Selling up … HSU state secretary Gerard Hayes. Photo: Ben Rushton
WITH the overthrow of the Marcos regime came the discovery of treasure and one of the world's largest collections of designer shoes. When Saddam Hussein fell the populace discovered artworks, cash and gold-plated guns.
Now, with the discredited administration of the Health Services Union facing possible criminal charges, incoming officials are planning a sale of unusual assets accumulated under the leadership of general secretary Michael Williamson.
Items up for auction include television studio equipment, paintings and an extensive collection of sporting memorabilia, one of Mr Williamson's interests. A Donald Bradman bat and signed David Beckham jersey are among the items.
Mr Hayes may have had a head start in getting to the bottom of what the 30,000-member union owns. Before being elected secretary last month, he was pulling in a salary of $195,000 working under Mr Williamson.
With the former boss facing 20 criminal charges, Mr Hayes says it was time to dispose of some things bought during the Williamson era, including the sporting memorabilia.
''You always knew this stuff was there. But the administration of the day determines what goes on,'' Mr Hayes said.
The sporting memorabilia was acquired over the past five years, ''probably at auctions or fundraisers'', Mr Hayes said. ''But there are no receipts or anything along those lines; we have no account for it anywhere.''
Among the sporting items are a ''Greats of 48'' corner bat cabinet, which has a full-size bat engraved with the names of 10 of the members from the undefeated Australia cricket team of the 1948 tour of England. It also has 10 signed signature cards, including Don Bradman's. Its estimated value is $5000.
A framed Sir Donald Bradman mini-bat included in the collection is valued at $2000.
In a bid to put a line under the union's year in the headlines over alleged corruption and misuse of union dues, Mr Hayes said there will be a widespread sale of assets in the new year.
The union owns two floors of office space at 109 Pitt Street, and a warehouse in Waterloo.
''We own the television studio, too. That is going to be liquidated,'' said Mr Hayes, of a production suite on the Pitt Street office's eighth floor. ''It's basically a large office with state-of-the-art green screens, autocues, all that sort of stuff.''
Mr Hayes said he would seek advice about how the union could realise the best prices when it sells the properties, and the sporting paraphernalia. ''Quite frankly I don't know what some of this stuff is worth.''
The former paramedic won't have it all his way. Already opposing him over some of the planned sales is Katrina Hart, Mr Hayes's opponent in the recent union elections.
Ms Hart said: ''Exactly what is the motive behind the sale of head office? If the motive is to reduce financial liability, then it would be good governance to investigate the sale of other properties [the union owns] before head office.''
She argues the plan to move the union's offices to Paramatta has more to do with Mr Hayes's Labor Party links (his brother Chris is a federal MP in Sydney's south-west).
But Mr Hayes said there was no need for the office to be in the CBD, as much of its membership works and lives in suburban Sydney, particularly in the west. ''We don't need to be in the big end of town,'' he said.