharp U-turn; the Royal Commission have endured a crash course and cast the pair aside; the Victoria Police and the AFP have woken up and are back on the case; the Federal Court has ordered Jackson repay the $1.4 million she has spent living the high life; the union movement, that once employed her, now see her as some sort of leper; and even the Liberal Party has crawled away, albeit slowly.

With everyone finally coming to their senses, it defies credulity that Four Corners would find itself in the Jacksonville corner however, according to The Australian’s Brad Norington, who has been one of the leading reporters on the case, that is precisely where they appear to have placed themselves:

'The decision of Ms Jackson ... to co-operate with the ABC’s flagship investigative program appears to be a change of heart in her media dealings, and suggests she and Mr Lawler might hope for a sympa­thetic airing.'

I guess we will have to wait till next week to see. One thing we can see from the promo, however, is that Michael Lawler is looking well for someone who has been on sick leave for nine months on full pay at taxpayers' expense.

If Four Corners do come out in Jackson and Lawler’s defence, despite the overwhelming evidence against them, I doubt it will change any minds but it may just point to an issue within the ABC. It may indicate the possibility of strings being pulled by a desperate Government in a last ditch attempt to save the reputations of some of its members. Perhaps pressure being brought to bear by some rightwing members of the ABC Board?

Almost a month ago, I published an article that strongly suggested that Malcolm Turnbull would be wise to distance his Party from Michael Lawler and Kathy Jackson as those ties would only end up acting as an anchor around his ankles.

Perhaps the message sank in, because over the last few days we have seen a bit more regarding the Coalition's relationship with, in particular, the Lawler family. However, what we have learnt from what has been reported may not be quite what we were intended to pick upon.

Firstly, we had new Employment Minister Michaela Cash announce that an independent investigator had been appointed to look into Michael Lawler as the public need to have

“... confidence in Fair Work Commission."

Presumably, that means she thinks we don’t have it now.

Malcolm Turnbull has acknowledged that a decision to remove Lawler must come from Parliament, choosing to support the view of the FWC President, the Australian Bar Association and contradicting Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz’s misleading statements on the matter both inside and outside of Parliament.

Speaking of Abetz, his successor Michaela Cash has told press that the decision to appoint an independent investigator came from Abetz.

On this claim, I have my doubts.

Abetz has been under fire consistently for months now over both Jackson and Lawler in particular. If he was appointing an investigator I would imagine he would have announced it himself whilst under fire rather than let it come from his successors mouth.

Leaving aside the bizarre notion that someone appointed by a Liberal Minister would be truly “independent”, Abetz’s name being raised arouses my suspicions.

I suspect that, given the level of support Abetz has given both Jackson and Lawler and the numerous phone calls that telephone records show Jackson made to his office, great efforts are being made to try to cover his level of involvement, which I also suspect may be far greater than many of us suspect.

Also linked with Abetz in this regard is, I would imagine, George Brandis, as the pair have been involved heavily with events surrounding Jackson and Lawler. In particular with the Trade Union Royal Commission — which evidence has shown had a very cosy relationship with the pair now being investigated by Victorian and Federal Police.

I strongly suspect the “independent” investigator is more likely to be a “fact fudging” than a “fact finding” exercise — otherwise known as a" whitewash".

Yesterday came the news that Tony Abbott had invited Michael Lawler’s parents to an event to meet the Queen in 2011 — an event Jackson and Lawler also attended.

There have been those who have been critical of Pamela Williams' article, claiming that as Sir Peter Lawler has received a knighthood, he deserved to attend the function. While this is a fair enough point, it misses the real question. Was there nobody related to Abbott’s then shadow ministry portfolio or from his electorate that would have liked to attend rather than Sir Peter — someone unrelated to his parliamentary interests and hundreds of miles from his electorate?

I have claimed right from the start of the Jacksonville series – all the way back in May 2012 – that there was a family friendship between Abbott and the Lawler’s and Williams' article provides more evidence for that.

Williams', for instance, provides the following background in her article:

Sir Peter and Lady Lawler have known Mr Abbott since his younger days, through the Catholic church, where Sir Peter has been a senior figure. Sir Peter was at one time a deputy secretary to the ­Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and was ambassador to Ireland and the Holy See in the early 1980s. He was knighted in 1981 and in 1986 received a papal honour.

In 2008, he campaigned for a fulltime Australian envoy to the Vatican.

Sir Peter was appointed in 2008 as a patron of the pro-life Australian Family Association founded by the late B. A. Santamaria, the staunch Catholic, anti-Communist who founded the conservative National Civic Council and was ­instrumental in the Australian Labor Party split in 1955 that gave rise to the DLP.

Santamaria was a close mentor to the young Tony Abbott, who this year described him as having been for some years ­“almost a ­father” to him.

Given the links between Abbott and the Lawlers, there is in my view a question mark over the initiation of the entire original Fair Work Australia investigation — the one used to damn Thomson, but which was later slammed in an independent inquiry by consulting firm KPMG.

Given the Fair Work investigation was used to attempt to overthrow the then Labor Government amidst a hung parliament by removing then Labor MP Craig Thomson, who was subsequently found not guilty of virtually all the charges, having run out of funds to continue with any further appeals. The fatally flawed Fair Work investigation was also one of the major factors in Abbott’s decision to initiate the Royal Commission into Trade Unions — an obvious (and now discredited) political witchhunt designed as a means to damage the reputation of Abbott's rivals, with the taxpayer picking up the tab.

With the Federal Police now investigating and, I understand, asking questions relating to several politicians, one wonders where all this will lead.

Those amongst the Liberals who accuse Malcolm Turnbull of leaking the story regarding Abbott and the Lawler family may just be right.

Could it be that Turnbull has an idea of what is to come and thinks he can save Abetz and Brandis but Abbott is beyond redemption? So given Abbott likely won't be in parliament next term, is the most useful role he can now play for the party is to be its latest fall guy?

No matter what the motivations in the Coalition camp, there are two things that we know for sure. Firstly, there is a major criminal investigation into the matter underway and, secondly, something has seriously spooked the Liberal Party.

I’m looking forward to finding out what that is.

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.

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