Paul McLeay, Labor MP for the Illawarra seat of Heathcote south of Sydney, is a former assistant general secretary of the Public Service Association, which represents 40,000 state government employees.

The union donated to McLeay’s election campaign when he entered State Parliament in 2003. In his inaugural address to Parliament on 29 April, McLeay, son of “Leaping” Leo McLeay, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, said:

I would not be standing here but for the tireless support, patience and guidance of my fellow members of the broad family that is the Labor Party, including my comrades at the Public Service Association, the Transport Workers Union, the Municipal Employees Union and the Labor Council.

And he added:

I also remember with great pride the years I spent working as an official with the Public Service Association [PSA]. I made many friends across the State, particularly Fran van Dartel, Cheryl McGuire, Maurie O’Sullivan and John Cahill, fighting to ensure that workers were not being victimised, that workers were being treated equally, that they had protection from bullies in the workplace, and that they were getting — slowly — more flexible work practices to help balance work and family needs. These are noble pursuits.

Now let us roll forward to March 2009. Greens MP Sylvia Hale has revealed that McLeay, now Chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, received a $2000 donation from GEO, a private prison operator formerly known as Wackenhut, which is now bidding to buy control of two state-run prisons, Parklea and Cessnock.

GEO, which holds the contract for the State’s only privately-owned prison at Junee, made the donation to McLeay when he was the PAC’s Deputy Chairman and sitting on a committee investigating the performance of the private sector in corrections management.

Hale also pointed out that GEO has given more than $50,000 to the ALP and $20,000 to the Liberal Party, both donations while the group was holding the $20 million contract for Junee.

McLeay’s father, “Leaping” Leo, who has already privatised himself and become a business lobbyist, works for Enhance Corporation. One of Enhance’s clients is Serco, an overseas corrections group that operates private jails in Western Australia.

Serco is also bidding for the two NSW jails, but both Enhance and Serco insist that McLeay Snr is not working on that particular account.

Privatisation of jails is in breach of current NSW ALP policy and McLeay’s union, the CPA, is fighting a bitter campaign to stop the private operators taking charge at Parklea and Cessnock. Can the PSA “comrades” union expect tireless support from McLeay, their former deputy general secretary? Don’t count on it.

Peter Fray

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