Newly leaked tax documents show yet more damning evidence of "whistleblower" Kathy Jackson's outrageous and exorbitant HSU spending sprees. Peter Wicks reports.
IF THERE IS a “tough guy” in Australian politics it is Craig Thomson.
Like him, love him, or loathe him, he just can't be knocked down.
Forget Tony Abbott, with his photo ops in bicycle gear and budgie smugglers — Abbott doesn’t have a fraction of the toughness and strength of character Thomson has.
Craig Thomson has put up with years of harassment and a pile of political smear so high that the mightiest of conquering mountaineers would struggle to scale. The Coalition have attempted to drive him to bankruptcy with legal proceedings, the media have hounded him and printed lies, and he has become a human punch-line — the butt of a million jokes.
All of this has been without a single conviction for any charge at all — be it a brothel or an ice-cream. The evidence backing up any of the charges against him is weak at best and endless subpoenas have failed to find any more. It seems odd that finding evidence against a man we have been told for years is so guilty has proven harder to find than the Holy Grail and a chicken tooth.
Still, Thomson has taken it on the chin, dusted himself off and kept on going.
Not only that, he could have waltzed off into the sun and found another job come September, but no — he has instead put his hand up to go through it all again, choosing to run as an Independent candidate. This shows a level of dedication to his electorate that is admirable and arguably unrivalled.
It is no wonder that the Coalition and its rich backers are trying every trick to defeat someone with this sort of resilience. We keep hearing reports saying that Thomson is as good as gone, but if actions speak louder than words, then this is just more lies from a desperate opposition, as mountains seem to be moving in attempts to defeat him.
You may remember that the case against Thomson is primarily based on the word of disgraced union turncoat Kathy Jackson, and the proven flawed investigation performed by her fiancée’s organisation, Fair Work Australia (now the Fair Work Commission).
You may also remember that the claims by Jackson, the Coalition, and the media had Thomson spending over half a million dollars of union funds fraudulently a couple of years back. Since then the dollar figure has plummeted to well under $30,000 — around 5 per cent of what it was initially, after the bulk of the wild initial claims were tossed out.
Since then, self-proclaimed “whistleblower” Kathy Jackson has herself come under quite a bit of scrutiny, as her intentions seem to become more dubious with each peek into her own past behaviour. The end result of this is that she is now under police investigation for allegations that could make claims against Thomson look like a primary school kid being accused of pinching milk money.
IA has been provided with documentation that shows further evidence of wild spending patterns by Kathy Jackson's branch of the union whilst she was its Secretary from figures provided by the HSU to the Australian Tax Office.
These statements show massive cash withdrawals; exorbitant spending on multiple credit cards, bar tabs and huge amounts spent on liquor; massive spending at Coles Express on who knows what; thousands of dollars in child care payments for Jackson’s children, despite her telling Chris Uhlmann on the ABC’s 7.30 that members never paid for her child care; an unexplained discretionary fund; restaurants; and some rather pricey camera equipment.
Below is a link to file that has images of random BAS expense reporting, as well as a spreadsheet showing the irregular expenses including credit card payments, cash withdrawals of close to $30,000 and child care payments for the Jackson children.
The links below detail the expenses in one quarter of 2005. I have included a breakdown summary of questionable transactions.
Bear in mind these make up just 3 months of Kathy Jacksons years controlling the union
These show in just 3 short months Jackson managed to rack up over $1800 at Coles Express, over $1000 in 24hrs in bar tabs and liquor store purchases, close to $28,000 in credit card repayments, more than $8,000 in cash withdrawals, and over $5,000 to a mystery fund.
All up close to $76,000 in very unusual expenditure — to say the least. All this in just a single quarter. That's $76,000 of union members money — some of the lowest paid workers in the country.
If I was a member of Jackson's union I would be calling for heads on a plate, but also rejoicing that her allegedly corrupt faction has been turfed out now and the union is now being run in a responsible manner.
It is also worth noting that most of the claims against Thomson are for expenses while he was travelling on Union business.
