Kathy Jackson may be spared jail time

Georgie Moore
·2-min read

Former Health Services Union boss Kathy Jackson may be spared jail time for rorting more than $100,000 in member funds for expensive artwork, a Mercedes-Benz and overseas shopping trips.

Once lauded as a whistleblower against corruption herself, Jackson used work credit cards and dodgy expense claims to cover up the systemic misuse of union funds between 2003 and 2011.

The 52-year-old has pleaded guilty to two charges of obtaining financial advantage to the tune of $67,792.85 by deception.

This has allowed her previous jury conviction for one count each of deceptively obtaining property and financial advantage worth $35,100 to be reported.

The same jury acquitted her of 18 theft and two deception charges.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson SC told a pre-sentence hearing in Victoria's County Court on Tuesday Jackson's abuse of her power warranted jail.

But he also said it would be "not inappropriate" to suspend that sentence, which would spare the former HSU national secretary from serving time.

Her crimes were motivated by "greed not need", Mr Gibson said.

Judge Amanda Fox noted Jackson appeared unremorseful.

She was an HSU branch secretary before becoming the national boss.

Union funds were used for her shopping trips to India and Hong Kong, as well as holidays to Bali, the US and Europe with her children, then-husband Jeff and subsequent boyfriend Michael Lawler.

In 2008, Jackson used HSU money to buy a $22,000 Mercedes-Benz from the husband of a former union legal adviser.

That same year she arranged to be reimbursed for her purchase of a $4636 portrait by revered Australian artist Charles Blackman.

Jackson claimed it was for work but displayed it at her Balwyn home in Melbourne's east.

Other fraudulent purchases included for a $1650 home entertainment unit, a $576 gift basket for a friend and ex-union lawyer, and more than $1000 of CDs, DVDs and console games.

Jackson in 2011 blew the whistle on her predecessor, former Labor MP Craig Thomson, and former union general secretary Michael Williamson.

Mr Gibson suggested she may have been trying to deflect attention from her own misdeeds, but acknowledged this couldn't be proven to the requisite standard.

Acting for Jackson, barrister Theo Alexander summed up the case as "good people do bad things".

He read out character references lauding Jackson as a workaholic who had no tolerance for dishonesty.

"Kathy couldn't lie straighter in bed," one read. Mr Alexander acknowledged the irony.

Jackson remains on bail and is due to be sentenced next Thursday.