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Tag Archives: kathy jackson

Corruption, kickbacks and slush funds – see ICAC

It’s not hard to work out Tony’s game plan for the next election. He is going to run hard on union corruption and their connection to Labor.

Heydon ruling himself unbiased in the eyes of a reasonable person has laid the ground work. Why did they try, unsuccessfully, to smear this honourable man? What have Labor and the unions got to hide?

When he released his 1800-page interim report in December last year, Mr Heydon said the 87-page third volume needed to remain secret to “protect the physical well-being of those witnesses [appearing at the commission] and their families. This is unfortunate, because the confidential volume reveals grave threats to the power and authority of the Australian state“.

If it is a secret one wonders why he makes such a public comment on it. Don’t you just stamp it confidential without such hyperbolic description? And if it is so explosive, why has nothing been done about it for 9 months?

Tony Abbott offered a personal briefing to Jacqui Lambie on its contents to try and secure her vote for the re-establishment of the “tough cop on the beat” ABCC. Is this information being suppressed to be used as a political bargaining chip, to be revealed at a time deemed appropriate by the government?

On the advice of the Federal Executive Council, in October last year the term of the TURC was extended for a year with the report to be tabled by December 31 2015. Could this be pertinent to the talk of a March election?

It was also requested that the following paragraph be inserted into the Letters Patent:

“(ia) any criminal or otherwise unlawful act or omission undertaken for the purpose of facilitating or concealing any conduct or matter mentioned in paragraphs (g) to (i);”

One would assume they felt it necessary to have that included so I wonder about its implications.

In 1989, Justice Heydon conducted an inquiry for the NSW Liberal Government into the “Duties and Fiduciary Obligations of Officials of Industrial Unions of Employers and Employees”.

In February 2014 Tony Abbott announced “the establishment of a Royal Commission to inquire into alleged financial irregularities associated with the affairs of trade unions.”

Heydon’s 1989 report called for improvements in the governance of trade unions, and for union officials to be equated with company directors, and overseen by the corporate regulator — now ASIC.

In March 2013 Tony Abbott introduced a private members bill to amend legislation on registered organisations such as trade unions.

“There is a need for comparable penalties for comparable offences whether the offenders are union officials or company officials,” Mr Abbott told the lower house. “Commit the same crime, face the same punishment.”

Liberal Party policy going into the election bore a strong resemblance to Heydon’s recommendations from decades ago.

This attack on unions and Labor has been in the planning for a long time. No doubt there has been some corruption in unions but to tar all of them for the actions of a few individuals is unwarranted. The unions themselves want to, and have, prosecuted corrupt officials. It was their civil action that saw Kathy Jackson found guilty, ably supported by Wixxy’s incredible body of evidence – the RC had nothing to do with it.

So far, four people have been arrested by the TURC Police Taskforces and a total of 26 people have been referred to the following 11 agencies:  Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, SA Director of Public Prosecutions, QLD Director of Public Prosecutions, VIC Director of Public Prosecutions, WA Direction of Public Prosecutions, Australian Securities and Investment Commission, Fair Work Building Inspectorate, Fair Work Commission, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and the Australian Information Commissioner.

Wouldn’t it have been more sensible to give the information to the bodies that can prosecute in the first place and save the $61 million?

But it is a useful distraction from what has been going on at ICAC.

In nine months, 11 Liberal politicians resigned, stepped down or moved to the crossbench. Two Labor politicians have been expelled from the party.

In Operation Credo, the ICAC is investigating allegations that persons with an interest in Australian Water Holdings Pty Ltd (AWH) obtained a financial benefit through adversely affecting the official functions of Sydney Water Corporation (SWC) by: including expenses incurred in other business pursuits in claims made on SWC for work on the North West Growth Centre; drawing from funds allocated for other purposes; and preventing SWC from ascertaining the true financial position, including the level of the executives’ remuneration.

The Commission is also investigating whether public officials and others were involved in the falsification of a cabinet minute relating to a public private partnership proposal made by AWH intended to mislead the NSW Government Budget Cabinet Committee and obtain a benefit for AWH, and other related matters.

