Slush fund money helped fund TWU official's campaign, Ralph Blewitt tells royal commission

Money from a secret ''slush fund'' controlled by two former officials from the Australian Workers Union was used to help fund an election campaign for an official from the Transport Workers Union, the royal commission on trade unions has heard.

Former Australian Workers Union official Ralph Blewitt, who has confessed to fraud, told the commission on Tuesday he withdrew about $5000 from the slush fund in 1994. He said he gave it to former TWU national president and WA branch secretary Jim McGiveron in a brown paper bag at a cafe in the Perth suburb of Northbridge to help fund his election campaign. Mr McGiveron has reportedly dismissed the claim as false.

He alleged he was acting under instructions from his former AWU colleague Bruce Wilson when he gave the money to a member from the Transport Workers Union in Western Australia in a Perth cafe.

The commission was told Mr Blewitt continued to control cash withdrawals from the secret fund and receive bank statements long after his resignation from the Australian Workers Union.

On Monday, Mr Blewitt said he and his former union colleague Mr Wilson had established the Workplace Reform Association in 1992 as a secret slush fund for electioneering. He alleged all his actions were at the behest of Mr Wilson. 

On the second day of hearings on Tuesday, Mr Wilson’s barrister, Kristine Hanscombe, questioned Mr Blewitt’s credibility as a witness.

She presented emails sent from Mr Blewitt to Mr Wilson which suggested a friendly tone and challenged claims he felt intimidated by Mr Wilson.

Mr Blewitt said he was fearful of losing his union job if he failed to obey Mr Wilson’s instructions. When Dr Hanscombe questioned the basis of his fear after Mr Wilson no longer had power over him, Mr Blewitt said he believed Mr Wilson might tamper with his social security payments.

When Dr Hanscombe questioned how this could be possible, Mr Blewitt said he was ''stupid enough'' to believe Mr Wilson could tamper with his pension.

Mr Blewitt, who now lives in Malaysia, said at least four of his trips to Australia were funded by retired lawyer Harry Nowicki, who has given him legal advice and is writing a book about the union movement. He said he was not sure who funded his latest trip from Malaysia to appear before the royal commission.

Mr Blewitt said he had three or four conversations with Mr Nowicki and with the blogger and broadcaster Michael Smith on Monday.

He admitted that he had not read a police statement before it had been prepared for him, in part, with the assistance of Mr Nowicki and did not ''turn his mind'' to checking its accuracy.

This story Slush fund money helped fund TWU official's campaign, Ralph Blewitt tells royal commission first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.