Wednesday 24 August 2011

One law for Craig and one law for his union members

Union calls on Craig Thomson to go public

Author: Stephen Johnson | AAP August 24, 2011, 6:12 pm

Kathy Jackson Health Services Union 

The Health Services Union (HSU) has called on Labor MP Craig Thomson to publicly explain "financial irregularities" it found after he left the union.

Mr Thomson has denied allegations he used union credit cards to pay for the services of prostitutes when he was head of the HSU between 2002 and 2007. The HSU's national executive agreed on Wednesday to refer all relevant documents to NSW police, following a two-hour meeting in Sydney.

Mr Thomson has also rebuffed federal opposition calls to make a statement to parliament about the matter. But his HSU successor Kathy Jackson, who is also a Labor Party member, said Mr Thomson needed to explain himself. "Craig Thomson is a former national secretary so he should go on the public record and make a public statement about his position," Ms Jackson told AAP.

"What we say is we became aware of irregularities following his departure as national secretary. If Craig Thomson is asked to make a statement, of course it would help." The union's national auditor was asked to examine financial irregularities in early 2008, shortly after Ms Jackson took over as national secretary.

The case was referred to Fair Work Australia the following year.Ms Jackson said Mr Thomson should at the very least front up to HSU members. "Tell the HSU members, let us know," she said."My personal view is the allegations against Craig Thomson are a matter for him.Ms Jackson said the union's 75,000 members were suffering as a result of the bad publicity "It's unfortunate we had to go through this," she said.

"The members are very upset about the union being dragged in the mud because of this. "Our hardworking organisers are out there having to field questions from the members." Ms Jackson also acknowledged that referring the matter to the NSW police could potentially spark a by-election in Mr Thomson's seat of Dobell, and bring about the fall of the minority Gillard government. "Of course I'm concerned about what happens in a by-election," she said.

"A Liberal government is the worst outcome for our members." She also scotched suggestions the HSU's secretary for NSW and Victoria, Michael Williamson, opposed referring the matter to the NSW police during Wednesday's national executive meeting.

"It was unanimous. There was no-one opposed at the national executive this morning," Ms Jackson said. The union's national executive met at the Radisson hotel in Sydney before lunch, with three members of the 14-person panel linking up in a phone conference call. The HSU maintains it handled the matter appropriately and Ms Jackson said she was frustrated at the pace of the Fair Work Australia investigation. FWA says its investigation will wrap up in the second half of this year.


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