Yet another Health Services Union dispute is headed for the courts after the Australian Electoral Commission rejected the nomination of a leading candidate for the Victorian No. 1 branch elections.

This afternoon it was revealed Diana Asmar, who resigned as deputy mayor of Darebin Council last month to run for secretary in the HSU poll, had been struck off a list of approved AEC nominations for the postal ballot, set to open in two weeks. Her major rivals, former HSUEast deputy secretary Marco Bolano and regional candidate Ricky Lovell, were given the green light, as was ally Sherri Jacks.

Under HSU rules a candidate for secretary is required to be a continuous member for 12 months prior to their nomination. However, Asmar claims her enemies inside the No. 1 branch had repeatedly refused to process membership payments after her last tilt for the secretary position in 2009, leading to her forced removal from the database.

Asmar has now instructed partner David Shaw at industrial law firm Holding Redlich to act on her behalf. Shaw will file his application with the Federal Court in coming days and is seeking an interim order to suspend the postal ballot until the dispute can be tested before a judge. The evidence could unleash a fresh torrent of damaging documents implicating former office bearers in swathes of malfeasance.

A defiant Asmar, who planned to run under the “Together We Are One” banner, opened fire on her enemies, telling Crikey the case would reveal “corruption worse than in New South Wales”.

“I want to fight this and it’s very important it be a democratic process,” she said. “This has gone on for too long … I’m not going to sit down and watch the same group of people destroy the union yet again.” She says she has “evidence” that enemies had “tampered with the membership database”.

The potential difficulties surrounding Asmar’s candidacy were first highlighted by Crikey in July. Crikey understands the AEC had no choice but to exclude her given it was required to interpret the database strictly on face value.

On Monday, Crikey foreshadowed the looming action, revealing Bolano, a Kathy Jackson ally, had repeatedly written to HSUEast administrator Michael Moore to protest Asmar’s eligibility. When Asmar phoned the union in August to inquire into her membership status, she was informed she had “been resigned”. Her membership was restored days later.

Moore and his two employees are currently disentangling the three constituent parts of the union after a Federal Court order requesting the union be de-merged in the wake of serious allegations and now criminal charges leveled against former NSW-based general secretary Michael Williamson.

A spokesperson for the AEC declined to comment today given the matter was headed to court. Bolano has been contacted for comment.

Victoria and NSW police continue to investigate the HSU in both states and have failed to rule out fresh criminal charges against a number of current and former officials.

Peter Fray

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