Dean Mighell is not the only member of the ETU in the eye for being on the nose. Harry Quick, the Labor member for the Tasmanian seat of Franklin, says ETU state secretary Kevin Harkins is a shocker.

“Harkins is a right thuggish bastard,” Quick told Crikey. “He’s shifty, intimidatory, totally unreliable and untrustworthy.”


Quick is retiring at the next Federal election and Harkins was rammed through to win Labor pre-selection for the seat, which is seen as marginal and held for Labor by Quick’s personal popularity.

“I won’t vote for him,” Quick says. He’s been supportive of Liberal candidate, criminologist Vanessa Goodwin, but says he’s voting voting Green. “I can tell you, there are lots of people in the broadacre estates who want Rudd to win the election but don’t want to vote for Harkins. They’re in a real dilemma. “

Following the ACTU’s lead, some unions are drumming up support for Harkins from members who live in Franklin. The campaign includes employing someone to ring members to ensure they are on the electoral roll, visit them with forms if they’re not, and to give them an ALP how to vote card before the election.

Crikey couldn’t get hold of Harkins. Not surprising, perhaps, given Rudd’s declaration that the Labor Party would be returning any funds the ETU had contributed to the election war chest.

Harkins has history. The ETU paid $206,560 for a house in the Hobart suburb of Lindisfarne for him and his family to use rent-free when he was sent from Melbourne in 2000 to invigorate the state branch which was in the doldrums.

The questionable purchase came to light in October 2002 during the Royal Commission into the building industry. It was revealed that money was taken from a trust fund to pay for the home – which Mighell defended as a good capital investment.

In 2003, the Commissioner Terence Cole found Harkins had broken the law in July 2001, by trying to stop a private electrician without a union-endorsed work agreement entering a Hobart construction site.

Other evidence presented and accepted by Cole, found Harkins had threatened to ‘sort out’ building firms that didn’t always employ unionised labour and union-approved subcontractors, and froze a small company out of work after it refused to insist its workers sign a union-approved Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

At the time, Harkins accused the Cole Royal Commission of being a kangaroo court set up by the Howard Government.

Harkins is not the only ETU official who has won Labor pre-selection for a marginal seat. Mike Symon was pre-selected for the Victorian seat of Deakin. He was rammed through over Peter Lynch, a local medico unaligned with any union or Labor faction.