Barry O’Farrell’s government has been keen to distance itself from the worst perceptions of its predecessors of sweetheart deals with mates.
O’Farrell certainly enjoys high poll numbers, partly because the likeable chap sounds reasonable, honest and almost like the community-minded neighbour who gets involved with everything and cares about everyone.
He really could do well.
But the news report in the weekend’s Australian Financial Review that his government intends to seek the appointment of a highly partisan and arguably strongly biased figure to serve as the administrator of the notoriously corrupt HSUeast branch will reflect extremely badly on O’Farrell and his government.
The Fin Review – which continues to improve to the stage where it’s a must-buy for those interested in political matters – reports that the NSW government has nominated Jeffrey Phillips, a senior counsel, as its choice to run the union.
There are suggestions Phillips is a friend of Kathy Jackson’s latest lover, the current Fair Work Australia vice-president Michael Lawler.
UPDATE: In addition, we learnt this morning that Phillips was a close friend and contemporary of Tony Abbott’s in student politics at Sydney University and was a very active member – with Abbott – of the Democratic Club there in the mid 1970s. They were involved in multiple student elections and for elections to the notorious Australian Union of Students, at the time, well-informed sources say.
Sources also tell VEXNEWS Phillips is a senior employer-side lawyer with not much knowledge at all of unions and until recently has been a Liberal party branch member, as the Fin revealed on the weekend. In the Vaucluse branch, no less, where the Young Liberal ladies are glamorous and the cocktails shaken not stirred.
His appointment could leave the door open for corrupt Kathy Jackson forces within the HSU – who have temporarily allied themselves with the HR Nicholls Society – to continue to run the union and pursue her pocket-lining, power-grabbing erratic agenda.
Jackson’s formerly far-left political allies, and those familiar with her racy personal history, find it rather funny and strange she’s moved on to socially conservative NSW Liberal backers, who tend not to find much sympathy for Noam Chomsky-loving, wildly nocturnal-living, thieving union bosses.
Mr Phillips description of Jackson as a “very brave and strong person” demonstrates a wilful blindness to the serious, credible and now thoroughly documented allegations of corruption against Jackson. It alone makes him a highly inappropriate choice for the sensitive role as Administrator which will no doubt be fraught with difficulty and drama. Phillips’ willingness to take on the role in those circumstances, according to Melbourne legal insiders, reveals a very different culture in Sydney where some lawyers are willing to take on matters despite serious conflict of interest issues. Phillips could – if it all goes wrong – be subject to ethics complaints that could imperil his otherwise prosperous career at the Bar. “And, for what, propping up one of Australia’s most corrupt union officials? It beggars belief… It must be a Sydney thing,” a legal industry insider noted.
For Phillips’ part, when confronted about the content of his lavishly generous writings about Jackson, the barrister declined to elaborate, telling the Fin the article “speaks for itself.” Indeed, it does. It’s outrageous he’s even contemplating accepting the appointment.
Jackson has – by attacking Craig Thomson (one of the MPs on which the Labor government depends) – won new-found friends among the government’s many critics, especially conservative critics in the Sydney media and in zealous workplace reform circles.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend, seems to be the order of the day. It doesn’t make it right, though.
The fact that Jackson is now exposed as having fleeced the HSU membership in the most brazen way, on a website that has obtained documents demonstrating the malfeasance, is an issue her media-chums and labour-market deregulator friends have not yet confronted or contemplated.
If – and when – Police charges relating to corruption are laid against Jackson, as distinct from the Fair Work Australia civil charges already on foot, we suspect her new-chums’ enthusiasm for the troubled and psychiatrically ill union leader will dim to levels they would normally reserve for such a person. VEXNEWS understands that Eric Abetz has warned colleagues that he thinks Jackson is “dangerous” and “unhinged” and to tread very carefully in relation to her. There’s certainly been a noticeable change in rhetoric about Jackson coming from Abetz in recent months. It seems poor old Barry O’Farrell wasn’t sent the memo.
Hilariously, Jackson’s own submission to the Federal Court apparently demands she continue on in her role, in addition to her notoriously thuggish deputy general secretary Marco Bolano, who has been worrying about whether his high salary would continue after the appointment of Administrator. You read it here first, Marco, it’s time to start looking for a real job, mate. The party’s just about over.
It’s one thing for the enthusiasts of the HR Nicholls Society and mostly red of neck Sydney shock jocks to salivate over Jackson on the basis of her service to the cause of unseating the federal government, it’s another thing entirely for the Premier of New South Wales to so closely associate with her. It was a risk not worth taking and we suspect it will be rejected by the Court, saving the government from a potential stink-bomb of epic proportions.