Union boss pays visit to week­ender

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - HOT TOPIC - L I NDA S I L MALIS

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.

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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.

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