Thomson and Jackson 5: Sticky fingers

Peter Wicks 25 May 2012, 5:30pm

She spoke out not to get Craig Thomson MP, she said, but to clean up the HSU. But, in a stunning IA exclusive, Peter Wicks uncovers compelling documentary evidence to suggest HSU “whistleblower” Kathy Jackson may have herself misappropriated Union funds.

HSU national secretary Kathy Jackson (image courtesy ABC).

It has been almost a week now since Australians sat mesmerised as they watched Craig Thomson tell his side of the HSU saga in an address to Federal Parliament, where he still sits — although now as an Independent member.

And it has been almost 2 weeks since Independent Australia first broke the story of the tangled web behind the scenes of the Fair Work Australia Investigation. A web made up of a Liberal Party aligned think tank; the Liberal Party’s favourite lawyers; a factional battle; a Union “whistleblower”; this whistleblower's partner; the whistleblower’s partner’s mate, the Opposition leader; and the whistleblowers partner’s organisation – where the partner is 2nd in charge – doing a five year investigation and finally issuing a report full of findings — most of which were dismissed by the Australian Electoral Commission within just a few days.

If you have not read our previous articles, it is worth reading them here for background into this investigation.

[Read the previous stories in this series: Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.]

The original article Independent Australia published was highly controversial. It highlighted a web of connections that have raised questions about the credibility and good faith of the union whistleblower, Kathy Jackson, and exposed the massive conflicts of interest of Fair Work Australia's Vice President, Michael Lawler.

These issues have placed a huge question mark over the entire Fair Work Australia investigation and its findings — most of which have been disproved by the AEC anyway, as we said before.

It is worth remembering that there have been seven – that’s right, seven – prior investigations that have each concluded that Craig Thomson had no case to answer. This FWA investigation, however, has been the first investigation to be conducted by the body for which Craig’s accuser, Kathy Jackson’s partner, holds the position of Vice President. With this in mind, the results should come as no real surprise.

The FWA investigation was set up to investigate financial irregularities within the Health Services Union. Most of the findings, however, centred around Craig Thomson. Kathy Jackson, in contrast, comes up smelling like roses in her partner’s organisation's investigation — what a shock that was.

The FWA investigation lasted five long years — longer than World War One; longer than many people spent in high school; longer, even, than every Australian Big Brother series to date combined.

In the process of their investigation, FWA had access to the HSU files, records, offices, computers, staff, and even organized a police raid. Over five years, they had all the time, resources and personnel for a completely thorough and meticulous investigation of every aspect of the HSU.

However, in just over five days, with none of the other resources FWA had access to, we have uncovered new evidence that FWA – Kathy Jackson's partner’s team – conveniently missed.

It is fair to say that the allegations against Craig Thomson are based primarily on information provided by Jackson. The evidence, which Thomson disputes and the other seven investigations dismissed, was presented by Fair Work Australia — the organisation where Michael Lawler, Jackson's partner, is Vice President.

Paramount to the Opposition bringing Craig Thomson down, is maintaining the integrity of Kathy Jackson, Michael Lawler, and the Fair Work Australia investigation. That combined with a sickening display of personal attacks from the Coalition that have highlighted the inner ugliness of some of the Liberal front bench. And after all the muck-racking and personal attacks from the Coalition frontbench, Tony Abbott today had the audacity to suggest that Craig Thomson resign from Parliament — apparently for his own good. This whole Craig Thomson affair has a nauseating stench to it — and very little of it seems to be coming from the man so much under attack.

Especially given I have in my possession many documents that have come from within the HSU that go towards the integrity of Craig’s accusers. These include copies of transactions, copies of cheque butts, original cheque requisitions, and remittances with signatures — all show details of transactions would appear to be extremely irregular.

For legal reasons, we cannot show most of these documents, however there are a few we will share with you here. Both myself and Independent Australia would like to make clear that all of the original documents that are in my possession will be made available for any investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption or any Police investigation. I am also happy to provide copies for any kind of parliamentary enquiry. Some of these documents raise important questions that I will put out there now.

Firstly, as some of you may remember, during an interview on ABC's 7.30 programme on Monday, Kathy Jackson answered "I reject all those claims" when asked whether the Union paid for specific things such as her gym, car, and also child care.

Here is the relevant exchange:

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well Mr Thomson’s made many accusations about you as you have of him. He points out that you drive a union paid for Volvo, that your child care and gym fees are paid for, you have taken numerous overseas trips at the expense of the union and that you’re salary doubled in the weeks after he left at $270,000.

KATHY JACKSON: I reject all those claims….

This link, however, shows records of payments from the Health Services Union to Minifie Park Child Care Association. Some transactions are identified as "Staff Benefits", and one as "Staff Uniforms". Some of the electronic transaction records even show Kathy Jackson’s child’s name as a reference.

The Minifie Park Child Care Centre is, quite literally, just around the corner from Kathy Jackson's residence, where she allegedly spends most nights with Fair Work Australia's Vice President Michael Lawler. When I contacted the child care centre, I was told that they do not have uniforms. However, when I asked what staff benefits there are being paid for with HSU member’s funds, I was told by their Director, Julie Oliver, quite abruptly, to contact their solicitor, whose details I was not given.

