Long stint wielding influence in the corridors of power

An influential figure until quite recently ... Michael Williamson.
An influential figure until quite recently ... Michael Williamson.

THE ALP is distancing itself from Michael Williamson, but until quite recently he wielded power at the highest levels of the labour movement.

The former HSU national secretary served as president of the Labor Party from July 2009 to July 2010, and vice-president until late last year when the HSU allegations escalated and he stood down.

Both the president and vice-presidential positions meant he also sat on the party's powerful national executive.

As the head of the HSU he also sat on the national executive of the peak union body, the ACTU, until he stepped down more than a year ago. (The HSU was suspended from the ACTU earlier this year). But it was not until April that he resigned as vice-president of Unions NSW and from his other positions in the NSW union movement.

Mr Williamson was an influential figure in the NSW right and within the right the HSU had strong alliances with the Transport Workers Union.

The two unions often voted together at party conferences against the other NSW right-wing union alliance between the National Union of Workers and the Australian Workers Union. These alliances meant that for a long time Mr Williamson was close to TWU head Tony Sheldon, backing his unsuccessful bid to become head of the NSW Labor Council in 2001, and to former NSW right senator and TWU official Steve Hutchins.

In fact, in a submission to the Federal Court in June, the Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, argued Mr Williamson continued to wield power within his union, even though the allegations against him meant he had stood aside.

Mr Williamson's close connections extended to his family. His daughter Alexandra worked as a media adviser to Julia Gillard until July this year, when she left to ''decompress for a bit''.

And for a time Alexandra Williamson rented a Canberra share-house with former NSW senator Mark Arbib.

As party president Mr Williamson introduced then prime minister Kevin Rudd when he gave his speech to the 2009 ALP national conference, saying the Labor leader had been ''ahead of the curve''.

Mr Williamson was a mentor and backer of Labor backbencher Craig Thomson, until they bitterly fell out over the HSU allegations.

This story Long stint wielding influence in the corridors of power first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.