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HSU corpse fouls Julia's nest


The HSU corpse is stinking out not only its own but the house of any union, and the hung parliament's as well. No, it isn't Julia's fault.

Most of the media bazookas are trained on her for refusing to condemn Craig Thomson, the unfortunately non-photogenic backbench Labor MP who was an HSU office-holder until he entered federal parliament in 2007, and was only later accused of misusing HSU credit cards for tawdry personal purposes.

His warm seat is also toasting the shapely behind of the Gillard Government, which is one parliamentary vote ahead of political oblivion, which Abbott claims is the PM's motive for distancing itself from the allegations and the Fair Work Australia investigation of those and other alleged irregularities, under the Fair Work Act.

But of course, Thomson's status as 'innocent until proven guilty' is also a critical element of the rule of law in this country whatever the Coalition might say, and Gillard is a lawyer, and she's right.

Abbott's, Murdoch's and Fairfax's other rocket launchers are also fixed on the HSU's national president, NSW-based Michael Williamson, but also on the 'whistleblower', Victorian-based Kathy Jackson.

Jackson's call for a clean-out of the executive of the HSU, after the non-event of the report on three-years-long review of the HSU by Fair Work Australia, which none but the DPP has seen, will not have any purifying effect. What might happen after former anti-corruption chief Ian Temby's report is complete in a few days, and the FWA recommendations are revealed, cannot possibly be the root and branch renewal that Jackson says she seeks.

Nobody's proved a thing, and nobody has been charged, and so it will remain. The HSU will struggle on, to the edification of none.

President Williamson might well be urged by his executive (or most of them) to resign as both national president and head of the HSU East branch, but he can't be forced to. He has only been accused of embezzling union funds and stood down on pay since last September. Whatever Temby might find, he can't be dismissed.

A member of the HSU national executive can be removed only if they are found guilty of misappropriation of union funds, gross misbehaviour or gross neglect following an investigation by the union's ombudsman. That hasn't happened and won't unless NSW Police — not even Ian Temby QC, a private citizen now, who is conducting an audit of the HSU East branch — provides 'authoritative' evidence of gross misconduct.

Thomson denies that he did anything wrong in his time with the union. He can't be forced out of parliament unless he is convicted of a felony. NSW police said last year they weren't interested in investigating it.

Jackson doesn't have 'the numbers' to get an advantage from a spill, since most of the recently-merged mega HSU membership is in NSW and those members are thought to harbour antipathy to Jackson. Proving that dirt sticks, she too has been 'accused' (by whispers and rumours) of funny dealings with union funds and resources, though on a very different and trivial scale from the men involved.

Even if she gets her wish and the HSU national executive is spilled, it won't be democratically elected, but elected by a council whose membership is determined by the number of branches — who won't be affected by any 'spill' and whose voting tendencies would presumably fall along factional allegiances if not personality politics.

As business journalist Leon Gettler pointed out on Tuesday (on Facebook) union members therefore have the privilege of providing their fees without having any say in how the union is run.

Nobody will ever know whether union men have really done bad things because no one will, in my humble opinion, ever be charged. The police in NSW see nothing to investigate, and FWA's report is useless to the DPP which does not conduct investigations either so cannot determine whether anything further should be done in the way of, you know, throwing the book at folks.

FWA did what it could under the Fair Work Act, but it doesn't prosecute people who may have mismanaged their registered associations. We can be very sure that what it investigated and what police might be expected to investigate are entirely different res, and it's in nobody's interest to lay all the blame on just one man.

Things have gone mightily wrong, and all the checks and balances in the world have done nothing to prevent it.

So pity poor Jackson. Cassandra-like, she was disbelieved. What she feared, happened. Hounded, threatened and unpopular with big boofy blokes in her own union and a hypercritical media other than those conservative commentators who call her a truth-teller and fighter for justice, she should know what happens in the end of Homer's epic. Cassandra fell by uncaring swords in a fight that wasn't hers and which ruined a population.

Thus is it ever with a whistleblower, especially women who whistle in male-dominated organisations:

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust hath the just's umbrella.

Ah, the shame of it all. 


Moira RaynerMoira Rayner is a barrister and writer. 

Topic tags: Moira Rayner, Craig Thomson, HSU



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Existing comments

Oh to be clear of the wasteland of superlatives that are the only standouts in this piece. Moira has a fixation on odd adjectives...unfortunately non-photogenic backbench MP"..."shapely behind(surely never that..or so opined Germaine Greer)of the Gillard government"...and when it suits Moira, it's ok for the Gillard government to trample all over due process (witness the ABC/Sky News tender affair)...while other precepts may be held sacrosanct. As for describing the 3 year long review report of Fair Work Australia as a 'non event', that's nonsensical' as witnessed by the nationwide outcry of dismay. Finally, as for "nobody has been charged, and so it will remain", I'm glad Moira's not my barrister...even if she did realise that she needed to add "in my humble opinion", a contradiction in terms.

