FINANCIAL records for the period of Craig Thomson's reign over the beleaguered Health Services Union are missing, a major impediment to investigations by authorities into the credit card scandal threatening Julia Gillard's government.
Well-placed health union sources told The Saturday Age yesterday that industrial umpire Fair Work Australia and an external auditor of the union in 2008 had found in separate investigations that records for the period 2002 to 2007 had ''disappeared''.
Fair Work has been probing the financial management of the national office of the union under Mr Thomson since April 2009 when a request was lodged with its predecessor, the Australian Industrial Registry.
New South Wales police are also investigating following a referral this week by the current national secretary, Kathy Jackson.
Last night Ms Jackson said there were ''a lot of records missing from the organisation''.
Mr Thomson, Labor member for the federal seat of Dobell, is accused of having misused his union credit card while an HSU official, with spending on escort services and unexplained cash withdrawals worth more than $100,000.
A health union insider said yesterday that Fair Work Australia had blamed missing records when asked about the delays in completing its investigation.
It remains unclear why the records are missing or who is responsible for this.
HSU insiders with long-standing concerns about its management yesterday confirmed that the union's bookkeeping was poor, with one describing financial reports to the executive and wider union as a ''joke''.
However, a copy of a 2008 audit of the union by Melbourne chartered accountants Dick and Smith reveals that:
¦ Mr Thomson continued to use his union mobile phone and credit card after he was elected to Federal Parliament in November 2007, spending $5480 on his credit card and $2095 on his mobile after November 24, 2007.
¦ HSU funds were also used in 2007 to donate $10,000 to Dads in Education, a charity of which Mr Thomson became a director in 2009.
¦ A promise of $39,000 in union funds was made to the Central Coast Rugby League club, located in Mr Thomson's Dobell electorate. It is unclear if the money was actually paid.
The audit found that a ''lack of documentation'' for many transactions made it ''impossible for us to definitively state what many of these expenditures were''.
Prime Minister Gillard was yesterday forced to defend reports that her chief of staff, Ben Hubbard, had asked questions of Fair Work Australia about its investigation of the HSU before the allegations against Mr Thomson became public.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott jumped on the report. But the government produced evidence that the Industrial Registrar had contacted Mr Hubbard only after the allegations about Mr Thomson were made public, on April 8, 2009.
However, it remains unclear when Mr Hubbard first telephoned the then registrar, Doug Williams. Ms Gillard said yesterday neither she or Mr Hubbard, had any ''active recollection'' of when contact first occurred on the Thomson case.
Mr Williams was quoted as saying: ''I recall receiving a phone call [from Mr Hubbard] in early 2009 concerning inquiries that I had initiated into the Health Services Union.''
Last night Mr Williams told The Saturday Age he had nothing further to add.
On Thursday angry powerbrokers were canvassing the union's exclusion from the party's state conference.
But the ALP's powerful administrative committee last night failed to act against the union.
With KATHARINE MURPHY