Top NSW Labor officials warned about HSU time bomb
Phillip Cooroy SMH 12.4.2010
THE corruption crisis tearing apart the Health Services Union threatens to engulf NSW Labor with claims emerging that key party figures were warned about the alleged antics of senior HSU officials but took no action.
Emails obtained by the Herald reveal the state Opposition Leader, John Robertson, was warned three years ago, when he was a minister, about allowing the HSU national president, Michael Williamson, to serve as the ALP national president.
Mr Williamson, the ALP national president for 2009-10, is facing allegations of extensive corruption but is fighting a push from HSU officials to resign.
Warned … NSW Opposition Leader, John Robertson. Photo: Brockwell Perks
The Herald has also been told the former NSW Labor powerbroker John Della Bosca twice warned Labor officials, including the now-NSW ALP general-secretary, Sam Dastyari, not to endorse Craig Thomson for the 2010 election because the allegations against him concerning credit card misuse would flare.
The emails concerning Mr Williamson show union official Peter O’Toole contacted Mr Robertson to warn him about the HSU boss. Mr O’Toole’s warnings followed the airing of similar concerns in 1999.
”Do you remember the coffee we had at Haymarket when you tried to dissuade me from running against Williamson,” wrote Mr O’Toole.
”Didn’t I mention the number of times Michael had been mugged at ATMs and had to withdraw additional money with the union credit card?
”Didn’t I mention the six-hour lunches every Thursday before Labor Council?
”Knowing what you know, if you think Williamson should be the next federal president of the ALP then do nothing. But, I think it’s about time this bloke was taught what it is to care for union members. Why isn’t there a standard of practice for these guys?
”You have the power to do something about this, why don’t you?”
Mr Robertson replied that he didn’t recall their earlier conversation and said Mr O’Toole should ”take the matter up with the party’s national office”.
Mr Thomson entered Parliament in 2007 as the Labor member for the central coast seat of Dobell. In his first term, allegations emerged that during his time as the HSU national secretary between 2002 and 2007, he misused his union-supplied credit card to the tune of more than $100,000.
When Labor began preselections for the 2010 poll, sources say Mr Della Bosca had two conversations with Mr Dastyari, who was being groomed to take over as the general-secretary, about the danger of Mr Thomson standing again.
The HSU national secretary, Kathy Jackson, said on Monday that she similarly warned Mr Dastyari and others.
Mr Dastyari was unavailable yesterday but said previously that he was not general-secretary at the time and that Mr Thomson was challenged for preselection in a rank-and-file ballot but won.
Back then, NSW Labor was occupied with removing Mr Della Bosca’s wife, Belinda Neal, from the neighbouring central coast seat of Robertson.