Scrutiny again on minister’s emails
SECRET messages between a union official and Energy Minister Mark Bailey via his private email have been released months after a furore over the deletion of the account.
The emails, released to News Corp after an RTI request, reveal that Mr Bailey agreed to discuss the Electrical Trades Union’s attempts to veto a planned super fund merger after he was contacted by an official on his firstname.lastname@example.org account in November last year.
Lobbying via the account by ETU state secretary Peter Simpson was revealed by The Australian newspaper last Feb- ruary. Partially leaked emails at the time revealed Mr Simpson had used the account to ask Mr Bailey to intervene in a proposed merger of Queensland’s Energy Super with Victoria’s Equip Super.
The union raised concerns the merger between the two super funds, representing workers in the energy sector, could jeopardise its guaranteed spot on the board.
But the emails were blocked from release after Mr Bailey deleted the Yahoo account 10 days after receiving a Right to Information application by The Australian for access to the emails.
Mr Bailey told Parliament that he was unaware of the RTI request when he deleted the account.
He was forced to stand aside from the Ministry during a Crime and Corruption investigation into the affair, but was reinstated when it found no evidence of corrupt conduct.
However, the release of the full email exchanges with the ETU under RTI laws this week threaten to reignite criticisms that Labor is too close to the unions.
They paint a cosy picture of relations between Mr Bailey, himself a former ETU member, and Mr Simpson.
Mr Bailey was first contacted about the merger deal by Mr Simpson in November last year.
“Mate, I’m unsure if you’re across Energy Super’s current discussions with Equip Super in Victoria about a possible merger?” the email states.
“The (government-owned corporations) that are represented on the board will have a big say in whether or not any merger proceeds ...”
Mr Bailey responds: “Let’s chat soon. Flat chat atm. M.”
“Yup, not urgent but important when you have five before Xmas,” Mr Simpson replies.
Mr Bailey sent Mr Simpson two “thumbs-up” symbols.
Mr Simpson later emails Mr Bailey: “I don’t know where we go from here but I’m fast getting to the stage where we want to kill it once and for all.”
The Energy Super merger was later abandoned, but chairman Mark Williamson has rejected that it was related to the ETU lobbying, saying it had not had contact with Mr Bailey over the merger.
Mr Bailey last night said that he was not a decisionmaker in the merger process and that no issue had been identified with his emails following the CCC’s investigation.
Mr Simpson is currently on sick leave.
Acting state ETU secretary Peter Ong yesterday defended the use of Mr Bailey’s private email to lobby on behalf of members.
UNDER PRESSURE: Energy Minister Mark Bailey (left) on the campaign trail at a solar farm in the Burdekin on Sunday.