Townsville Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - AN­THONY GAL­LOWAY

UNION mem­ber­ships from some of the low­est paid work­ers in Queens­land were used to fund the liv­ing ex­penses of La­bor’s can­di­date for Mund­ing­burra, Co­ralee O’Rourke, for two months lead­ing up to the state elec­tion.

Mrs O’Rourke ( right), now a min­is­ter in the Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment, was an em­ployee of the pow­er­ful left- wing union United Voice be­tween De­cem­ber and Fe­bru­ary, de­spite per­form­ing no core tasks for the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

At the time, Mrs O’Rourke was still em­ployed as di­rec­tor of Ama­roo Early Child­hood Cen­tre and had taken un­paid leave from that po­si­tion.

Mrs O’Rourke yesterday re­fused to say how much money she re­ceived from United Voice, or why she didn’t take paid leave from the child­care cen­tre. It is un­der­stood the union also pulled two of its em­ploy­ees from nor­mal du­ties to work full- time on Mrs O’Rourke’s cam­paign and that of then- can­di­date for Thuringowa, La­bor’s Aaron Harper.

It comes af­ter the head of United Voice, Gary Bul­lock, boasted that his union “sup­ported” seven suc­cess­ful La­bor can­di­dates, call­ing them “United Voice MPs”. Mrs O’Rourke made no apolo­gies for tak­ing the union’s money, say­ing she was em­ployed as a “cam­paign or­gan­iser”.

“It is not un­usual for unions to sup­port can­di­dates ... and for can­di­dates to be em­ployed by the

union dur­ing the cam­paign pe­riod,” she said.

“United Voice rep­re­sents lo­cal work­ing- class fam­i­lies, who suf­fered un­der three years of the LNP’s harsh cuts,” Mrs O’Rourke said. “It’s no sur­prise that unions wanted to throw their sup­port be­hind the ALP to get rid of Camp­bell New­man and the LNP.”

United Voice rep­re­sents low- paid work­ers in­clud­ing early child­hood ed­u­ca­tors, aged care work­ers, teacher aides and clean­ers.

Op­po­si­tion Leader Lawrence Spring­borg said the pay­ments raised se­ri­ous eth­i­cal ques­tions about the in­flu­ence of unions on the new La­bor gov­ern­ment. “What we’ve got here is unions ba­si­cally em­ploy­ing peo­ple for the sole in­ten­tion of be­ing their pup­pet in gov­ern­ment,” he said.

“It’s an eth­i­cal is­sue and an is­sue for mem­bers — the av­er­age hard­work­ing union mem­ber who is not in­ter­ested in the pol­i­tics of their union and is hardly aware of what ac­tu­ally hap­pens with their hard­earned dues paid to the union.”

In her maiden speech to Par­lia­ment, Mrs O’Rourke thanked “those at United Voice who got be­hind my cam­paign”. United Voice state sec­re­tary Gary Bul­lock, who ear­lier this year called on United Voice- backed MPs to hon­our their com­mit­ments, con­firmed Mrs O’Rourke was an em­ployee of the or­gan­i­sa­tion for the two months lead­ing up to the elec­tion.

“United Voice is com­mit­ted to see­ing real work­ing peo­ple given the op­por­tu­nity to serve in Par­lia­ment to rep­re­sent the peo­ple of Queens­land so we are proud to have sup­ported a range of can­di­dates at the re­cent state elec­tion,” he said.

A se­nior La­bor source said unions em­ploy­ing can­di­dates di­rectly was highly un­ortho­dox. “There’s noth­ing illegal about it. But it does raise se­ri­ous eth­i­cal ques­tions; when you are em­ployed by an or­gan­i­sa­tion there’s nor­mally an ex­pec­ta­tion you owe them some kind of ser­vice,” the source said.

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