In Operation Spicer, the ICAC is investigating allegations that certain members of parliament and others corruptly solicited, received and concealed payments from various sources in return for certain members of parliament and others favouring the interests of those responsible for the payments. It is also alleged that certain members of parliament and others solicited and failed to disclose political donations from companies, including prohibited donors, contrary to the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981.

In both of these matters, the Commission is also investigating the circumstances in which false allegations of corruption were made against senior SWC executives.

Liberal Party fundraising bodies keep coming up.

In the lead-up to the 2011 state election, the Free Enterprise Foundation donated $700,000 to the New South Wales Liberal Party. ICAC counsel-assisting Geoffrey Watson SC told the inquiry “prohibited donations were made to the Free Enterprise Foundation, then remade to the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party then simply disclosed a donation from the Free Enterprise Foundation, thereby disguising the true source of the money”. ICAC alleged the attempts to disguise illicit donations was well known by senior Liberal Party figures, including the party’s acting New South Wales director, Simon McInnes, and Paul Nicolaou, who formerly headed the New South Wales Liberal Party’s main fundraising organisation.

Eightbyfive was an alleged slush fund set up by Tim Koelma, a former senior policy advisor to former New South Wales Liberal energy minister Chris Hartcher. The fund received $183,342 from AWH while Arthur Sinodinos was serving as deputy chairman or chairman which Koelma said was for consulting work he did for Nick Di Girolamo.

Joe Hockey’s North Sydney Forum was also put under scrutiny in the article disclosing that members could pay for access to the Treasurer.  During the three years AWH was a member of the forum, the company’s chief executive was Liberal fund-raiser and former lobbyist Nick Di Girolamo, whose gift of a $3000 bottle of Penfolds Grange Hermitage to Barry O’Farrell shortly after his March 2011 election win led to his resignation as premier.

North Sydney Forum deputy chairman Robert Orrell said he was “sure” Mr Di Girolamo – a close friend of Eddie Obeid jnr, who was employed by AWH – had attended private boardroom meetings with Mr Hockey.

There were also emails revealed by ICAC revealing that, in March 2011, while the Coalition was in opposition, Peta Credlin used a major donor to the Liberal Party, Brickworks, as part of Tony Abbott’s campaign against the carbon tax.

Brickworks was one of the largest corporate donors to the Liberal Party, giving $384,000 in a nine-month period from July 2010 to April 2011.

The ICAC has heard that Brickworks used the Free Enterprise Foundation, a shadowy Canberra-based organisation, to channel $125,000 in illicit donations to the NSW Liberals for the March 2011 state election.

One of the previously suppressed emails reveals that, on March 1, 2011, Mr Nicolaou sent Ms Credlin an email titled “Re Carbon Tax” advising that Brickworks was “a very good supporter of the Party.”

Mr Nicolaou attached an earlier message from the company’s managing director, Lindsay Partridge, which read: “Paul, Tell Tony to stick to his guns on no carbon tax.”

Coincidentally, Bronwyn Bishop was also referred to in the same volume of exhibits.

She was a director of the Dame Pattie Menzies Foundation Trust, which received $11,000 from the Free Enterprise Foundation on December 9, 2010, which it then directed to the NSW branch of the party for use in the 2011 state election.

The previous day, Mr Partridge sent a cheque for $125,000 to the Free Enterprise Foundation with a note that read: “We trust this donation will provide assistance with the 2011 NSW State election campaign.”

In July 2010,  Mr Nicolaou, who was getting a 6 per cent cut of all donations he collected, emailed Simon McInnes, the finance director of the NSW Liberal Party boasting: “Please note! Another $50k for us via Free Enterprise Foundation from Brickworks.”

Only a minute earlier, Mr Partridge had sent an email saying: “Paul, via the diversionary organisation there is $50k for NSW, $250k in total.”

Karen Macnamara, member for Dobell has also had to front ICAC about discrepancies in her fundraising.

So if we want to talk about corruption, kickbacks and slush funds, let’s start with our politicians.

 

Whistleblower goodies and baddies

When Kathy Jackson blew the whistle on Craig Thomson for misusing union funds, she was praised by various members of the Coalition.  Tony Abbott described her as “a brave decent woman”, a “credible whistleblower” whose actions were “heroic”.  Christopher Pyne labelled her a “revolutionary” who will be “remembered as a lion of the union movement.”  George Brandis and Eric Abetz were similarly effusive in their praise.

