Former union leader Kathy Jackson faces 164 criminal charges

More charges have been laid against former union leader Kathy Jackson. Photo: Joe Castro
More charges have been laid against former union leader Kathy Jackson. Photo: Joe Castro

Disgraced former unionist Kathy Jackson is now facing more than 160 criminal theft and fraud charges for allegedly misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Health Services Union.

Ms Jackson, who has a property in Wombarra, appeared on Monday morning in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, where she faces the prospect of criminal convictions and a jail sentence if she is found guilty.

Police allege Ms Jackson misrepresented more than $500,000 of personal expenses as union expenses while she was the HSU secretary. All 164 police charges relate to 70 allegations that were laid against her by detectives from Taskforce Heracles last year.

Racked up on her multiple union-issued credit cards, her allegedly illegal expenses include hundreds of thousands of dollars on an airfares and luxury hotel accommodation while Ms Jackson was on multiple overseas vacations in cities such as New York, Las Vegas and Hong Kong.

Other allegedly illegal expenses were at a gym equipment store, electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi, and a high-end auction house.

The criminal case follows the conclusion of long-running civil action in the Federal Court of Australia, in which Ms Jackson was ordered to pay back about $1.4 million of union funds she used to bankroll her often-lavish lifestyle.

Ms Jackson was once hailed as a whistleblower on corruption within the HSU, and shot to national prominence for exposing corrupt practices of former national president Michael Williamson, now in jail, and former federal MP Craig Thomson.

Appearing in court on Monday, Ms Jackson was accompanied by her partner, former Fair Work Commission deputy president Michael Lawler.

Some of the newly filed charges are fresh offences, while others are alternatives in case more serious charges fail.

The case will return to court on August 4. Ms Jackson, who lives in New South Wales, has been excused from appearing.

The court heard that prosecutors intended to call a range of witnesses, including officials from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Hospital.

In its damning judgment in 2015, the Federal Court found Ms Jackson had misappropriated $250,000 of union members' money from a financial settlement with the hospital.

Ms Jackson's lawyer, Philip Beazley, on Monday morning applied to have her bail conditions varied to allow him to contact witnesses. The application was granted by Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg.