In the week following Kathy Jacksons testimony at the Royal Commission there has been a lot said about her sickening spending of the members money on seemingly almost everything imaginable.
However there is one part of her testimony that has been pointed out to me that strikes me as quite odd and remarkable.
It is also on a subject that other witnesses at the Royal Commission have testified on as well.
The testimony I refer to which I refer to involves the campaign donations from big tobacco, in particular Philip Morris who have denied funding any of the union campaigns.
Testimony given on the witness stand by Marco Bolano and Kathy Jackson was that they did not understand what possible interest a Tobacco company or its lobbyist would have for funding a union election unless it served some political agenda.
The Royal Commission seemed to be desperately seeking to put a link between the Labor Party and the interests of Big Tobacco. This is of course a domain that has long been dominated by the Liberal Party and the Coalition, even now the National Party still accept donations from tobacco firms.
Stephen Donnelly who appeared as a witness on Thursday was given a grilling in relation to this supposed link.
Stephen Donnelly is the current Assistant State Secretary of the Victorian Labor Party and did not appear to be overly impressed with being dragged up for what was really a waste of time and served only to make the Commission appear like it was on a fishing expedition.
The commission through the questioning of Jeremy Stoljar seemed keen to put Mr Donnelly at a lunch or a dinner or any event where there may have been a lobbyist for Phillip Morris present.
Mr Stoljar also questioned Donnelly of the funding of election campaigns and as a result of that questioning we learnt that elections are indeed funded from raising campaign funds. Quite a revelation.
However it would appear that the attempts to link the Labor Party to tobacco donations by both Kathy Jackson and the Royal Commission were clumsy at best.
If we take a look at Kathy Jacksons testimony on the matter she is kind enough to mention the name of this representative from Philip Morris and go into great detail of why she remembered his name.
Counsel: You attended a lunch with some representatives of Philip Morris, that was in 2009. You deal with that in 47 and following.
Counsel: Is the short point that there was discussion about donation, but you reach a conclusion in 480?
Then later in testimony
Jackson: I’m not certain how much money was contributed to Mr Bolano’s campaign, or any other campaign for that matter. What I do know is that I have a recollection of this meeting only because the gentleman that was there from Philip Morris, his name was Bede Fennelly and I just thought it was a very unusual name, only because I’d been reading that week a book about Bede Griffith, a Benedictine monk who went on to live in an ashram, I think, and made a comment to him about, you know, his unusual name and, you know, was he named after Bede Griffith, and that’s why I remember his name. At that meeting I thought it was quite strange that here they were a tobacco company, and I think Mad Men had just started on the TV and I said, “My God, you people should watch this”, you know, “It’s all about you people”, and I did ask at the time, you know, “What are you doing contributing money to Health Services Union elections?”, and basically the response was, you know, “We can’t give it away. It’s very hard to give our money away to political parties these days”, and that’s how it was left.
So just who is the mysterious Bede Fennelly?
Well suffice to say he was no Benedictine Monk, however nor was he an employee or representative of Philip Morris.
Bede Fennell was in fact an employee of British American Tobacco and doesn’t spell his surname with a Y, Mr Fennell never worked for Philip Morris.
Despite the Commissions attempts to link the tobacco donations to the Labor Party Bede Fennell is also a former Director of the NSW Branch of the Liberal Party.
Many may remember Mr Fennell as being part of the “Wentworth Seven” that involved Malcolm Turnbull back in 2003-2004.
In 2007 details emerged of a secret apparent slush fund called “Friends Of Indi” that was discovered after former Liberal Member Sophie Mirabella neglected to declare it in direct breach of Australian Electoral Commission regulations and included donations from British American Tobacco.
Bede Fennell at the time stated that he thought the money was being donated to the Liberal Party. However Fennell went even further stating:
“For us that’s the main thing. That’s why we disclose it. We wouldn’t be giving money to bodies that aren’t connected to the Liberal Party.”
That is a very telling statement indeed.
If British American Tobacco will only donate to bodies connected to the Liberal Party, why then did they decide to fund HSU election campaigns for Kathy Jacksons faction of the HSU?
We all know that Jackson’s partner Michael Lawler was appointed to Fair Work Commission by Tony Abbott. We also know that Jackson spoke at a HR Nicholls Society dinner where she was the special guest and sat alongside Peter Reith. We also know from phone records that she was in regular contact with the offices of Eric Abetz and disgraced NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce.
Add to that we have seen both Abbott and Pyne praise her in parliament and Pyne even organising a parliamentary apology for Craig Thomsons address when he blew the whistle on both Jackson and Bolano’s behaviour, something that seems to be now widely accepted as factual.
We have also seen and heard the cheerleading from the factually blind Liberal cheer-squad on the sidelines. People like Piers Ackerman, Ray Hadley, Chris Smith, Andrew Bolt, and of course the man who now appears to be acting as her PR manager Michael Smith.
Could this possibly be yet another Liberal Party connection?
Or is Jackson perhaps just making it all up as she goes along?
Either way I’m sure the fishing expedition for Labor links will continue.
However one thing is quite apparent when questions were raised over Jacksons questionable conduct and possible criminal behavior, most in the Labor Party couldn’t distance themselves further from her, while those aligned with the Liberal Party flew to her like flies to a pile of you know what.
I have made attempts to contact Mr Fennell who has failed to respond as yet, however he is overseas on business.