Review - Planet Jackson, Brad Norington
When Kathy Jackson was revealed as the whistle-blower on million-dollar fraud in the Health Services Union it's hard to believe she couldn't have foreseen her own fate. Even after reading PLANET JACKSON it's still impossible to believe that somebody with their own snout so deeply in the trough of union funds could not have seen that her own behaviour would be revealed.
Allowing for the slightly anti-union whiff about this book, it's an appalling story, detailed and frankly gobsmacking. Much, quite rightly, has been made about the millions of dollars ripped out of a union representing some of the lowest paid workers in Australia, but officials of any organisation with such a blatant disregard for other people's money, for propriety and for decent and lawful behaviour should be outed and punished accordingly. The fact that in this case those sorts of people were also mixing in the upper stratosphere of political circles as well seems to go a long way towards explaining the general contempt that many have for so-called "leaders" in some sections of the community these days.
The story in PLANET JACKSON is appalling. This woman and her like are appalling. The book is interesting, although there's something slightly off-putting about the anti-union subtext. This particular incident occurred within a union - there are plenty of other examples of self-serving, greedy, white-collar criminals - it's not just a "union" thing.
Kathy Jackson was hailed as a heroine for blowing the whistle on the million-dollar fraud of Michael Williamson, the corrupt boss of the Health Services Union. While remaining steadfast in this very public ordeal, she endured bitter personal attacks from enemies in the Labor Party and the union movement.
But what if Jackson was just as corrupt as Williamson? Or worse?
This is the real HSU story. The unbelievable misuse of the union dues of some of the lowest paid workers in Australia.
While Jackson was portrayed as a Joan of Arc figure, she had been spending vast amounts of her own union members' money on jet-setting holidays, fashion, jewellery, a home mortgage and even part of a divorce settlement. Nothing, it seems, was off limits.
The HSU scandal is more than a dark morality tale marked by high drama and farce. It exposes deep problems at the heart of the union movement and the Labor Party: tribalism, nepotism, a misplaced sense of entitlement and the abuse other peoples' money. Together they are an intoxicating mixture and provide a ripe environment for corruption on a grand scale.