RORTING the trade union royal commission tried to kick into touch has been laid bare at the Federal Court in Melbourne. And the numbers are mind-blowing.
In August, the court ordered Liberal Party favourite Kathy Jackson to pay $1.4m in compensation to the Health Services Union and its members.
Age industrial reporter, Ben Schneiders, captured the magnitude of the decision against the self-styled “whistleblower” in one of the sharpest opening’ paragraphs written this year.
“Kathy Jackson has been exposed as a thief, a liar and a hypocrite of the highest order,” he wrote.
To be fair, the decision followed a civil trial with a lower burden of proof than a criminal action, but the result was an embarrassment to a long list of political boosters, including the Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
The Court found Jackson had cashed cheques worth more than $240,000 from a “slush fund” for personal spending. This presumably is the notorious Peter Mac money her union opponents drew attention to at the royal commission against trade unions.
Their allegation was Jackson had allowed Melbourne’s Peter MacCallum cancer hospital to pay $250,000 to settle millions of dollars it owed underpaid workers.
But, they said, the settlement never went into union accounts, much less the pockets of affected workers, but into an ‘off line” fund Jackson used for own personal and political spending.
The Federal Court also found she had splurged more than $300,000 of HSU members’ money on luxury goods, grog, food and other retail purchases, without authorisation.
It found she had improperly spent another $175,000 on trips and holidays around Europe, Asia and the Americas while continuing to draw a union salary.
These were some of the headline numbers in a judgement that found Jackson owed the HSU $1,338,626 along with another $67,912 for salaries she had not been entitled to.
On top of that, the court ordered her to pay interest and meet the HSU’s legal costs. Her total bill is expected to top $2m.
The problem, now, for long-suffering health workers is that, faced with mounting legal bills, Jackson declared bankruptcy in June.
A recent attempt to transfer ownership of Jackson’s luxury beachfront home into the name of her partner – a Fair Work Commission vice president appointed by Abbott – was blocked by the Federal Court.