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Under pressure

Marco Bolano was the deputy general secretary of the HSU east branch. It was Mr Bolano, along with the national secretary, Kathy Jackson, who went to the police in September 2011 with allegations of systemic corruption within the union.

At the end of June 2012, Mr Bolano was one of eight union figures to lose his job when an administrator was appointed to the troubled HSU east branch. A Federal Court Order placed the union into administration and directed all officials to stand down. At a subsequent election Bolano was voted out by the HSU members.

Bolano then claimed he had been “bullied” and sought workers compensation which is still being paid to him through Workcover (ie government funds) at his pay rate of $230,000 pa.

Bolano’s fellow whistleblower and union colleague, Kathy Jackson is being sued by the HSU for $700,000 of allegedly misspent union members funds.

In June, Kathy Jackson was due to appear before Federal Court in Melbourne to give her defence against civil actions being taken by the national office of the Health Services Union to retrieve funds. When she failed to appear, her partner Michael Lawler rang the court representing Jackson attempting to have the matter heard remotely – something the judge pointed out was not permissible.

When Tony Abbott was Industrial Relations Minister, he appointed Michael Lawler to the position of vice president of the Fair Work Commission at a salary of about $400,000. It was the FWC that investigated the Health Services Union and led to the allegations against Craig Thomson.

As Peter Wicks pointed out in his long-running expose on this case

“Surely, taxpayers’ dollars should not be spent on a public servant meant to be an impartial industrial judge who is freelancing as a barrister for a union official with whom he is in a long-term relationship that is facing civil action from her own union.”

On Friday, Kathy Jackson was in court in Melbourne representing herself. She failed to produce her defence as directed, despite having been given more time to do so. She told the court that she was under medical direction “to disengage from this process for three months”.

I can understand her feeling under pressure as I am sure Craig Thomson did also for far smaller amounts than those Ms Jackson is alleged to have misappropriated. My question is, when your partner is an industrial judge of equivalent standing to a Federal Court judge, who is intimately aware of, if not directly involved in, the case, couldn’t he have prepared her defence documents as required by the court?

Speaking of pressure, Peter Slipper faced court again today for his alleged misuse of less than $1000 in cab charges. The court is set to sit for 6 days to hear this case which may find Mr Slipper in breach due to misrepresenting where he went on a couple of the vouchers. I wonder how much this has cost so far in police and court resources.


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  1. John Kelly

    Given Kathy Jackson’s roll in the Craig Thompson case, her present position is becoming more interesting everyday. A 3 month ‘sabbatical ‘ will not mean much in the long term. She would seem to have more serious questions to answer than either Thompson or Slipper.

  2. Kaye Lee

    What will be interesting is whether those questions are pursued. There have been questions asked about whether she has been offered some form of immunity but I cannot see how they could considering the evidence. Abbott and Pyne have both sung her praises loudly including in parliament. They will make for very embarrassing replays should the accusations prove true.

  3. Dave

    As Peter Wicks points out in his article, if she is given three months off, she basically misses cross examination at Royal Commission
    The mind boggles!

  4. lawrencewinder

    I’m beginning to think the Liarbrils have a fetish for playing “Russian Roulette”….. round and round the chamber goes… where it stops, no-one knows.

  5. Urge

    There is an error in your article, “When Tony Abbott was PM he appointed Michael Lawler as VP of Fair Work Commission” I was sure Lawler was working for the Commission well before Abbott became PM?

  6. DC

    That would be an interesting precedent to set to allow people to avoid being called into Royal commissions. The old “I have a doctors note” excuse

  7. Kaye Lee

    Urge, thank you for pointing out that error. I have corrected it. It was when Howard was PM and Tony was IR Minister.

  8. Terry2

    The initial cross examination of Jackson at the RC opened up a swathe of unresolved issues concerning Jackson’s apparent misappropriation of funds over an extended period of time and there is still that odd bank account to which she was the sole signatory and all her records of expenditure were either lost, thrown out by others or perhaps the dog ate them.

    Our separation of powers has worked well for us in maintaining an independent and incorruptible judiciary but I have no doubt there are political pressures building for the Royal Commission just to move on but I cannot see how they can leave these unanswered questions without further probing and if Thomson is a precedent Jackson will find it hard to avoid criminal charges.

