07 October 2015
by Peter Wicks
Jeremy Stoljar's HSU submission to tainted TURC trips up Team Turnbull
The embattled Royal Commission into Trade Unions has seen its Counsel Assisting Jeremy Stoljar QC release his submission into the HSU, reviving questions around the Commissions bias and integrity
The coalition's inquisition into trade unions – otherwise known as the Trade Union Royal Commission (TURC), Liberal Party witch hunt, or legal fat-cat feeding frenzy – has now seen its counsel assisting, Jeremy Stoljar, finally release his much-anticipated submission regarding the HSU.
For a Royal Commission that has seen its integrity questioned more times than Christopher Pyne’s sexuality, this was to be one important submission.
Stoljar's submission has left people knowledgeable about HSU matters shaking their heads in bewilderment at a document that appears to be equal parts political spin and evasion of responsibility.
So what do I mean by political spin?
It is my view that the playing down of Kathy Jackson’s role by dragging into his submission the Michael Williamson and Craig Thomson matters has a definite political bent to it. After all, Williamson and Thomson are understandably seen as tied with the Labor Party, while Kathy Jackson is now seen as a close friend and ally of the Coalition. TURC's steadfast refusal to adequately delve into Jackson's tenure at the Union will forever stain those associated with it.
The Guardian reported it like this:
'Stoljar has recommended that the Commissioner make findings against Jackson and Thomson, as well as the former HSU boss Michael Williamson, that reflect that they had been “personally responsible” for the misappropriation of more than $2.4 million of HSU members’ money.'
While that may sound fair enough to some, to others who actually stop and think, it seems somewhat less so.
This was a Royal Commission claiming right from the outset that it was not there to look at matters that were already before the courts or had already been dealt with. However, in the HSU matter, rather than focus on the alleged thief and fraudster with Liberal Party friends and ties that they could shine a light on, they have changed their own rules so the focus can be diluted by two old cases instead.
Has the Commission really failed so badly that rehashing these cases seemed a good option? Why not bring up Norm Gallagher and the BLF while they are at it. Actually, why stop there? Ned Kelly was for the working class, wasn’t he?
Dredging up old cases only further taints a Commission that is already in a state of integrity crisis.
Michael Williamson currently resides in a prison cell. What possible purpose would making findings against him serve that are not political in nature? It is not like they are going to start his court cases again, or put him in prison, he’s already there.
It is also worth noting that the Royal Commission did not cover or explore the allegations against Williamson or Thomson. Making findings on cases that were not even heard at the Commission is like asking a judge to rule on a case in the courtroom next door that he hasn’t even heard.
In regards to the money, $2.4 million, I didn’t need to reach for my calculator to realise that dragging Thomson into this is nothing short of ridiculous and clearly has a political objective. After all, Williamson is in prison for approximately $1 million, and Jackson was found in Federal Court to have been responsible for around $1.4 million.
2.4 million minus 1 million, minus 1.4 million... What does that leave Thomson with? Oh, right...
Just as Thomson being found not guilty regarding brothels and hookers in court doesn’t stop Julian Morrow from making cheap and predictable jokes at his expense on the Chasers Media Circus, being found guilty of what equates to small change won’t stop Stoljar from dropping him into the equation with millions of dollars others have absconded with.
Once again the Royal Commissions pseudo integrity is on display for anyone willing to look between the lines.
In other related news, editors at The Australian were required to publish an apology to one of TURC’s junior counsel’s Fiona Roughley, as well as a letter from the same lady.
This apology was in relation to The Australian claiming that the Commission had been “coaching” Kathy Jackson based on TURC file notes, some of them made by Ms Roughley.
Unfortunately, The Australian misquoted some of those file notes and were hence forced into a position of having to apologise for the entire article. Yes, even the mainstream media are prone to the odd mistake from time to time. This mistake has, unfortunately, placed a cloud over what in my opinion was an excellent article that highlighted the, at best, questionable practices within the Royal Commission — practices that have yet to be adequately addressed or answered.
Whether or not you deem it as “coaching” or not, the correspondence certainly indicates a cosy relationship between a Royal Commission, Australia’s second highest ranking industrial judge and, possibly, the biggest union fraudster in this country's history.
I have uploaded all of the correspondence documents to my Jacksonville Resource Page under the heading 'Private Correspondence Between Royal Commission, Kathy Jackson and Michael Lawler' for readers to make up their own minds.
However, as telling as those documents are as to the relationship between Commission and alleged criminal currently under investigation by Victorian and Federal Police, it is what it doesn’t say that we should be even more concerned about.
These documents show that there was regular contact, some that involved planning, between Kathy Jackson and her legal team. These documents also only give an account of the “on-record” parts of those conversations and meetings; I’d like to know the details of anything else that may have been discussed. Oh, I’m sure that officials would say that nothing else was discussed between the allegedly corrupt and the pseudo corruption busters, but I wonder how many would be convinced of that claim?
Since the Liberal Party grimly disposed of their former inept leader, Tony Abbott, it was hoped that a fresh perspective from the top might prevail and we may see action taken regarding the Commission's lack of integrity — in particular with respect to Dyson Heydon himself. It was also hoped that Kathy Jackson’s partner, Michael Lawler, may be removed from his taxpayer-funded $430,000 judicial role for which he rarely shows up. Those hopes have, so far, been in vain.
As long as Lawler still collects his salary from the public purse and as long as those who have shown their integrity to be at best questionable still run TURC, they should be considered as Malcolm Turnbull’s picks rather than the former "Captain's”. After all, Turnbull is in the position to make the necessary changes and, as yet, has failed to do so.
The biased, the bludger and the fraudster?