Brian Haill - Melbourne | 12 April 2012  

But hey, if Craig Thomson has done nothing wrong, all Julia has to do is release the FWA report into the public arena to prove it, and the problem stench goes away, or at least it does from her government. What's happening at the moment smacks of scapegoating to protect Julia's numbers. And under those circumstances Mr. Thomson should not be occupying his seat. Simple as that. The fact that she won't release the report proves she has something to hide. What other explanation is there?

ian | 12 April 2012  

At least the poem at the end made some sense.

john frawley | 12 April 2012  

It all appears to me like: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

David Wall | 12 April 2012  

Nice to know that at least the first four commentators completely missed my point. Well, one of them. when things go spectacularly wrong, look for a scapenanny.

Moira Rayner | 12 April 2012  

"Abbott's, Murdoch's and Fairfax's other rocket launchers are also fixed on the HSU's national president, NSW-based Michael Williamson, but also on the 'whistleblower', Victorian-based Kathy Jackson." Huh? "Abbott backs Jackson" was the Age headline yesterday, and I've only ever heard Abbott speak well of her in the past. Reading this article was like watching a drunk doing a sword dance.

HH | 12 April 2012  

It is incumbent on those persons named in the FWA report to recompense HSU for all moneys and benefits wrongfully obtained from HSU member funds. It's not as if HSU members are among Australia's best-paid workers either - which goes to the depraved indifference of the aforementioned named persons. In attacking Kathy Jackson who blew the whistle on Thomson, Williamson and others, the ACTU has also covered itself in ordure, asnd demonstrated its callous disregard for the interests of its members. But, hey, that's how the Labour movements operates, isn't it comrade. As George Orwell wrote, some animals are more equal than others.

David Arthur | 12 April 2012  

"the law's delay" is a terrible thing and a FWA delay can be even more terrible. But what a tangled structure some trade unions have! And as for their affiliation with and influence in the ALP I defy anyone to find a clarifying analogy. A bowl of spaghetti bolognese is more straightforward. But what convenient whipping boys trade unions and trade unionists provide for the Thatcherites of Australian politics. Or scapegoats. Stick with your brief, Moira, even if it means you become a scape nanny. Better than being (pace Mao Tsetung) a capitalist running dog.

Uncle Pat | 12 April 2012  

Well no 1 will be charged why doesn't that surprise me there seems to be different rules in this place. I run a business and i'm pretty sure if i operated how this union is to have allegedly functioned ....i would be jailed. Now here's my question why isn't the TAX OffICE involved ?

nailartsua | 12 April 2012  

It's all a lot of rot about not much. It's amazing though how short liberal and national memories are about AWB.

Marilyn Shepherd | 12 April 2012  

The HSU and who cares about them anyway? The amounts talked about are small change compared to the $400 million DIAC stole from us last year by illegally jailing over 1,200 Afghans who they claimed were not refugees but are.

Marilyn Shepherd | 12 April 2012  

Moira Rayner writes "But of Thompson's status is innocent until proven guilty, and Julia Gillard is a lawyer and she is right". Well, lawyers are University graduates and some of us might be ignorant, but we are not stupid.If Craig Thompson is innocent why the FWA took over three years to release the investigation and hand it over to the DDP, who admit there is nothing they can do. Why Julia Gillard has continuously declared confidence in Mr.Thompson when the evidence is wide-spread and we know that he has misused Union funds for his own benefit. If Mr. Thompson is innocent why have the NSW and Victorian police been prevented to start an investigation? (You can fool some people all the time but you can't fool all the people all the time).

Ron Cini | 12 April 2012  

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/a-bit-rich-unions-fight-over-huge-salaries/story-e6frea6u-1226325369748 I thought this report might add to the debate over the so-called poor little Kathy.

Marilyn Shepherd | 13 April 2012  

For a start the three year investigation by Fair Work is not true, Jackson started complaining in May 2009 when she missed out on a job she wanted. And Fairwork did not exist in 2007 when Thomson left the union so how could they be investigating him in the first place.

Marilyn Shepherd | 13 April 2012  

So, Moira, is Marilyn Shepherd attacking Kathy Jackson on the grounds that she's a woman? Help us out with the template here.

HH | 13 April 2012  

I don't much care about Jackson's gender, but I don't find her agenda very compellingly honest when she happily accepts the corrupt salary package she is whinging about.

The problem here is she started a lie that has now become a cause celebre for media hacks.

Marilyn Shepherd | 14 April 2012  

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