When Michael Williamson resigned last summer as head of Australia's Health Services Union, his problems were only beginning. This past April 8, police in Sydney accused the embattled former labor leader with diverting about $600,000 in union funds to his own purposes over a more than three-year period. The charges follow 20 charges lodged against him early last October related to embezzlement, fraud and obstructing a police investigation. Williamson and several other persons were arrested. In all, the union under his leadership allegedly made at least $20 million in questionable, if not illegal payments to vendors without proper documentation. The case also serves as an example of why mixing union business and national politics, in any country, is an invitation to corruption.
A major reason why union leaders go crooked is because they see opportunities to steal. And few things provide those opportunities quite like a government sympathetic to union expansion. Australia would seem no exception. At the start of August, Michael Williamson, national president of that country's Health Services Union (HSU), resigned via text message less than two weeks after the leaking of findings of an eight-month investigation to the media had alleged a clear pattern of "stark favoritism" in union spending and contracting. The probe, which had begun a year ago, led to a May 2 raid by New South Wales (NSW) police on the union's East Branch headquarters in Sydney, now in government receivership.
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