Michael Lawler is the equivalent of a federal court judge, a judicial officer, in his capacity as a $400K per annum Vice-President of Fair Work Australia.
The Health Services Union is a registered organisation administered by and frequently subject to the rulings of FWA.
Lawler’s lover is Kathy Jackson, who runs the national office of the HSU and is the $270K per annum Executive President of the infamous HSUeast branch.
That arrangement – per se – is an awkward one.
But certainly not unmanageable if Lawler acted with appropriate judicial reserve, discretion and distance.
Far from that, VEXNEWS and other outlets, have explored and exposed an incredible extent of active meddling by His Honour Michael Lawler into the internal workings of the HSU.
These include, but are not limited to:
■ Drafting Kathy Jackson’s personal correspondence in relation to HSU matters;
■ Writing, or substantially editing, an ironically titled website “CleanupHSUeast”;
■ As revealed on ABC’s 730 last night, making bogus complaints to NSW Police about his lover’s rivals at the HSU;
■ Telephoning and threatening individual HSU officers who failed to comply with his lover’s desires; and
■ Attending and speaking at an off-the-record briefing of industrial relations journalists last year where he made a drunken series of attacks on rivals of his lover and other union officials at the gathering at the Hotel Spencer.
And there is even more to come.
If Lawler was still a Sydney barrister, there’d be nothing wrong with him helping out his lover (although false reports to Police are serious and unlawful).
But as a judicial officer, whose activities necessarily reflect on Fair Work Australia and all of his colleagues, this is highly inappropriate and warrants his removal.
Consider that in Victoria, a magistrate’s neighbourhood dispute and scuffle about dog poo prompted his resignation.
Consider that those appointed to FWA as commissioners are told in initial briefings that they are to no longer associate with their friends from employer organisations or trade unions. No long lunches with the comrades are allowed because of the optics, because it would give the impression that the impartial sworn judicial officers of FWA were compromised. A tough requirement, but it makes sense for the public faith in FWA to be maintained.
Michael Lawler’s involvement in the HSU has clearly reached an intolerable and scandalous level that brings nothing but disgrace on FWA.
The minister said he would seek advice on what to do about the claims on ABC’s 730.
We believe only a judicial inquiry can establish what Lawler did, with witnesses summoned and required to give answers on oath, and when he did what we did.
The new President of Fair Work Australia has acknowledged he has a problem and has even sought a re-branding to deal with the damage down to the standing of FWA by the HSU investigation farce and the conflict of interest scandal that Lawler has involved himself in.
But a rebranding won’t be enough.
There must be a cultural change there and there must be real accountability for a judicial official found to have improperly interfered with the internal affairs of a registered organisation.
The Coalition have understandably embraced the enemy of their enemy. The politics of that makes sense up to a point. Many in the Coalition are well aware of the true nature of the Jacksons at the HSU. They are not so much whistle-blowers as mob-style super-grasses, hoping to gain power at the expense of rivals, while continuing to run the same profitable and evil scam.
We think Eric Abetz, the wily Shadow Minister, is fully aware of this although we wonder whether his Leader has got the memo. Some of Abbott’s rhetoric on Jackson seems remarkably naive and ill-informed.
The Coalition will want to take a good look at FWA (or whatever it’s called) after the next election. They’d do well to rid themselves of this hopelessly compromised, Koolade swilling judge before celebratory Craig Thomson cigars end up exploding in their face.