Union boss pays visit to weekender
DISGRACED ex-Labor union boss Michael Williamson has swapped his prison bed for his own after being granted weekend release for the first time since he was jailed on serious fraud charges.
The former national Health Services Union boss was jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to stealing $1 million from the membership dues of lowlypaid hospital workers.
Mr Williamson, whose sentence expires in 2021, was driven through the front entrance of Cessnock jail at around 4pm on Friday before heading to a waterfront home in Brightwaters in Lake Macquarie.
As he stepped out of the car with his wife Julianne, the former union heavyweight was barely recognisable with his snowy white hair and thinner frame.
Clutching a pair of blue rubber thongs and wearing dark shades, Mr Williamson walked in to the Dandagara Rd property that remains in the family despite his bankruptcy.
The ex-Labor vice-president is due to return to prison at 5pm today.
His release comes as the Coalition steps up its campaign to discredit NSW Opposition leader Michael Daley over his relationship with Mr Williamson as part of its election message that a vote for Labor is “a vote for the old regime”.
As the then finance minister, Mr Daley signed off on the appointment of the shamed for trade union official to the Board of State Water on March 1, 2011.
Mr Williamson started his job at the Board the day before the state election.
The appointment to the Board followed an unsuccessful attempt by former right-wing Labor Treasurer Eric Roozendaal to secure Mr Williamson the role of Newcastle Ports Corporation director.
The Coalition is now questioning Mr Daley’s role in approving renovations to Mr Williamson’s former home in Maroubra when he was the deputy mayor of Randwick City Council 17 years ago. Council documents from 2001 show planning officers had rejected Mr Williamson’s proposal for an extension, stating it would result in an “undesirable precedent” should it be approved.
However, the then Labor mayor, Dominic Sullivan, moved a special mayoral minute against the recommendation, to give the project the go-ahead.
In response to questions from News Corp in 2011 about the DA, Mr Daley said he could not recall the application and that he may not have supported it.
The Meagher Ave home was sold for $1.4 million in December 2013, two months after Mr Williamson declared himself bankrupt.
The Coalition campaign is also targeting jailed minister Eddie Obeid and former factional powerbroker Joe Tripodi, both of whom Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean noted Mr Daley had thanked in his maiden speech. “Michael Daley needs to explain his links to Eddie Obeid, Joe Tripodi and Michael Williamson,” he said. “Why did he thank Obeid and Tripodi in his maiden speech? What was he thanking them for?”
Opposition leader in the Upper House Adam Searle said Labor was adopting a “positive” approach towards the State election.
A slimmed-down Michael Williamson former HSU boss, returns to his Lake Macquarie home from Cessnock Correctional Centre yesterday. Picture: Peter Lorimer.
Williamson before prison.