    This Royal Commission was designed to cause as much damage as possible to the Labor Party and the union movement and it would be a major embarrassment to the LNP if their whistle blower glamour girl became the first casualty. The government could, of course, defund the RC as a means of curtailing further scrutiny into dark corners.

  9. O'Bleak

    She’s been told to disengage for 3 months? What is that bullshit. This swill has been hurling muck in every direction for the last 3 years with no indication of a lack of enthusiasm for smearing everyone from the office cleaner up. What are our courts for? To be used as a platform for political bastardry and then disengaged from when the aim has been achieved. Isn’t this precisely the M.O. displayed by one James Ashby in his campaign to destroy Peter Slipper in an attempt to bring down the Gillard government. Do we not see a pattern here of these dupes being used by the coalition in their nefarious little schemes to undermine their opponents and then left to scramble their own way out the mire. Jackson made her bed and I for one am in no mood to see her “disengage”. I hope the HSU eats her alive. Our courts exist to do justice and I expect to see it get done. I also expect to see the Royal Commission do it’s job in exposing this woman’s activities at the HSU for what they truly were. Then people might get a true perspective on issues like Craig Thomsen’s guilt.

  10. geoffreyengland

    Well said O’Bleak. My anger like yours is at overload point and like you I want this foul woman wearing hi-vis orange before too long. She and Bolano need to be publicly crucified.
    Likewise Ashby, that other foul plaything of Pyne’s.

  11. marwill10

    In reply to geoffreyengland “Jackson and Bolano Ashby and Pyne need to be publicly crucified.” Don’t forget that scumbag Mal Brough, who was up to his neck in the disgusting Ashby affair. But was he crucified. No, he was rewarded by the public who voted him into Peter Slipper’s federal seat of Fisher.

  12. Kaye Lee

    There are many people in the firing line lately and they come from both sides of politics and the unions. Funnily enough, when it comes to big business we are getting rid of oversight (FOFA), getting rid of taxes (carbon, mining and a company tax rate cut), offering amnesties to offshore tax cheats, deregulating everything to get rid of “red tape”, eliminating environmental safeguards and rights of challenge to get rid of “green tape” because we are “open for business”. Walk past any government asset and you can either buy it outright or tender for lucrative contracts…or better still….be on their “independent reviews” – not only do you get paid a squillion, you can dictate policy to make your businesses better. It doesn’t really matter apparently when people lose their life savings. We hate public debt so let’s transfer that debt to the private sector, let them milk it for what it’s worth, then go bankrupt. But we might have a surplus sometime in the next decade. And that helps things….how?

  13. BJWard

    I have always had my doubts about just how much wrongdoing Craig Thomson was actually guilty of. It’s my impression that he was set up; as O’Bleak says, by some nefarious little scheme or other, which had as its chief aim the destabilisation of Gillard’s government. Whether or not the Coalition was involved is open to question – but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Abbott’s lot were in it up to their greasy necks. As far as Thomson’s court case is concerned, we should remember that NSW police declined to proceed with charges because of shaky evidence, and the civil case went nowhere – Victoria proved to be a more compliant jurisdiction. But even then the business is under appeal.
    And thank you, Kaye Lee, for adding to my depression by reciting the litany of nefarious activities Abbott, Hockey and Co are up to, as they even further deregulate our inadequately supervised business sector.

  14. Dennis Bauer

    I said many years ago, I think I have already said something to this effect on the AIM, “there will come the day when we will be voting for corporations not Governments” or words to that effect, I now realise we already have, this is getting such a smell about it, the erosion of liberties, that it seems a little planned, may I say.


  15. Choppa

    So let’s get this straight – you guys think that Craig Thompson, who was found guilty of using union members funds to pay for hookers, destroy his family, sentenced by a non bias court, is actually innocent? Are you for real? Not even Labor supports him.

    I’m not saying there wasn’t anything in it for the Libs promoting this – but you know what, it doesn’t matter who exposes such criminal acts – the guilty are still guilty. Kathy Jackson deserves to go down as well if proven guilty – no one is supporting her corruption. You imply that people commended her whistle blowing whilst knowing secretly she was corrupt – this is an out and out lie. No one is supporting her.