With that in mind, I find it disgraceful and shocking that the woman pointing the crooked finger at Thomson could spend over $22,000 of Health Services Union funds on skiing holidays in one quarter. That does not include what went onto credit cards on those trips either.
Speaking of credit cards, I also note that Jackson's personal credit cards wee being direct debited from a HSU account.
Is Jackson really going to claim that there was union business to be done at Mt Hotham and Falls Creek?
Still, the woman Tony Abbott described as a woman of great courage and worthy of admiration, must have got some great ski holiday pictures with her shiny new expensive camera.
Many have asked me how Kathy Jackson has gotten away with this without being locked up and how the Victorian Police have been slow in their investigation.
Jacksons fallback position has always been that all her expenditure was approved by the Branch Committee Of Management (BCOM). This is her way of passing the blame onto others for her erratic behaviour and exorbitant spending.
So, the BCOM is responsible for all.
The BCOM had given Jackson approval to use the members money for luxury ski holidays. The BCOM gave the go ahead for Jackson to pay a company she owned ‒ Neranto No. 10 ‒ vast consultancy fee’s . BCOM told her to send over $20 grand to her mate Wai Quen for legal services, despite Quen being in another country and not performing any service at all. BCOM gave her the nod to try to break world records for credit card expenditure. BCOM gave her the nod to pay her fiancée Michael Lawler's children in another state while everyone else was on Xmas break. BCOM also said everything was cool with her spending more on a Volvo than was invoiced and not questioning where the change went.
This is also the same BCOM who gave the blessing for immense wage rises for Kathy Jackson, Marco Bolano and others in the union, with Marco taking over $200K and Kathy over a quarter of a million.
This only scratches the surface of the BCOM endorsed union spending.
So who are the BCOM, why have they stayed quiet and what on earth would drive them to approve these expenses?
Below is a list of BCOM members, some of whose names you may recognise from cheque requisitions and payment approvals that can be found on the HSU/Jacksonville Resource Page. I have also included the branch president and vice presidents as well as the Union trustees.
|Ms Kathryn Whitfield||Branch President|
|Ms Kate Wilkinson||Senoir Vice President/National Council Delegate|
|Mr Robbie Matejin||Junior Vice President/National Council Delegate|
|Ms Kathy Jackson||Secretary|
|Mr Bryan Yeates||Assistant Secretary/National Council Delegate|
|Ms Olga Gountras||Trustee|
|Mr Reuben Dixon||Trustee|
|Mr Chris Hill||Committee Member|
|Mr Mark Hindson||Committee Member|
|Ms Lisa Magnusson||Committee Member|
|Ms Adriana Vespucci||Committee Member|
|Ms Kristine Olaris||Committee Member|
|Ms Jenny Dunlop||Committee Member|
|Mr Robert Bradley||National Council Delegate|
|Mr Andrew Hewat||National Council Delegate|
|Ms Lia Augoustakis||Committee Member|
|Ms Jennifer Croll||Committee Member|
All of the people listed above are people that should be talking with police or the Union and assisting with the return of misspent union funds.
I hope these individuals will do this out of either shame or out of a desire to see the right thing done by the members after all these years of them seemingly being robbed blind.
However, I suspect that those who come forward will be doing it out of self-protection. With Kathy Jackson laying the blame at these people's feet, all of them now seem increasingly likely to be facing civil damages claims as the Union seeks to see its members' funds returned.
Particularly worried should be Olga Gountras and Reuben Dixon who as trustees were the two people whom union members entrusted to make sure the union was being run in a responsible manner. I don’t see how they could have possibly failed to perform their duty in a more spectacular fashion.
When I asked the secretary for HSU Number 3 Branch, Craig McGregor, about the new information detailed here, he told me that “all legal avenues” would be explored in retrieving any Union funds used for personal purposes by previous members of the Union's administration.
If there is one thing I have become all too aware of in this investigation, it is this: these union members are not just tough like Craig Thomson, they are also patient — they know their day is coming.
The sooner the better, I reckon...
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