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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Health Services Union Rotten to the core

Kathy Jackson

The Health Services Union represents highly skilled health professionals like radiographers, physiotherapists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists and social workers and one can only imagine what they think about the latest revelations about how their hard-earned union fees were handled.

National Secretary of that union and whistle-blower Kathy Jackson was offered police protection after someone left a dirt-covered shovel on her front doorstep at 3 am one morning. She refused their offer and put on a brave face but it didn't last long. She suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to the psychiatric unit of a Melbourne hospital.

Michael Williamson

Now another union whistle-blower has come forward and the focus now shifts from Craig Thomson who was General Secretary of the union, to Michael Williamson, nicknamed the "Million dollar man" who is the National President. There has now been a complaint issued with NSW Police alleging "systemic and organized fraud within the HSU including the procuring of secret commissions and corrupt rewards from suppliers and contractors."

Craig Thomson

Enter John Gilleland whose company Communigraphix is paid $680,000 a year to produce the union's newsletter Health Standard. He gave Michael Williamson and Craig Thomson credit cards which were attached to his own American Express account. But Mr Gilleland's wife was outraged when she saw what Williamson was up to - buying expensive wine for his cellar and paying for his children's private school fees so she went to the union to complain.

One ex-union member who was part of those heady days remembers the free-spending ways under Williamson and Thomson. "If we went somewhere, we didn't just buy a bottle of wine, we bought the best bottle of wine. Thursday was boozy lunch day, 10 or 12 people would indulge themselves with the best of everything, all paid for by Williamson. He said "We would go down to Chinatown in Goulburn Street, start eating at 12 and were still there at 6 or 7 at night." He went on "We were quite conspicuous in the way we consumed the members' money - none of this behaviour was secret within the ALP and when this was all going on, the party in many ways lost its moral compass. No one said to these guys you are not doing the right thing."

Police have dropped the case against Craig Thomson after it was alleged he misused his credit card for more than $100,000 of personal spending, including prostitutes, lavish meals and airline tickets for his then wife Christa. Police said he had not deceived anyone because he used his own name and phone number when he booked appointments with escort agencies and because he was given authority to use the card, there is no case to answer.

Another ex-union official remembers when an excited Craig Thomson was given his new black credit card, it was made of titanium and came in its own presentation box. It's the most exclusive of all credit cards and offered by invitation only to those who spend more than $25,000 a month and the holder pays a fee of $4,000 a year for the privilege.

After these appalling revelations, I wonder what the union members think about it. It seems their fees were spent on sustaining the good life for a privileged few union heavyweights and it just goes to prove what George Orwell said is true "Some people will always be more equal than others."