The Jackson and Lawler HSU tangle: Part Two

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Peter Wicks reports on more murky events involving HSU union boss “whistleblower” Kathy Jackson, and the Vice President of the organisation charged with investigating her serious claims against Craig Thomson MP — her partner, Michael Lawler.

[Read Part One here.]

In what can be described as an “action packed” lead up to the long awaited speech to be given in Parliament on Monday by embattled MP Craig Thomson, today came confirmation of a “knockout blow”.

Some of you may have read my report on the tangled web surrounding the Health Services Union HSU, Fair Work Australia and the Coalition that was published here yesterday — now more information is coming to light.

The big news is that Michael Lawler, the Vice President of Fair Work Australia, has today been distanced from FWA affairs.

I contacted Fair Work Australia today after anonymous sources informed me that he had been stood down. Initially I spoke to Michael's PA, who informed me she knew nothing — only that he was not in the office all day.

But the rumours persisted and I made contact with the FWA to ask about their veracity. Late this afternoon I was contacted by FWA's Communications Manager, Judy Hughes, who informed me that in fact Michael was on what she called "Long Leave".

She would not expand on what this meant, citing "privacy reasons", however based on my earlier conversations with both her and Michael's PA, I was left with the impression that this decision was taken rather suddenly.

Reasons for his “Long Leave” are, as yet, unclear — however questions are being raised as to whether it is connected with the HSU investigation into which his partner, Kathy Jackson, was the Union “whistleblower”. Questions have been raised about Lawler’s relationship with Tony Abbott, and how this may have had an influence on any investigations taking place in FWA which involved Craig Thomson.

The Fair Work Australia investigations findings were also dealt a heavy blow yesterday when the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) found that almost all the Union funds used in Craig Thomson’s election campaign had indeed been appropriately disclosed, with a question mark remaining over $17,000. This appears to have taken the sting out of the tail of both the FWA Investigation and the Coalition’s calls for Thomson’s vote to be considered “tainted”.

A source, who cannot be named, has today leaked to us an email trail that was saved as a PDF document, allegedly by Kathy Jackson, from what appears to be a computer within Fair Work Australia. The document has the name “Jackson” in the documents properties, and in the same properties it also tells us that the license for the software comes from Fair Work Australia.

We cannot share the contents of this file with you, though we can say that it involves an angry exchange of emails between Michael Williamson, and several HSU Representatives.

It is not totally clear why Jackson was allegedly distributing the emails, however the date is noteworthy. According to the document properties it was created on the 6th of May — the day before the findings of the FWA investigation were released. If this Jackson is Kathy Jackson, as our source alleges, it raises not questions about why Jackson, as the HSU secretary, would have access to the computers of Fair Work Australia — let alone on the day before it announced its findings on the investigation into her union.

At this stage, these facts are not confirmed and we cannot, of course, vouch for the veracity or authenticity of the document we have been leaked. However, FWA should be in a position to confirm whether Jackson has access to FWA computers and, through its logs, whether they were accessed at the time listed in the document properties.

In a strange parallel, we noted in Wednesday’s piece that Michael Lawler somehow seemed to have access to Union official Carol Glen personal emails

From The Australian [February 2012, emphasis mine]:

Mr Lawler claims Ms Glen may have been given an inducement to give false evidence, noting that in a private email exchange with her partner in December, she had referred to a cheque she was going to pick up.

“I had ordered a bank cheque to pay my rent,” Ms Glen said, questioning how Mr Lawler had obtained her emails. She says she finds it extraordinary that Mr Lawler, the second highest industrial judge in the land, would engage in such a campaign.

Mr Lawler’s associate said it would be inappropriate for him to comment.

While we are on it, Craig Thomson has been painted by certain members of the mainstream press as something of a delusional man over the last few days, it’s fair to say. It is hard not to feel sorry for Craig’s family who must be having a hard time dealing with all the extra attention. I also spare a thought for Craig’s staff, who face the public daily in his electorate, as those seeking to make political capital try to act as judge, jury, and executioner.

Kathy Jackson has been touring the country telling anybody who will listen that Thomson’s conspiracy theories regarding fiddling credit cards, setting up people with prostitutes, and elaborate private expenses on a union credit card are all nonsense — absolutely unheard of ridiculous stories.

As it happens, however, there was remarkably similar story from a few years back, which also involves prostitutes, credit cards, and a HSU official being set up at the HSU:

From the The Weekend Australian - April 2009:

“The statement of a Bendigo Gold Visa card allegedly issued to Jackson shows expenditure on services that fall far outside his normal duties. It includes a string of prostitutes, designer clothes, dental work, gourmet food and drinks at a favourite Melbourne hotel. Jackson challenges the authenticity of this credit card account and dismisses allegations he has misused any funds as part of a "dirty tricks campaign" mounted by opponents within his union…”

Of course, Kathy Jackson may have not remembered this case, as it was a while ago. Except for one minor detail — the person apparently set up, Jeff Jackson, happens to be her ex-husband. You would have thought she might remember that when she scoffingly dismissed Thomson’s claims.

In the meantime, Kathy Jackson has been travelling around doing interviews, telling everybody that will listen how badly the HSU East branch had been run.

Kathy has spoken out about how her members are doing it tough, as members are mostly made up of low paid workers. Therefore, Kathy tells us, it is sad to hear of members’ funds being wasted.

I wonder if she has spared that any thought as she travels around giving interviews, not to help members, but to condemn Craig Thomson. I also wonder how much she pondered on members funds when she set her own salary at over $270,000 per annum, making her one of the highest earners within the trade union movement. Maybe it was a consideration when she decided that the Union should supply her with a new SUV to get around in.

Once again, these latest events cast a huge shadow of doubt over any investigation that has been done into the HSU. As this story gets even murkier and less clear-cut by the hour, we await Monday’s parliamentary speech by Craig Thomson with bated breath.

(This has also been published, in a slightly different form, on WIXXYLEAKS. Follow Peter Wicks on Twitter)

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