Health Services Union national secretary Kathy Jackson has tried to justify using union members’ money for a slush fund to support election campaigns of factional allies, and claimed she discussed one such campaign with Bill Shorten.
She claims the Labor leader, when he was a boss of the Australian Workers Union, and Labor frontbencher Stephen Conroy, had talked about the matter at a dinner party at Mr Shorten’s house about nine years ago.
Ms Jackson came under pressure this week when it was revealed that when she was the secretary of the HSU’s Victoria No 3 branch, she ran a slush fund into which the union transferred nearly $300,000 over several years.
Ms Jackson last night said the transfers of union money to the fund, called the National Health Development Account, had been approved by the union’s committee of management, which knew it would be allocated for political purposes.
“There is no allegation that I benefited personally from the money in that bank account. None of those funds were used for my benefit or the private benefit of others,” Ms Jackson said.
“Money that came from that bank account was used to finance various union and Labor Party related causes. I discussed some payments from the account with Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy,” Ms Jackson said.
“On one occasion at Mr Shorten’s home, we discussed a payment of $6000 from the HSU fund to finance a Labor Party member’s campaign.”
A spokesman for the Labor leader said: “Mr Shorten has absolutely no recollection of the ‘National Health Development Account’ being referred to.” A spokesman for Senator Conroy said he “has no recollection of a dinner or a discussion”.
“Kathy Jackson should hand the full details of the NHDA to the royal commission and take responsibility for her own actions,” the spokesman said.
Ms Jackson said she justified the use of union funds for factional ALP and union campaigns because it was the only way in the brutal world of union and ALP politics. Without funds, candidates who could do the best job for members had little chance of election, she said.
“I’m not a f. king political virgin,” Ms Jackson said.
“I justify it because you don’t get outcomes for your members if you don’t play the game.”
Ms Jackson has been on extended leave, and the union’s acting national secretary, Chris Brown, has referred the allegations to the Fair Work Commission and the royal commission into union corruption.