Kathy’s “courageous” revelations quickly led to Thomson being arrested by five detectives accompanied by a huge media pack at his Central Coast Office.  The following court cases eventually found Thomson was guilty of misappropriating a few thousand dollars.  His defence has cost him over $400,000, his career and reputation.  His prosecution, combined with the ensuing Royal Commission into trade unions and dedicated police task force, has cost the state tens of millions.

In 2012, Tony Abbott said “I think it’s to the enormous discredit of some people in the Labor movement that they are now trying to blacken [Kathy Jackson’s] name.”

Unfortunately for Mr Abbott, the investigation revealed that his hero has allegedly misappropriated far more than Craig Thomson could ever have dreamed of, well over $1 million by some accounts.  Despite the matter being referred to the Victorian police, Ms Jackson remains at large living a millionaire lifestyle.  No squad of police arriving at her door with media in tow.

We also had whistleblower James Ashby choosing to reveal private text messages to accuse Peter Slipper of sexual harassment, a charge he chose not to pursue after he had achieved the goal of destroying Mr Slipper’s career and personal life.

And then there was the “unknown” whistleblower who chose to refer Peter Slipper to the police for a few hundred dollars’ worth of cab charges rather than allowing him to pay back the money, something that many members of the Coalition, including Tony Abbott and George Brandis, have been forced to do.

The prosecution of Peter Slipper once again cost the state an amount totally incommensurate with the alleged crime and he has since won his appeal.

The Coalition’s very close relationship with these two dubious characters – Abetz had Jackson on speed dial and Pyne met up for “drinks” with Ashby – shows they had a vested interest in encouraging their revelations.

But when Freya Newman chose to reveal that Tony Abbott’s daughter had been given a $60,000 scholarship that was not available to anyone else, she was immediately investigated, prosecuted and put on a good behaviour bond.  The fact that Frances Abbott’s school was a Liberal Party donor who then benefitted greatly by Abbott’s decision to fund private colleges makes the whole thing smell of corruption.

Speaking of which, when a former ASIO employee chose to blow the whistle on Alexander Downer for, under the guise of foreign aid, bugging the offices of the government of Timor l’Este to gain a commercial advantage for Woodside Petroleum who subsequently employed Mr Downer, he immediately had his passport revoked so he could not testify in the case in the International Court and the office of his lawyer was raided and all documents confiscated.

When the Guardian and the ABC reported on leaked documents from Edward Snowden revealing that the Australian Government had bugged the phones of Indonesian politicians and even the President’s wife, they were labelled as traitors by Tony Abbott who apparently thought there was nothing wrong with the deed but talking about it was a crime.

Which brings me to, in my mind, the greatest travesty of all.

When ten members of the Save the Children organisation reported on cases of sexual assault and self-harm of children on Nauru, they were immediately sacked by Scott Morrison.

When the group made a submission to the AHRC’s children in detention inquiry providing evidence of sexual abuse, the Department of Immigration asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate Save The Children for potentially breaching section 70 of the Crimes Act, which bars the disclosure of Commonwealth facts or documents.

A secret report prepared by immigration detention service provider Transfield Services reveals the company was monitoring the activities of Save The Children staff, then accused them of providing evidence to the media of sexual assaults and protests in the detention centre.  It reveals that Save The Children staff had compiled reports documenting evidence of sexual assault, which it said had become “increasingly emotive in recent weeks”.

“Two days ago, information report 280917 was written in such a manner by SCA employees, DE and FF, and some of the allegations regarding sexually inappropriate behaviour by security guards contained within this report have been widely reported across Australian media today. DE left Nauru yesterday and the allegations have appeared in the press today.”

The Transfield report also alleges that “It is probable there is a degree of internal and external coaching, and encouragement, to achieve evacuations to Australia through self-harm actions,” though it gives no evidence at all in support of the accusation, which did not stop Scott Morrison and the Daily Telegraph from publicly repeating it last October.

Morrison’s reaction was to announce the Moss Review to examine allegations that staff from the charity acted inappropriately at the Nauru detention centre.

