10.30AM and the Commission is in session.
Danielle O'Brien is in the witness box for cross examination/examination by her own counsel.
It appears that the elusive and intermittently unwell Derrick Belan is in the hearing room.
I liked him in the hoodie better.
Just after 10.45AM and Ms O'Brien is moved to a spontaneous, loud and wet moment of weepiness at the mention of the late Mr Belan who apparently gave her her first job at the NUW. I'm sure she regrets taking it.
Just before 11AM Counsel's examination was completed. Ms McNaughton is on her feet for another shot at Ms O'Brien who is now barely holding her composure and is audibly blubbering and shaking.
Thank you to the many correspondents who have pointed out my suspect suspect identification today, I think we now have the right Mr Belan in the frame as it were.
The evidence this morning from Ms O'Brien is very difficult to listen to, at once pathetic, sad and infuriating. This is an awfully tawdry business.
The last thing we heard about from Ms O'Brien was her red Holden car with the rego plate Bikini which found its way to Mr Belan's girlfriend somehow.
AT 11.20AM Ms O'Brien apologised to "everyone" for what she'd done and was excused in a shower of tears.
Wayne Meaney's examination in chief by Ms McNaughton continues.
Mr Meaney is apparently on boisterously good terms with Mr Belan, they were sitting together and chatting expansively during the morning.
Ms McNaughton "I'd like to move to the matter of Paul Gibson. Were you aware of any arrangement under which Mr Gibson was paid more than $8,000 per month for a period of two years?"
Mr Meaney, "No. Well I did enquire once after a Committee of Management meeting to Mr Belan. He told me that Mr Gibson was doing consultancy to manage the relationship between the National Union of Workers and the Labor Party. I think it was $8,000 per month or a little bit more."
But Mr Meaney didn't make any real enquiries. "I don't think I needed to enquire further, I put my trust in Derrick, I trusted that he was doing what was needed to be done for the branch."
Mr Meaney agrees that it was a matter for the BCOM to approve any payments not just Mr Belan. When that's all pointed out to him he said, "That's a fair point, but looking back I didn't see the need to raise it".
The amazing Meaney just said, "Looking back I can't see a better way to have done it". Even though he doesn't know what the payments were for and he only had one brief conversation with Mr Belan about it. He never enquired what Mr Gibson did for the money.
The Commissioner adopted his serious note-making-for-the-final-report face.
Ms McNaughton asked Mr Meaney to tell the Commission about the timing and circumstances of Mr Belan's recent separation from the NUW.
He said it all started when the Notices to Produce and Summonses from the Royal Commission turned up. They had the effect of dissolving Ms O'Brien into a veil of tears and further caused Messrs Meaney and Belan to go for a walk to have a "chat". Derrick told Mr Meaney that he'd terminated his niece Ms O'Neil who had confessed to stealing money from the union.
The next day Mr Belan asked Mr Meaney to come out to the Coffee Club at Penrith. Derrick by that stage "wasn't well" and was not attending work. They met at 8AM Wednesday 21 October and Mr Belan said he had been completely f*cked by his niece Ms OBrien. Mr Belan was shaking and crying.
At abour 11.38 while Mr Meaney was describing Mr Belan's relationship problems with an ex-lover the said Belan and entourage upped and walked out of the Commission hearing room.
Mr Meaney described Mr Belan's admission on 21 October 2015 at the Penrith Coffee Club that his position at the NUW was "untenable" and as a result of the lax financial management at the union he would have to resign forthwith. Mr Belan wanted t negotiate a favourable departure package. At this stage Mr Meaney didn't think it useful to conduct an audit, nor to make enquiries or even look at the books prior to entering into a Deed of Settlement or Departure dated 26 October 2015 that purported to release Mr Belan from any liability to the NUW. Mr Meaney didn't think to inform the national head office of the NUW either.
Mr Meaney often says "at that stage there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by Mr Belan" which is rather like saying there is no evidence of any writing in the inner pages of today's unopened newspaper. It's not difficult to check, but until that checking is done it's a conveniently truthful statement that there was no evidence to hand. Reminds me of Peter Gordon and the employee he sacked when trust had fractured and the duty of utmost good faith had been ignored.
So no investigation, no checking the books, no audit - and a complete Deed of Release in favour of Mr Belan indemnifying him and holding him safe from any claims from the union against him.
Mr Meaney thought that was all hunkey dory.
Meanwhile the huddles continue.
Mr Belan does not look happy at confronting the prospect that the Deed of Release and the severance payment may be under question - it will not have escaped his attention that the payment may be clawed back.
At 12.10 Ms McNaughton completed her examination - in its dying moments we learned that the Deed "hadn't been acted on" which I take to mean Mr Belan doesn't have the severance money.
Counsel for Mr Belan is helping Mr Meaney say nice things about Derrick.
AT about 12.30 Counsel for Mr Belan asked her last question.
Counsel for Mr Meaney is examining his client.
At about 12.40 Mr Meaney was excused.
With a hush in the hearing room Derrick Belan has been called.
He took an affirmation.
First up the ritual of the Welcome to Water Jug as Mr Belan takes a few moments to moisten and settle in.
Hydration attended to Ms McNaughton asked why Mr Belan is no longer the Secretary of the NUW.
"Because my niece Danielle was engaged in fraud."
Was he involved in fraud.
"No never, not me".
