A one-time union ally of beleaguered Health Services Union chief Kathy Jackson has publicly withdrawn his support for the ailing former student politician as industrial relations minister Bill Shorten moves to dissolve her crumbling Victorian ALP powerbase forever.
National Union of Workers state secretary Tim Kennedy — who joined with Jackson and fellow former-“Rebel Right” unionists Michael Donovan and Bill Oliver last year to contest Frank McGuire’s preselection in Broadmeadows — told Crikey this morning that the “significant reputational damage done to the labour movement” by Jackson’s hijinks meant he had no choice but to distance himself.
“The HSU has now become a serious governance issue and I support the steps taken [by Bill Shorten] to clean up the union,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy’s NUW previously upheld a rag-tag political alliance with Jackson and Senator David Feeney in an attempt to ring-fence his union’s state and federal preselection heft. The union is the last major hold out to a global peace deal inside the Victoria ALP, following the Donovan-led Shop Assistants’ decision to sidle up to the dominant “stability pact” comprising the ShortCons and the Socialist Left. The tripartite alliance currently controls a massive 450 delegates on the 606-delegate state conference floor.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Crikey understands that the two other plaintiffs in the Broadmeadows dispute — Donovan and Oliver — have also consigned Jackson to ancient history, thanks to their unions’ tacit rapprochement with Shorten’s forces.
Kennedy agreed the NUW was politically marginalised in Victoria but said an alliance with Jackson — whose union power equated to 20 seats on Victorian Labor’s state conference floor prior to its disaffiliation — was now completely untenable.
And in perhaps the ultimate betrayal, NUW organisers were also angered by Jackson’s recent use of HR Nicholls society IR headkicker Stuart Wood to help her prepare a case to prosecute Michael Williamson. Wood recently represented poultry industry cowboys Baiada in its bitter Supreme Court spat with the union to prevent workers accessing basic employment rights and proper pay.
Kennedy said that the union was still in pretty good shape and that he maintained good relations on the “industrial side” with both CFMEU and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. On the political side, he said the NUW still sits with the SDA at admin and that the SDA’s detente with Shorten was “not fully consummated”.
Yesterday, the Federal Court heard Shorten’s bid to immediately place HSUEast — formed as a marriage of convenience between the Jackson-controlled Victorian number 1 and number 3 branches and the Williamson-controlled NSW branch — into administration. This morning, the HSU National Council voted overwhelmingly to appoint an ombudsman to its national edifice.
Jackson’s political muscle is now severely lacking.
Even if the HSU number 1 branch and Jackson’s former number 3 branches are de-merged on Shorten’s instructions and somehow re-affiliate to the ALP, then she would only control about 20 delegates — at best — at state conference. Crikey understands that the Victorian Trades Hall Council will move today to formally suspend HSUEast following a similar decision by north-of-the-Murray counterparts Unions NSW.
It leaves Jackson with a dwindling power base among ethnic Turks controlled by Hume Councillor Burhan Yigit and centred on the Calwell FEA — estimated at about nine delegates on conference floor and two members on the 100-strong Public Office Selection Committee.
Jackson’s personal political dream to succeed good friend Kaye Darveniza in Northern Victoria would appear to be stillborn given preselections for the 2014 state election will be decided on a 50-50 vote of grassroots Northern Vic members and 50% by the POSC. Labor sources have reported little evidence of pro-Jackson “madness” in the region to date. Jackson, despite spruiking a lack of ALP involvement to her members, recently served on Labor’s Administrative Committee, remains a member of the Party, and has run twice for Parliament — in Silvan in 1996 and for preselection in Northcote following Mary Delahunty’s resignation a decade later.
Darveniza, who toiled for a decade as state secretary of the Health and Community Services Union and for nine years as Vice President of the national HSU, is married to Craig Thomson’s national secretary predecessor Rob Elliott. Last year her office famously prepared a press release on Jackson’s behalf.
Indications that the dispute is about Jackson’s personal fiefdom came yesterday when Jackson told the Sydney Morning Herald that she welcomed acting deputy secretary Gerard Hayes’ call to place HSUEast in administration to “finally…bring the continuing racket to an end”, while at a press conference just hours later, said than an identical move by Shorten was a “cheap political stunt”.
Along those lines, it would have been nice if the media had pointed out the background to the charges levelled against Jackson by HSU member Daniel Govan earlier in the week. Govan is hardly a political cleanskin, having run as a feeder ticket for the Conroy-aligned mayoral candidate Diana Asmar in the 2008 Darebin election in Rucker Ward, with his sister Jayne also popping up on the ballot paper in the adjacent Cazaly Ward.