The Moss review, which is due to be released tomorrow, examined why 10 Save the Children aid workers were sent home from the detention centre and whether they fabricated allegations of sexual abuse.

As with the Human Rights Commission’s Forgotten Children report, the message has been ignored and the messenger has been relentlessly pursued and vilified.

In the corporate world, the Corporations Act contains protections for certain whistleblowers, including making it unlawful to persecute a whistleblower for making a protected disclosure of information. This protection encourages people within companies, or with special connections to companies, to alert the company (through its officers), or ASIC, to illegal behaviour.

Where is the same protection for people who alert us to wrongdoing by the government or its agents?  Why does Morrison accept Transfield’s report but not that of the Human Rights Commission?  Will the Moss Review investigate the sexual abuse or just the people who are trying to Save the Children?

A government who is happy to destroy people’s lives for their own political ends, who silences all criticism, and who considers their own interests in front of the welfare of children in our care, is worthy of the same contempt they show for the truth.

We are being governed by a despicable group of people who have sacrificed all decency and integrity to personal ambition.

asylum seeker children protest on Nauru

asylum seeker children protest on Nauru

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtWTGWhSynM

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?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9bt7kGXNT8

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.

Some of my best friends are corrupt

Photo: http://www.dreducation.com

Photo: http://www.dreducation.com

There appears no question that Craig Thomson misused union funds, though his sentence of 12 months gaol (3 months to be served) is being appealed.  The amount in question is about $24,000.  He has lost his career, faced intense and intrusive media scrutiny, been publicly humiliated, ordered to repay the money to the HSU, faces huge legal bills, and felt the pain of the embarrassment he has caused to his family.

The whistleblower who led to his demise is Kathy Jackson.  She was lauded in glowing terms by Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne for her courage.  Coincidentally, her partner, Michael Lawler, was appointed Vice President of Fair Work Australia on a salary of $400,000 a year by Tony Abbott when he was Employment and Workplace Relations Minister.

Independent Australia and Peter Wicks have been following this story.  It now appears that Kathy Jackson is being referred to the Royal Commission who will investigate allegations that she has absconded with far more than Thomson ever dreamed of.

And then we have Karen McNamara who was a captain’s pick, parachuted into Thomson’s seat of Dobell, bypassing normal preselection which infuriated the local Liberal Party members.  (The same was done when Abbott chose to install Lucy Wicks as the candidate for the other Central Coast seat of Robertson.)

Ms McNamara was called to face ICAC where she was under fire for claiming to have raised $100,000 for the 2011 campaign for State Liberal Darren Webber when official records indicated only $11,000 had been raised.  Ms McNamara said that Mr Webber and his fellow Central Coast MP Chris Spence had told her that funding was being “centralised” through Terrigal, which meant only a small amount of funds had actually gone through the Wyong account which needed to be declared, though she had bragged about raising $300,000 for the campaign when seeking preselection.

State Member for Terrigal Chris Hartcher has been involved in fiery exchanges at ICAC where it has been suggested that Mr Hartcher helped set up slush fund Eightbyfive in the lead up to the last state election to funnel illegal donations to the campaign’s right wing Liberal candidates on the Central Coast.  The fund is alleged to have issued sham invoices to hide secret donations for political favours.

Both Mr Hartcher and Mr Webber have been sitting on the crossbench since last year, along with fellow Central Coast MP Chris Spence.

Campbell Newman takes the frontal assault approach by scrapping limits on political donations and election spending, and lifting the threshold at which donations have to be reported.  He then sacked a Minister who expressed concerns about his decision.

We also witnessed the calculated attack on Peter Slipper.  Weeks of Parliamentary sitting time were devoted to the public humiliation of this man and the destruction of his career.  This very cynical political exercise was all over $900 in cab charges.  We are all aware of the many entitlements fraudulently claimed by politicians that have been subsequently repaid, usually only when directed to do so, for far greater amounts – $50,000 in the case of Peter Reith and over $9000 by Tony Abbott.