He is feisty and frankly more to the aggressive end of the spectrum today.
Belan was under control during the first few minutes of the hearing.
As Ms McNaughton produces document after document relating to holiday expenditure etc, the Belan vocal chards start to restrict and the voice, already in the Jockey/Bantam weight range slides up in pitch even further.
From time to time Mr Belan really does look like he should be back at the institution from whence he was accompanied last week.
If one was to adopt a cynical disposition towards today's evidence, the strategy on display could well be that Ms O'Neill did all the bad things. IN for a penny Danny in for a pound.
At 1PM the lunch trolley trundled down the corridor.
Please be back in your places well medicated by 2PM.
Apes lunch we're back for more implausible denials.
Mr Belan is an unusual man to say the least. He has decided he is going to tough it out no matter what - and the "what" is becoming much clearer. The TURC has an extensive list of credit card transactions on the card controlled by Mr Belan and authorised for payment by his signature.
Some of the expenses apparently include a cruise. He gave chapter and verse about how much he hates cruises and boats, how when he went on the cruise he was told it was "all taken care of", how on board one was issued an on board charge card etc etc etc.
Ms McNaughton, "So how was the bill that you'd run up on the on-board card settled?"
After a few more minutes of prevarication we discover it was by credit card. Ms Mcnaughton already knew that because she has all the statements etc.
Mr Belan doesn't recall any bill for a cruise or like. It's painful to watch.
Ms McNaughton, "So you knew nothing about that?"
Ms McNaughton, "Right, so it was all Ms O'Brien was it, she did it all."
Mr Belan, "As much as it pains me to say, yes that's right".
At 2.30PM Ms McNaughton uttered, "Are you OK?!!!!" in the sort of tone of voice one uses when confronted with someone who's about to pass out.
Mr Belan said, "Oh yeah, I'm just a bit blurry in me eyes". That would seem to be the least of his problems.
THE COMMISSION ADJOURNED FOR 5 MINUTES WHILE A PARTY WAS DESPATCHED IN SEARCH OF COMPOSURE FOR MR BELAN
Sadly upon reconvening the standard of responses Ms McNaughton has been able to elicit from the world's most wantonly incompetent union secretary has not much improved.
Mr Belan's line is summarised in bullet points, "I did not and would not ever take money from the union. I did not ever take any money from the union. I am here today because I didn't check the work done by others closely enough. I was not a very good manager. Did I say I did not ever take money from the union."
When things get a bit hot he trots out, "I don't recall a lot of late, I've been very unwell."
Mr Belan has now sharpened up a bit on the delivery of his standard line, "Danielle had full control of my finances, I trusted her to do every transaction. Iu have not and would not ever take money from the union, nor did I ever authorise any person to do so on my behalf".
This bloke Belan reminds me of the fella on this tape;
From reader GT
With a boss/relative/mate like Belan, how low can you go?
So it is all Danielle’s fault is it?
I believe so, yes.
As hard as that is to say.
…. Sounds of bus slamming head on into woman who appeared to have been pushed in front of it.
Another union boss lining himself up to survive on the mangled bodies of his workers.
Not my fault guv. They was the ones what done it. She just went unner it. All by herself.
Mr Belan was apparently asked to leave his marital home at some point. That point coincides with several thousand dollars in billing to the union credit card for temporary and then more permanent rental accommodation.
When quizzed about this Mr Belan became very agitated and heated. He looked like he wanted to jump the box and thump his interrogator.
We now move to the strained relationship between the NUW and the Labor Party. What do you do when you have a strained relationship. Mr Belan employed a mate Paul Gibson MLA.
Apparently the NUW was at some stage not paying affiliation dues to the Labor Party.
Rather than just letting that $270K go to waste - Mr Belan thought it would be good to give that money to Paul Gibson. So he did. Just like that.
Then when Ms McNaughton was quizzing Mr Belan about the discrepancies in his version of events, Mr Belan addressed Ms McNaughton quick pointedly at on point, addressing her as "Darl!"
I think it's a salutation Ms McNaughton is unused to.
I tried to grab the mood of the room in the seconds after the Darl-bomb was dropped.
Mr Belan just delivered a very lame joke - straight after the punchline he looked up at the audience in the style of a man who is used to having his jokes laughed at. It was kind of sad to watch the enthusiasm and expectation drain from his face as his needy gaze was met with a mix of sympathy and disgust.
3.30PM and another 5 minute break.
Five minutes later we're back.
Mr Belan is all over the shop after the break, even though he had the chance to confer (in front of the cameras) with his lawyer during the break.
One of the things paid for on the union credit card was this tattoo of Derrick Belan's mum and dad, looks like a bit of his arm that's been adorned.
We have just learned that Mr Belan cleaned out the NUW safe of $25K that "belonged to the officials and myself" according to himself Mr Belan.
Ms McNaughton, "Where is that money now?"
Belan, "In my car".
"Where was it before then?"
"In my home."
AT 4.18PM MS MCNAUGHTON COMPLETED HER EXAMINATION
COUNSEL FOR MR BELAN IS EXAMINING HER CLIENT
Mr Belan tells his lawyer "I do believe that the governance of the union has let me down and I resigned on that basis".
At about 4.30 the examination was concluded and Mr Belan left the witness box.
A timeframe for submissions was disussed and agreed.
And that may well have been the last sitting day of the Royal Commission of partial enquiry into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.