A little-known union fighting fund has brought the Transport Workers Union into the sights of a royal commission.
Money from a Transport Workers Union slush fund was used to eject a veteran branch secretary and back candidates in other unions’ elections, an inquiry has heard.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) McLean Forum Ltd was examined in Sydney on Wednesday at the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.
Jeremy Stoljar SC, counsel assisting the commission, said issues of “transparency and influence” surrounded how the money was used.
He said the forum’s activities “have had consequences for the funding and conduct of other unions” and could breach the Fair Work Act.
The TWU disputes this, arguing that union members do not contribute to the forum, which is a separate entity from the TWU.
It is funded by weekly contributions from employees and officials in the TWU’s federal office and NSW branch.
In 2010, more than $300,000 was transferred to it from a union election committee fund.
The McLean Forum directors are TWU bosses Tony Sheldon, Scott Connolly and Wayne Forno.
Mr Stoljar revealed the forum spent $200,000 to finance the campaign of Peter Biagini, who successfully ousted veteran Queensland state secretary Hughie Williams in 2010.
Another $50,000 was spent on backing Gerard Hayes and Andrew Lillicrap, who were contesting the NSW Health Services Union (HSU) elections in 2012 after a scandal resulted in NSW general secretary Michael Williamson facing corruption charges.
The forum also spent $70,000 on candidates in a Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) election in 2012.
On Wednesday, much of the evidence surrounded the Queensland campaign of the New Transport Workers Team (NTWT), which was financed by the McLean Forum .
Former TWU national chief of staff Daniel Mookhey co-ordinated NTWT but on Wednesday said he was not deeply involved, apart from liaising between the fund and the team.
Thomas Pacey, a former executive officer with the TWU national office, said he was asked to work on the Queensland campaign as a side project.
Mr Pacey had been recruited to the TWU by Mr Sheldon, who he said mentioned to him that in Queensland “Hughie Williams needed to go” because the union was bleeding numbers.
FAAA divisional secretary Jo-Ann Davidson said in her evidence on Wednesday that Mr Sheldon had indicated to her that “he would be able to assist” if she needed help with her campaign, but he did not discuss the matter in detail.
Mr Stoljar said Ms Davidson’s ticket received contributions from the McLean Forum, “together with services from third parties paid by the McLean Forum and services from people who were at that time employees of the TWU”.
He said other FAAA candidates had not received the McLean Forum support.
The hearing continues, and Mr Sheldon is expected to give evidence on Thursday.