It is astonishing to find what politicians feel justified to claim.  Even though he is earning a sizable salary, and getting free publicity and electioneering along the way, our Prime Minister thinks it is perfectly justifiable for him to claim an additional allowance when he chooses to take part in charity and sporting events.  Our treasurer sees nothing wrong with charging thousands of dollars for meetings with him.  Our Speaker views the chambers as a private Liberal Party function room, and the Prime Minister uses Kirribilli House to entertain the likes of Bolt and Jones.  Our Attorney General has a very expensive penchant for books and he has no hesitation in creating high paying jobs for boys from the IPA.

Their sense of entitlement has become so entrenched that they would not think of catching commercial flights when they can summon a private jet.  Public transport when you have a comcar and chauffeur, why would you?  Driving oneself can be so tedious when one can’t drink.

I understand that they are away from their families at times.  As for so many other people, that is the choice they made when they took on the job.  Should we be paying for families to all go to the Melbourne Cup or football grand finals?  Surely they earn enough that they can afford to do this themselves should they wish?

Eddie Obeid’s greed has done us a great favour in holding a candle to the dark chasm of corruption that is our government.  Every day we hear of more slush funds and money laundering schemes and dubious foundations.  The stench is growing and it is emanating from the Liberal Party.  They are happy to accept huge donations from vested interests, some of them illegal.  They go to complicated lengths to hide or launder these donations. They admit to selling access to office for those who can afford it while neutering lobby groups for the disadvantaged.

Their budget protection of these donors whilst attacking the poorest cannot be denied.  At great cost to us all, hard won reforms are being rolled back as the donations roll in.

There are three groups who think the Liberal Party aren’t corrupt.  Those who will always vote Liberal regardless, those who are too naïve or lazy to find out the truth, and those who are profiting from the corruption.

The only reason for resisting the formation of a Federal Commission Against Corruption is because…

Some of my best friends are corrupt.

 

Which way to look?

Ralph Blewitt. Photo: Herald Sun

Ralph Blewitt. Photo: Herald Sun

It is perhaps not surprising that the Royal Commission into union corruption is to begin the day before the budget is brought down.  In a fortuitous coincidence, Ralph Blewitt happens to be in town, so they are going to begin with the AWU “slush fund”.  That should have Larry Pickering and Michael Smith and their band of rabid followers all agog again…or should I say still.  Agog enough to not notice they are getting screwed by the Budget?  We shall see.

In November 2012 Ralph Blewitt turned up in Australia “courtesy of a man writing a book on the AWU in the late 1980s and early ’90s.”

He told 7.30 that he had provided Victoria Police with a dossier of files “which show documents that certainly connect Julia Gillard to having a hand in the establishment of the AWU Workplace Reform Association in WA, and other matters”.  Mr Blewitt declined to outline those “other matters”.   The documents relating to the period 1990 – 95 appear to have been provided to him to “refresh” his memory by ‘researcher’ Harry Nowicki.

Victoria Police detectives who have been running an 18-month investigation with Mr Blewitt’s co-operation, intend to charge him with fraud-related offences, to which he will plead guilty. He is expected to give evidence against others. It is understood that in return for his co-operation and guilty plea, police will make courtroom submissions that Mr Blewitt should not be sentenced to jail.

Mr Blewitt’s travel expenses for his current visit to Australia are being met by a private citizen who has wanted to see the slush fund issues properly investigated by police and the Royal Commission.  This philanthropic champion of justice is no doubt hoping that Julia Gillard may be called though goodness knows what else they could ask her.  She has answered every question put to her.

The Royal Commission will then move on to the HSU.  It will be interesting to see their focus.  No doubt Craig Thomson will be dragged through more proceedings for an amount which, to date, seems relatively trivial.  One wonders if whistle blower Kathy Jackson has made a Blewitt type deal too.

The Health Services Union has launched a legal action against its own national secretary Kathy Jackson demanding she repay almost $250,000 paid into a slush fund.

Ms Jackson in return had launched a counter-claim seeking almost hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay. The HSU is now seeking to recover money paid to the National Health Development Account (NHDA) which was controlled by Ms Jackson.

In a statement to the ABC, Ms Jackson said all the allegations against her were “false and malicious” and accused “dark forces” of being behind them.  Independent Australia has done a whole series of articles called Jacksonville with source documents that provide a rather damning picture

Investigating high profile union cases should defer attention from the high profile political money laundering and slush funds that are coming to light every day, they hope.

Which way to look?

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