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    Disgraced union boss to avoid jail despite ripping off staff $100,000 for art and luxury holidays

    Disgraced union boss set to avoid jail despite ripping $100,000 off health care workers to splurge on art, a Mercedes and family shopping trips to Hong Kong, Bali and Europe

    • Kathy Jackson pleaded guilty to two charges of obtaining financial advantage 
    • Former Health Services Union boss stole $102,892 from health care workers
    • The 53-year-old spent the funds on overseas trips, art, shopping and a Mercedes 

    Former Health Services Union boss Kathy Jackson may avoid jail time despite being found guilty of ripping off $102,892 from health care workers.

    A jury found the 53-year-old guilty of using work credit cards and dodgy expense claims to cover up the systemic misuse of union funds between 2003 and 2011. 

    Union funds were used for Jackson’s 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.

    Kathy Jackson (pictured) pleaded guilty to two charges of obtaining financial advantage

    That same year she arranged to be reimbursed for her purchase of a $4,636 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 $1,650 home entertainment unit, a $576 gift basket for a friend and ex-union lawyer, and more than $1,000 of CDs, DVDs and console games.

    Once lauded as a whistleblower against corruption herself, Jackson pleaded guilty to two charges of obtaining financial advantage and was told to admit to two other charges in order to avoid prison time.

    When Jackson took the stand in Victoria’s County Court last year, she denied any wrongdoing.

    ‘I absolutely did not take any money that I was not entitled to, I did not steal from the HSU,’ she told the jury.

    ‘I am just absolutely devastated that I have ended up in this position by trying to do the right thing.’

    The 53-year-old spent health care workers member funds on overseas trips, art, shopping and a Mercedes Benz

    The 53-year-old spent health care workers member funds on overseas trips, art, shopping and a Mercedes Benz

    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.

    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.

    Union funds were used for Jackson's shopping trips to India and Hong Kong (pictured) as well as holidays to Bali, the US and Europe

    Union funds were used for Jackson’s shopping trips to India and Hong Kong (pictured) as well as holidays to Bali, the US and Europe

    Jackson has refused to apologise for ripping off health workers to fund her lavish lifestyle. 

    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.

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