Fair Work defends inquiry into HSU

THE lead investigator for Fair Work Australia has defended the three years it took to investigate the embattled Health Services Union.

Terry Nassios yesterday defended the investigation during a parliamentary inquiry into the Australian Electoral Commission's analysis of a Fair Work report into the HSU.

"I am very conscious it had taken a long time," he said. "But I don't think it was an unreasonably long time.''

The report found the former HSU national secretary Craig Thomson had misused union funds, including paying for prostitutes.

An independent review of Fair Work's report into the HSU, conducted by KPMG and released on Tuesday, found the investigation was under-resourced and ill-equipped.

Asked yesterday if his investigation could have been quicker with more resources, Mr Nassios said the time it took was broadly acceptable. He did not request extra resources or specialist investigators to help run the inquiry.

Mr Nassios pointed to lengthy and continuing police investigations as an example of how complex the issue was.

''If it has taken them over a year, with all of the information that was already on the table, it is something that I suggest in some way is a partial defence of the time that it's taken me to conduct this investigation,'' he said.

Mr Nassios said a Fair Work Australia officer working on the case was ''dedicated'' and completed the work within a ''satisfactory time frame''.

''That officer conducted the work that, yes, would have been the work that two or three other persons could have conducted,'' he said. ''But she did the work, completed the work within a satisfactory timeline in my mind.''

The KPMG report states the industrial registrar received a call from the then Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard's chief of staff in 2009 regarding the investigation. Previous accounts state it was the registrar that contacted her office.

At Question Time, the Coalition's Christopher Pyne asked the Prime Minister to reconcile her previous comments that it was the registrar that had contacted her chief of staff.

Ms Gillard referred the Coalition to previous responses from her, and in senate estimates, that showed it was the registrar that contacted her office.

Mr Nassios also said he had never received any directive to prepare a brief of evidence for prosecutors, saying it was outside of his responsibility.

Mr Thomson has seized on the KPMG report saying the ''spurious allegations and claims against me'' made by Fair Work Australia had been completely discredited by the review.

When asked by the Liberal senator Scott Ryan if Mr Thomson was ''exonerated'' by the KPMG report, Mr Nassios replied: ''Well it doesn't appear to talk about Mr Thomson at all.''

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