Union whistleblower turned investigation target Kathy Jackson claims federal opposition leader Bill Shorten was part of a corrupt gang that set out to get her after she exposed corruption in the Health Services Union (HSU).
After concluding her evidence to the unions royal commission on Friday, Ms Jackson followed up with an extraordinary media conference in which she labelled her affair with the union’s current lawyer 21 years ago “a charity shag”.
She also accused senior union figures of putting the HSU East branch into administration in 2012 and vacating its official posts – one of which was hers – for their own political gain.
And she accused Mr Shorten of plotting against her when he was Workplace Relations Minister.
She said intercepted phone calls, including one in which corrupt former HSU president Michael Williamson discussed her sacking with other union officials and Mr Shorten’s bid to place the union in administration, were evidence of a move against her.
“They were part of a corrupt little gang that were trying to put this union into administration for their own political ends, not because they were concerned for members of the Health Services Union – it was about protecting their power base,” she told reporters outside the commission.
Asked about the allegation, Mr Shorten on Friday said the royal commission had been “a platform for people to settle scores” and he would not provide a running commentary.
“It will be up to the Royal Commission to sort out, amongst the evidence, what is right and what’s wrong,” he told a press conference in Melbourne.
Ms Jackson helped expose corruption by the now-jailed Mr Williamson but complained she had been “ambushed” when asked in the commission about her use of a $284,000 union slush fund, including $50,000 paid to her ex-husband.
On Friday, she told reporters she would not be a whistleblower again because “the ALP dirt machine” had succeeded in making her the focus of the royal commission.
“What I’d like to see come out of this royal commission is to make sure that union officials are accountable, that there is a break between the ALP and unions, and that union members get a true say about who runs their unions,” she said.
Ms Jackson said union slush funds like the one she operated as HSU secretary were “abhorrent”, but were needed to play the game of protecting union control from rival factions.
She wants all union slush funds to be investigated, even though she admitted they existed to circumvent electoral funding disclosure laws.
“They should be looked into because I understand now the community concern,” she said.
On Friday, Ms Jackson also dismissed an affair she had with the HSU’s barrister, Mark Irving who cross examined her on Thursday.
“Forget the former lover stuff – everybody makes mistakes and has a charity shag along the way,” she said.
The commission will continue next week with investigation of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.