The front page of the Australian yesterday was about how the former ALP President and union boss, Michael Williamson, took $600,000 in cash in 300 envelopes. The union movement in Australia is riddled with corruption as they have become so powerful. Worse they have control over many Labor MPs. This is one reason the decision by NZ Labour to give unions even more say in their party’s management is regrettable.
Williamson admitted to using blank union cheques to pay $338,470 to his wife, Julieanne Williamson’s company CANME, between July 2006 and June 2009.
He never declared his connection to the business and there was nothing to show for Mrs Williamson’s work which could have been performed in-house for $40,000 a year.
Williamson had an employee say the work was approved at a union meeting before shredding meeting minutes and creating fake invoices claiming his wife worked 80 hours a week.
Williamson admitted taking $600,000 in cash kickbacks through Alfred Downing, the director of Access Focus – a supplier to the union, the facts said.
Williamson arranged for Access Focus to produce the quarterly HSU document with prices inflated by around 20-25 per cent.
Downing would pay the union’s procurement manager, Cheryl McMillan, and she gave cash to Williamson on at least 300 occasions, the facts said.
The union hierarchy allowed Williamson to take signed blank cheques, the facts said.
The vice president of the organisation “simply trusted … (Williamson) would use the blank cheques in the best interests of the union”, the facts said. “No cross checking … was ever done.”
Incredible. No accountability at all.
Another story looks at the politics:
Senior Government figures argue there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to exploit public disgust over corrupt union officials and expose the entire movement to a royal commission.
They are keen to get cracking on draft terms of reference that would allow a high powered investigation into allegations of corruption across the union fraternity.
Such an investigation could potentially include members of the opposition – and damage Labor’s prospects at the next election.
No decisions have been taken – and Prime Minister Tony Abbott is yet to be convinced of the merits of such a probe.
But equally the exploits of Mr Williamson will aid the voices who want allegations of corruption thoroughly pursued.
Dubbed the “$1 million man” due to his extravagant lifestyle, Mr Williamson took nepotism to new heights, ensuring his family were looked after through union contracts and dodgy management practices.
There is also no doubt that his admission of guilt spreads beyond the HSU and its long-suffering members.
Williamson is the first of a number of political and union figures who are facing potential jail sentences or stiff financial penalties for their alleged misdemeanours.
There is no doubt there is a culture of corruption in several large powerful Australian trade unions.