CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth.
CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth. Meghan Kidd

CFMEU defends expenses claimed by Mackay president

THE CFMEU has leapt to the defence of Mackay district president Stephen Smyth, following claims he racked up thousands of dollars in questionable corporate credit card charges.

The Sunday Mail claimed to provide an insight into "the lavish lifestyles of union fat cats" as it detailed the charges on Mr Smyth's credit card, including more than $600 at a Las Vegas hotel, and $729 at a dental clinic.

Many of the transactions listed in the report were with Mackay businesses including Porters, Bunnings, Fresco's Quality Meats, Angelo's on the Marina and Sorbellos, as well as charges from McDonald's, Red Rooster, Donut Land and Cactus Jack's.

It followed the revelation last week that auditors raised a red flag over more than $700,000 in CFMEU credit card charges, due to a lack of evidence it was spent for legitimate business purposes.

However, CFMEU Mining and Energy division Queensland senior vice president Mitch Hughes claimed the reports were "false and offensive".

On Monday he told the Daily Mercury the "very small number of personal costs were paid back from deduction of wages in the next week's pay cycle in line with policy", effectively clearing Mr Smyth of any wrongdoing.

"Mr Smyth has properly accounted for all expenses on his credit card," Mr Hughes said.

"Official business expenses referred to in the Courier Mail (sic) were for activities including member BBQs and events, travel for official business and costs to accommodate an international Black Lung expert, who volunteered his time to provide support to Queensland miners affected by Black Lung disease."

The union said the $729 dental claim was a personal expense which was paid back in the next pay cycle and the $600 hotel claim in Las Vegas was travel on official business for a conference.

Yet the revelations had former coal miner Les Richter and former mine manager and mines inspector Kevin Clough predicting a backlash from union members.