These transactions seem to suggest that not only was Jackson concealing the truth during her interview on 7.30, but also that she may have been using Union funds to pay her substantial child care costs and was allegedly hiding the transactions in different accounts as general HSU expenses.

Secondly, I also have original cheque requisitions and remittances in my possession that bear the approval signature of a Kathy Jackson. These documents detail payments, and have matching cheque numbers for payments, made to a company called Neranto No 10 — mostly for consultancy services. There are a rather large number of these payments, so I thought it best to have a look at Neranto No 10.

A company search shows that Neranto No 10 was from 1994, until it was deregistered on 16 November 2008, owned and directed by Jeffrey Peter Jackson and Katherine Koukouvaos. Koukouvaos is Kathy Jackson’s maiden name and Jeffrey Jackson is her former husband.

There are also documents that give a detailed breakdown of the hours of consultancy work being invoiced, and also details of travel expenses. These hours are totalled up and invoiced. It is important to remember that at the time these hours were being invoiced from her company, Neranto No 10, Jackson was also being paid a wage by the HSU.

There are several companies registered in Victoria that bear the name Neranto, they go all the way to No 15. It would be interesting to know how many of these are owned by Jackson, and which organisation is their biggest client.

The HSU No 3 Branch of which Kathy Jackson was General Secretary before the branch merged into HSU East, declared expenditure of $276,028 for consultancy fees between 2004 and 2008, that is over a quarter of a million dollars. I believe it warrants investigation in order to determine just how much of that expenditure ended up being paid to a company owned by Kathy Jackson — the person, it would appear, who approved the cheque requisitions.

Of course, there may be a perfectly innocent explanation for all this...

In the meantime, I believe what the union members would like to see is some transparency from Jackson. By this, I mean opening up the financial records of these companies so that it can be determined to what extent the membership were invoiced for the companies “consultancy services”.

I do have to ask though, if these seemingly irregular transactions could be found so quickly by me, then shouldn’t one question the why Fair Work Australia did not uncover them. With glaring irregularities such as this missed, and Craig Thomson bearing the brunt of the allegations, I have to question why.

Given that these irregularities involve Jackson, the partner of Fair Work Australia’s Vice President, Michael Lawler, only heightens my curiosity.

Also given that Craig Thomson’s expulsion from parliament would likely cause the Labor Government to collapse, thus elevating Tony Abbott – the man who appointed Lawler to his position – to Prime Minister makes the investigation seem even more questionable.

It is my belief that the financial irregularities within the HSU that involve Kathy Jackson warrant further investigation. I am not saying that she is guilty, as I believe guilt should be determined by a court, not by me, or the Leader Of Opposition Business. I would also like to see someone ensure that any funds that may have been taken fraudulently from members are returned as soon as possible — if such a thing is proven to have occurred.

Given these findings, and given the relationship between Kathy Jackson and Michael Lawler, whom Kathy acknowledged discussing HSU matters with on the ABC’s 7.30 this week, I have major questions as to the integrity of the Fair Work Australia investigation. Particularly when one considers that as she was discussing these matters with her partner he was Vice President of the organisation investigating the Union where she was Secretary.

In addition to this, you may remember, from one of our previous articles, that Jackson appeared to have access to a Fair Work Australia computer which she appears to have saved documents from. Imagine an organised crime figure being allowed access to the investigation files on his crime syndicate while an investigation is in place

Adding to my doubts on the investigations integrity, is the decision for both the head investigator of Fair Work Australia, and Michael Lawler to suddenly go on “Long Leave” last Friday. This was the working day before Craig Thomson’s speech, and also not long after Independent Australia raised questions regarding Lawler’s involvement and conflicts of interest.

It is fortunate for Jackson that she is receiving free legal services from both James Ashby’s lawyer, and also Stuart Wood in Melbourne. You may remember Wood is from HR Nicholls, a Liberal Party aligned Think Tank dedicated to destroying trade unionism, with former Coalition frontbencher Peter Reith as a board member and contributors such as Andrew Bolt, Eric Abetz, Peter Costello, Michael Kroger, and of course Tony Abbott. Kathy Jackson is, against the wishes of the HSU, soon to speak at a HR Nicholls function — strange behaviour for a trade unionist. (You can see who attends and speaks at these functions by watching the video above.)

As I said before, we are happy to provide all the documents we are in possession of for any official investigation into this matter — we have them in a safe place. Again, we are not stating that anybody is guilty or innocent of any crime, only putting a case forward for further investigation into the Union and maybe even Fair Work Australia itself.

Suddenly, Craig Thomson’s so called “conspiracy theories” are beginning to look more and more believable — as details and documents, such as the ones shown here, emerge.

Tony Abbott has called Kathy Jackson "credible" and "heroic" — and this is something he may come to regret.  Call it a hunch, but I think Jackson’s free legal services from one of the Liberal Party’s nearest and dearest may come in quite handy.

But, then again, that’s just a hunch.

(Read more from Peter Wicks on his blog WIXXYLEAKS. You can also follow him on Twitter @madwixxy.)

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