PHILLIP COOREY April 10, 2012
Kathy Jackson ... in the sights of senior officials. Photo: Nick Moir
THE woman who blew the whistle on the alleged credit card misuse by the Labor MP Craig Thomson is herself in the sights of senior officials who are out to purge the Health Services Union of its leadership over claims of endemic corruption.
The same officials who met yesterday to demand formally that the national president, Michael Williamson, resign are also working to remove the national secretary, Kathy Jackson. Ms Jackson is a member of the national executive but was not invited to participate in the teleconference.
She has called for another phone hook-up of the national executive to be held today to sack the entire national executive and hold fresh elections but has been blocked.
HSU officials say Ms Jackson is not working in the interests of the union and is conflicted by using her position as national secretary to try to take over the powerful HSU east branch controlled by Mr Williamson.
It is understood a motion of no confidence in Ms Jackson is being drafted for a national executive meeting this month.
Last month, allegations of financial irregularities concerning a Victorian branch when she ran it were referred to Victoria Police by Mr Williamson's supporters.
Ms Jackson denied any wrongdoing and said she was being fitted up. Yesterday, she rejected the push to oust her, saying she was not conflicted.
''I'm consistent,'' she said. ''I flushed out corruption that took place in the Thomson era in my role as national secretary and I've flushed out corruption in HSU east in my role as HSU east executive president.''
In an opinion piece for today's Sydney Morning Herald, she says she tried to warn Labor before the last federal election not to preselect Mr Thomson, the member for the central coast seat of Dobell, because the allegations against him ''were likely to be publicly established during the life of the next Parliament''.
She says she warned senior ALP figures, including the NSW general secretary, Sam Dastyari.
But Mr Dastyari said he was not general secretary when NSW held its preselections.
This morning, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott hit out at Ms Jackson's detractors for trying to "blacken" her name.
"I think that Kathy Jackson has been a very credible whistleblower here," Mr Abbott told reporters in Sydney.
"I think that what she has done has been heroic."
Mr Abbott said that that union required a complete overhaul.
"I can't understand why the Prime Minister persists in trying to wash her hands of this,'' he said.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said today that the actions of Fair Work Australia and its investigation into the HSU were independent of government.
"Proper processes should be worked through," she told ABC radio. "The industrial umpire has to do its work independently of government."
Ms Jackson, who succeeded Mr Thomson as the national secretary when he entered Parliament in 2007, first raised internally the claims that Mr Thomson misused his union credit card to the tune of more than $100,000.
Mr Thomson has denied any wrongdoing and says Ms Jackson destroyed records that would have cleared him. His alleged misdeeds are the subject of non-criminal findings by Fair Work Australia that will be released next month.
Yesterday, 10 members of the 14-member national executive decided Mr Williamson must resign as national president and head of the HSU east branch.
The teleconference came after the acting national president, Chris Brown, rang Mr Williamson on Sunday and urged him to go. Mr Williamson refused and maintains his innocence.
Mr Williamson has been suspended on full pay since October after the start of an internal audit by Ian Temby, QC.
Mr Temby's impending findings are believed to be explosive, prompting the ACTU's decision last week to suspend the union from the organisation.
''Even if these investigations find that Mr Williamson has not broken any laws, it is clear that some of the financial governance practices under Mr Williamson's leadership are ethically questionable and have no place in modern unions," Mr Brown said.
"We have decided that enough is enough and for the good of the union and the members of the union, Mr Williamson must go. There is no other option. He can either go now or try and hang on and do more damage to the HSU.''
with Judith Ireland
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