We set off Craig Thomson inquiry: Health Services Union branch

Craig Thomson

The HSU’s Victoria branch No 4 suggests the FWA launched a full investigation after branch head Rosemary Kelly organised a petition.  
Source: Supplied

A SMALL branch of the Health Services Union claims it – not the union’s national leadership – was responsible for triggering the Fair Work Australia investigation into the alleged $100,000 misuse of union funds by Labor MP Craig Thomson.

Last week, HSU national secretary Kathy Jackson said the union’s national executive had initiated the chain of events in 2008 by ordering an audit on Mr Thomson’s financial activities as national secretary between 2002 and 2007. She said the executive then referred the findings to FWA “immediately” upon receiving them in June 2009.

But the HSU’s Victoria branch No 4 has issued a statement on its website suggesting the FWA launched a full investigation after branch head Rosemary Kelly organised a petition of members.

The branch No 4 claims come as court documents obtained by The Australian show that in 2009 a Federal Court judge found some HSU officers had tried to impede a separate financial inquiry into a different branch, the then HSU Victoria No 1 branch. Dr Kelly could not be reached for comment yesterday, and Ms Jackson did not return calls or emails.

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The branch No 4 statement says it was its own “resolute action” – getting a petition of 250 members together and submitting it to FWA in July 2009 – that propelled what was an FWA inquiry into a formal investigation.

“This has now blown into a fully fledged scandal, which is rocking the foundations of the minority Labor government,” the website statement says.

The statement says members of the No 4 branch, which is not affiliated with the ALP, were “appalled” at the allegations that Mr Thomson, who holds the marginal seat of Dobell on the NSW central coast, had used his union credit card to pay for prostitutes, expensive dining and air tickets for his then wife, Christa.

Mr Thomson denies the allegations.

The statement says the branch had legal advice that a petition could trigger a full FWA investigation with the power to subpoena witnesses and documents. The HSU’s national president, Michael Williamson, yesterday said: “The trigger for FWA’s investigation is a matter for the FWA.”

But he confirmed the FWA had made the first approach on the Thomson matter, asking the national executive for information in April 2009.

An FWA spokeswoman would say only that the inquiry into the national branch was launched in April 2009 and upgraded to a full investigation in March last year.

In 2009, judge Ross Sundberg questioned resolutions passed by the HSU national executive, which wanted all allegations concerning the No 1 branch to go to a new in-house national auditor to determine whether any external investigations would go ahead.

“The national executive’s resolutions lack any timeframe for an investigation,” Justice Sundberg said in his judgment. “Altogether, the resolutions have the hallmarks of a process which is not designed to get anywhere.”

Justice Sundberg’s 2009 judgment revealed junior vice-president Donna Conquo at Victoria’s No 1 branch took court action to stop Jeff Jackson, then branch secretary, from preventing audit firm Pitcher Partners from conducting an investigation. Mr Jackson denied any wrongdoing and claimed the audit was invalid.

Additional reporting: Milanda Rout

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