Head of SA Planning Department Referred to NSW Police: Possible Corruption Charges

Michael Deegan

Michael Deegan, the head of South Australia’s Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure may have committed a corruption offence in a previous job, according to the Trade Union Royal Commission’s final report.

Michael Deegan was employed by Thiess-Hochtief Joint Venture as the project director for a major NSW rail link and authorised a $100,000 payment to the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in New South Wales.

Royal Commissioner John Dyson Heydon AC QC found the payment, made in April 2006, was not wholly used for drug and alcohol safety training as claimed and most ended up in the “fighting fund” for the union. Of the $100,000 payment, $72,000 was later withdrawn and paid into the union’s general account.

During his testimony, Mr Deegan denied the money was a donation to the union to keep “industrial peace” following the death of a worker on-site and that it was to provide workers with training about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

Commissioner Heydon found that if Mr Deegan truly believed he was approving a payment for drug and alcohol safety training he could not possibly have agreed to the amount he did unless he were “grossly negligent, or entirely reckless with the joint venture’s money” which the commissioner rejected.

Opposition spokeswoman Vickie Chapman called for Mr Deegan to stand aside or be removed by Jay Weatherill. At this time, Mr Deegan refuses to stand down.

A government spokesman said Mr Deegan had advised the government after being called to give evidence and he would remain the department’s chief executive. “Mr Deegan, as he did during the commission proceedings, completely rejects the allegations,” he said.

Commissioner Heydon this week recommended Mr Deegan be referred to the NSW Police Force and the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions for corrupt commission offences.

“All relevant materials have been referred to the NSW Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions of NSW so that consideration can be given to commencing proceedings against Michael Deegan in relation to a possible offence,” the report states.

Labor workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor likened Dyson Heydon’s six volume report into union corruption to something “written by a B-grade subeditor of a sleazy tabloid.”

Sources: The Advertiser,  The Australian.

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