Disgraced union official fined $1.4 million over embezzlement

by Chloe Taylor21 Aug 2015
Former Health Services Union (HSU) national secretary Kathy Jackson has been ordered to pay $1.4 million after a judge ruled that she had stolen money from the organisation.

Federal Court Justice Richard Tracey found Jackson guilty of misusing her position to fraudulently gain financial advantage, The Canberra Times reported.

Jackson’s unauthorised expenses included hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on high-end clothes, fine dining, grocery and liquor shopping, personal mortgage repayments, flights and hotels.

On Wednesday, Jackson was found to have misappropriated union money in multiple ways, including large cash withdrawals, the misuse of three credit cards and a financial settlement from a Melbourne cancer hospital.

Last month, a three-day trial in the Federal Court examined receipts and bank statements, exposing the ways in which Jackson had been spending union funds over several years to support her own lifestyle.

Jackson was ordered by the Judge to pay the HSU over $1.3 million in compensation, as well as $67,912 for the overpaid salary she received during periods of leave.

Almost all of the union’s claims of Jackson’s misappropriation were upheld in the court, with only her credit card misuse being reduced by around $100,000.

“Between 2003 and 2011, Ms Jackson used the credit cards to pay for personal expenses, retail purchases, food and alcohol, entertainment and health and fitness services,” Justice Tracey said.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said that the Court had made the right decision.

“I welcome the decision of the Court,” he said. “The Australian trade union movement is the better for it.”

Chris Brown, the union’s current national secretary said the decision “finally brought justice to the union's 70,000-plus members”.

“Many HSU members are among the lowest-paid workers in the country, delivering essential services and caring for the most vulnerable members of our community,” he said.

“Kathy Jackson knew this, yet she spent their money on lavish banquets running into tens of thousands of dollars, extravagant family holidays and luxury goods among other things.”

Shortly before the commencement of the trial, Jackson declared bankruptcy.

Wednesday’s judgement will add weight to a criminal investigation into Jackson that is currently underway, which centres on allegations that she was involved in widespread theft and fraud.

The criminal investigation into Jackson’s misconduct is linked to the Royal Commission into Trade Unions.
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