    Why did the article start with Bolano? Just because he’s receiving workers comp? You provide nothing to suggest he isnt suffering – given the evidence of the bullying that occurs (from mr shorten included) in these corrupt unions, do you think he was given slaps on teh back and was expecting to be reelected by those who survived the corruption probe? Dear me.

    You know Lawler wasnt seeing Jackson when appointed to the FWA? You know most of it occured under Labor and they did zilch about it. You know Jackson was only appointed to the top under Labor’s reign. Why are all of Labor’s failures a Liberal conspiracy? News slow?

    It’s one thing supporting minority views and projecting them as if you speak for the majority – its another supporting proven criminals.

  16. Terry2


    From my experience in business it is almost inevitable that employees with a corporate credit card will periodically misuse it (i.e. outside the published rules laid down by the employer or principal). The trick is for the employee to promptly repay the money misused as soon as it is identified – politicians do this regularly.

    Craig Thomson was caught out and rather than the matter being handled in-house by the HSU or as a civil debt it was reported to the police as a criminal matter. I remember saying at the time that if this becomes the norm a large percentage of the business community and our politicians will end up behind bars.

    All the folk here are saying – I believe – is that if the Thomson case is going to set the standard for corporate behaviour and punishment then it must apply across the board, not selectively.

  17. Kaye Lee

    I have never pleaded Thomson’s innocence. I am surprised at the comparative treatment as Terry explained so well.

    The reason I began the article with Mr Bolano is because I find it incongruous that a man who was accused of bullying by union members (see video link in article), and who is still using intimidatory tactics against witnesses and journalists (see Peter Wicks report), and who was relieved of his position by administrators, is being paid a hefty wage by us because HE was bullied? I suggest you read up on Mr Bolano and his antics with Kathy.

  18. BJWard

    Choppa, neither am I saying that Thomson wasn’t guilty of anything – although one of the major pieces of evidence about his evil-doing, a credit card slip, didn’t even have his name spelt correctly. What I am saying is that the whole slimy issue was vastly blown up from where it should have remained, (please see Terry2’s comment – as an aside I believe there were civil charges originally but they were dropped), and the case was “shopped around” between NSW (whose judicial authorities, despite being beholden to a LNP government which pushed the issue to a point, said they wouldn’t touch it) and the Victorian jurisdiction, which was, in my words, “more compliant”.

    As for Bolano, he has been widely characterised as an enforcer and has reportedly been caught out attempting to threaten witnesses to the Royal Commission (which commission is another perversion of justice, in my view); so he conveniently has a problem with “stress” and is currently on the taxpayer teat to the tune of $230,000 pa – and he’s still intimidating witnesses, if recent news reports are credible. I wonder if he’s paying tax on that $230,000….

    And Ms Jackson – whatever punishment Thomson may finish up getting ought to be dealt out to her tenfold, if the current accusations about her spending of union funds on luxury cars and all the rest of it are true.

  19. abbienoiraude

    What a tangled web…deceit lies and corruption.

    Ok I will put MY hand up and say I was one of the few who felt Thomson was a fall guy. I never said he was ‘innocent’ but did feel that there was some dirty dealing going on to bring down the minority Labor Govt and Abbott et al were ready to do ANYTHING to get it done and dusted.
    As Terry2 said; If looked closely enough any ( maybe all) public servants, union officials, corporate bosses and seniors, government officials/politicians, comcar drivers, hell any and everyone probably ‘misuse’ their credit cards and/or allowances ( as did Abbott to the tune of over $9000, let alone claiming for going on bike rides for charity). Usually such ‘misuses’ are dealt with in-house and repaid asap.

    I still maintain Thomson was a fall guy (not ‘innocent’ just doing what ‘everyone else does’) and was the bullet to be aimed at the Gillard govt. This is far more feasible than the catchcry of ‘Gillard stabbed Rudd stabbed Gillard stabbed Rudd’ sexed up by the MSM and fed to and believed by the general public who should have turned their back on the diatribe and the manipulation.

    What I meant to write was:

    What BJWard said. Moi aussi.

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