HSU boss Kathy Jackson has argued at a national inquiry she shouldn’t be cross-examined by a barrister with whom she previously had an affair.
But the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, disagreed, ruling that a sexual relationship which occurred 21 years ago was irrelevant.
In an extraordinary development at the national inquiry on Thursday, almost an hour was devoted to hearing an application by Ms Jackson to stop union barrister Mark Irving cross-examining her because they had an affair that ended badly.
In an affidavit read on Thursday Ms Jackson said that in 1992 when she was employed as an industrial officer at the health union’s No3 branch in Victoria she met Mr Irving, who was with Maurice Blackburn and Co the union solicitors at the time.
She said the union offices were in Carlton and Mr Irving lived in the suburb and there were Friday night drinks which they both attended.
“After about eight month, in or about, late 1992 or early 1993 Mr Irving and I had a few many drinks and went back to his place where we had a sexual relationship.
“I was at the time married to my first husband which he knew.”
In the affidavit read by counsel for Ms Jackson she said in the course of the next six to eight weeks she would go back to his place.
“I recall he lived near the cemetery and had a barber’s chair in his lounge.”
She said she ended the relationship and thought Mr Irving was “resentful”.
Mr Irving left the law firm and became an industrial officer for the national HSU.
Ms Jackson said they avoided one another and did not speak.
In making the application David Pritchard, SC, representing Ms Jackson argued that Mr Irving should be precluded from cross-examining her because “he now found himself in circumstances that placed an impossible burden on him”.
He also argued that, legally, a fair minded person might perceive a bias against Ms Jackson.
Michelle Painter representing the union said the affair happened 21 years ago and “it had no relevance, save perhaps a prurient interest to observers of these matters”.
Commissioner Dyson Heydon agreed.
He said that if Ms Jackson “really had the fears and beliefs, about Mr Irving that she claims to have, she would have protested at the time when Mr Irving first announced his appearance about her – this was not done.”
Ms Irving is leading the union’s case against Ms Jackson.
The hearing continues with Mr Irving cross examining Ms Jackson.