ACTU poised to axe HSU over rort claims

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ACTU poised to axe HSU over rort claims

Updated: 16:08, Wednesday April 4, 2012

ACTU poised to axe HSU over rort claims

Peak union body ACTU is considering suspending the Health Services Union as it faces allegations of financial mismanagement.

The national office of the HSU – which represents 77,000 hospital, aged care and community sector workers – is the subject of a 1100-page Fair Work Australia (FWA) investigation report which is now in the hands of federal prosecutors to consider criminal charges.

The report, for which FWA has legal advice that it cannot be released publicly, examines alleged breaches of workplace laws by three former and current officials and another individual.

The report has been formally requested by a Senate committee that met in a teleconference on Wednesday morning.

It’s understood the investigation, which started as an inquiry following media reports in April 2009, looked at the alleged misuse of an HSU credit card by former union boss and now Labor MP Craig Thomson for prostitutes and cash withdrawals.

Mr Thomson, the member for the NSW seat of Dobell, says he is innocent and will continue to cooperate with authorities.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said the peak body’s executive would meet in Melbourne on Thursday to consider suspending the HSU.

‘We represent some 1.4 million union members and the ongoing allegations and investigations into the HSU have of course caused great concern … right across the broader community,’ she said.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence went further, saying that the union movement had ‘zero tolerance for corruption’.

‘One of the reasons we have proposed to take this action is to emphasise very clearly that unions are democratic, accountable, transparent organisations subject to a very strict regime of accountability and reporting,’ Mr Lawrence said.

‘Union members have a right to be confident that their money is being well spent.’

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who reiterated her confidence in Mr Thomson on Wednesday, said the decision was up to the ACTU.

Acting HSU national president Chris Brown said the suspension was ‘unprecedented and possibly even beyond the power of the ACTU’.

He said much work had been done during the past four years to put in place good governance and ‘get to the bottom of what went on in the HSU prior to 2007’.

‘It’s a shame that some in our movement would seek to walk away from us in our time of greatest need,’ Mr Brown said.

Opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis said Ms Gillard should now sever ties with Mr Thomson.

‘A member of parliament who is under such a cloud … cannot, in my view, sit within the government itself,’ he said.

But Ms Gillard told reporters in Sydney that a senior member of Mr Abbott’s team, Andrew Laming, was given the presumption of innocence when the DPP spent seven months in 2007 investigating electoral rorts allegations which were later found unproven.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott repeated his call for the report to be made public, but Ms Gillard said the report’s release was a matter for FWA to decide.

Mr Thomson told reporters outside his home on Wednesday he was ‘frustrated’ that he had not yet seen the report.

‘We found out about this on Twitter,’ he said.

The MP said he did not know what was being alleged or the names of the people mentioned in the report.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, whose support would be needed if the coalition is to pass a no-confidence motion in the government, told AAP he is watching the government’s response to the FWA report with ‘great interest’.

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