Backs to the Wall

Investigative journalist Peter Wicks is our Guest Author today, with his take on last night’s extraordinary edition of Four Corners. Thank you so much, Peter, for permission to republish – and thanks for your tireless efforts over the past four years working on this intriguing and appalling story.


Tonight’s episode of 4 Corners had all the anticipation of a heavyweight title fight, and for good reason.

It was viewed as a last ditch attempt by a pair of rich people living in luxury to escape the long arm of the law as it draws closer.

While the main attraction may have been the alleged Queen Of Corruption, Kathy Jackson, tonight was her partner Michael Lawler’s turn to shine.

Michael Lawler, whose involvement readers here have been aware of since 2012, is the current Vice President of Fair Work Commission (formerly FWA). Appointed to his position by Tony Abbott, the organisation he was appointed to then became notorious for the lengthy investigation into the HSU. This was the investigation into Craig Thomson, Lawler’s partner’s predecessor as Secretary of the Union, and also a crucial member of a hung parliament whom if forced out could even have made the man who appointed him Prime Minister.

Hmmm, no conflict of interest there…

As a result Craig Thomson was driven to breaking point emotionally and smeared in the press, and still remains a punch-line for allegations he was eventually found not guilty of.

I have often said these people spend their time in an alternative reality, one that I have referred to as “Jacksonville” and on occasions I have described Lawler’s alternate state as “Lawler Creek”. Now it appears to have dawned on him that he may just be up that creek without a paddle.

The remarkably healthy looking Lawler that we watched tonight has spent 9 months on fully paid sick leave. This is at the taxpayers expense and at a rate of $435,000 pa.

Tonight as the law closes in Lawler has decided to once again take the taxpayer for granted by using the taxpayer funded ABC to plead his case.

What is it with these people and sponging on the taxpayer?

The spin began even before the episode started with a teaser by 4 Corners with a voice-over claiming over a video of Lawler speaking to camera;

“This is the secret video diary of a desperate man”

This statement is in direct conflict with the facts already confirmed by 4 Corners and certainly gave an indication of what may be to come.

The word “secret” is not one I would use to describe something filmed for public consumption and then given to a current affairs programme to be aired on National TV. But that’s just me and I’m not Michael Lawler…

The arrogance of putting together a five-hour monologue in your own defense is astounding. Save it for the coppers Michael, I’m sure they have subpoenaed a copy by now at any rate, watched it, had a good laugh and filed it away as evidence.

The alternate universe the pair live in was clearly on display tonight, with lots of cringeworthy moments that no doubt had viewers dry retching across the country.

Many had expected a puff piece for this episode, as early reports in some of the media suggested that would be the case. While I’m sure Lawler and Jackson agreed to provide access to 4 Corners to film the piece in the hope it would end up a puff piece that took their side. Instead we ended up with a fly on the wall piece on a delusional, self-centred and arrogant pair of people who think they are smart enough to fool the public through the media.

In the episode Michael Lawler denies he has ever “knowingly” benefitted from the proceeds of crime, that being fraud from the HSU. However he makes that denial whilst sitting in room in the multi-million dollar house he resides in. A house purchased by his partner Kathy Jackson, in part with funds allegedly fraudulently acquired at the expense of HSU members. A house that the couple attempted to transfer into Lawler’s name to avoid Federal Court forcing its sale to pay back to the members.

Jackson at the time claimed the transfer was to repay Michael for his personal and legal support. The legal support being for when he apparently provided legal support and legal representation for what he only now realises was criminal behavior if we are to believe his “unknowingly” claim.

Lawler thinks the public will understand him taking time off to care for his partner. He is right about that, we would understand if he was doing what the rest of us would do, take holiday leave, long service leave or if necessary unpaid leave. Nobody I know of would think it was in any way moral to expect the taxpayer to foot the bill for a $435K pa salary to look after ones partner. It’s not as if his partner cured cancer or anything. If fact she allegedly defrauded cancer researchers of money owed to them while misappropriating the lowest paid union members funds of over a million dollars.

I hope Lawler will forgive us mere mortals if we are a little less than understanding.

It has also been brought to our attention that Lawler likes to record conversations without the consent of the other person. This from a member of the judiciary is something that many will find highly alarming given its highly questionable legality.

Realistically Ian Ross does not set the rules regarding leave, these would be based on Lawler’s original contract which would have been negotiated with the Howard government when he was appointed. The Howard government was also responsible for the appointment of his brother John Lawler as CEO of the Australian Crime Commission.

Whether or not he was entitled to the leave, it shows a lack of judgement and common sense at the very least to take sick leave to help your partner defend herself from criminal allegations.

As we know Michael Lawler is the subject of an independent inquiry which was announced recently by Employment Minister Michaela Cash. Today the terms of reference for that investigation were released.

I think Lawler may have a tough time ahead based on those terms.

Lawler is hoping that we will sympathise with him due to his claimed mental issues. He expects this while we listen to him berating and abusing an elderly dementia sufferer whose money he has been spending. I think he has high hopes.

Those who were expecting revelations would be disappointed, those wanting a peek into another sense of reality would have been pleased.

The big news of the night was Lawler using the term cunt-struck, and the ABC letting it run.

Alternate universe indeed.

There will be more to come on this from me another day after I have dissected the details.

In the meantime though congrats to Caro Meldrum-Hanna and the 4 Corners team on a riveting piece.

Car crash television at its finest.

408 thoughts on “Backs to the Wall

  1. Journalist, monarchist, prime minister and now one of the “world’s greatest minds”.

    Tony Abbott has joined the global speakers’ circuit, represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau.

    The former prime minister is open to speaking for “travel and expenses only” or a fee of “over $40,000”, according to an order form on the bureau’s website.

    The bureau’s slogan is “Connecting You with the World’s Greatest Minds”.
    Abbott, who is due to deliver the Margaret Thatcher Lecture in London next week, joins John Howard, Tony Blair and George W Bush on the speakers’ list.

    His biographical note on the bureau website says: “Abbott is able to speak thoughtfully on terrorism and security in the 21st century, including the threat of Isis and pervasive religious fundamentalism.

  2. I recall the terror inspired by the mobile dental service van* when it rocked up to our country Catholic school. The fear was justified as in those far-off pre-fluoride days, our knowledge about and commitment to dental health was rough and ready. Thanks to a fair dose of luck in the genetic raffle, I’ve managed to keep my teeth, and for the most part they have only required modest interventions.
    I’m certainly grateful for modern dentistry and my gentle female dentist, whether she is merely undertaking routine maintenance or an occasional filling.
    * It’s beyond my pay grade to describe the vehicle, but I’m sure Joe 6P would have enjoyed the prime mover which manoeuvred the large unit into a position where it was in our line of vision throughout recesses; its threatening shadow made us happy to return to the classroom.

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