Former Health Services Union boss Kathy Jackson has been spared jail for rorting more than $100,000 in member funds over seven years.
Jackson used work credit cards and dodgy expense claims to cover up her systematic misuse of union money between 2003 and the end of 2010.
The 52-year-old former national secretary was jailed in Victoria’s County Court on Thursday for 24 months.
But the sentence was wholly suspended for two-and-a-half years, meaning she doesn’t have to serve any time if she’s of good behaviour for that period.
Judge Amanda Fox said Jackson selfishly used union member fees to fund her own lifestyle.
“It was motivated by greed, not need,” the judge said.
“Union members used part of their hard-earned money to pay union funds … you betrayed this trust.”
Jackson became the head of the HSU’s Victorian branch for allied health workers in 1996 and national secretary in 2008.
In total, she misused $102,892.82, and pleaded guilty to and was convicted of a combined four counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception.
Ironically, Jackson in 2011 blew the whistle on corruption by former HSU national secretary and federal Labor MP Craig Thomson, and ex-union general secretary Michael Williamson.
Current HSU boss Lloyd Williams told the court the union’s reputation had been “trashed”, although he conceded not all of this was Jackson’s fault.
“For a period, the HSU became a byword for corruption,” Mr Williams said in a statement.
He added Jackson had never apologised to the union or its members for her misconduct.
She spent to money on shopping trips to India and Hong Kong, and holidays to Bali, the US and Europe with her children, then-husband Jeff and subsequent boyfriend Michael Lawler.
In 2008, she used HSU funds to buy her husband a $22,000 Mercedes from a former union legal adviser, claiming the expense as research work and legal fees.
The year before, Jackson arranged to be reimbursed twice for her attendance at an AEW Capital Management advisory board meeting in the US, on behalf of industry super fund HESTA.
She was already entitled to get money back from AEW, but double-dipped by wrongly claiming $13,100 in travel expenses from HSU.
In 2009, Jackson claimed her purchase of a $4636 portrait by revered Australian artist Charles Blackman as conference and seminar costs.
She hung the painting in her Balwyn home in Melbourne’s east.
Other fraudulent purchases included a $1650 home entertainment unit, a $576 gift basket for a friend and ex-union lawyer, and more than $1000 on CDs, DVDs and console games.
In October, Jackson admitted to two rolled-up charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception.
This guilty plea meant her 2019 jury conviction for another two counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception could be reported.
The same jury acquitted Jackson of 18 theft and two deception charges.
Judge Fox said the intense media coverage of Jackson’s case, particularly the publication of her children’s details, amounted to a form of extra-curial punishment.
Character references described her as a hard worker, and an energetic and determined advocate for members.
“Kathy couldn’t lie straighter in bed,” said one read out in court. Jackson’s lawyer acknowledged the irony of the statement.