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Second Cbus official grilled by royal commission

A manager at industry fund Cbus has been rebuked for providing a “farcical” testimony to the royal commission into trade union corruption, following an admission of lying from a former colleague.

Cbus manager Maria Butera appeared before the royal commission into trade union governance and corruption yesterday, facing questions about whether she co-conspired with now-dismissed colleague Lisa Zanatta to leak confidential member information to trade union, the CFMEU.

Ms Butera denied the allegations, but was told by counsel assisting Jeremy Stoljar QC that text messages between the two Cbus employees presented evidence to the contrary.

In a legal document, Ms Butera declared she had “no prior knowledge, involvement or participation in the release of [the] information”, but the royal commission hearing heard that a text message from Ms Butera said: “I have made arrangements to drop off information to [CFMEU boss] Brian Parker’s PA.”

Ms Butera said she had no knowledge of the content of the information, explaining “it could be about anything”, but Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon QC said she had provided a “farcical answer”.

Commissioner Heydon also described another of Ms Butera’s answers as “comical”, when she explained that a text message sent to Ms Zanatta on the day the leaks took place – which asked “Everything okay?” – was not an indication that she “wanted to know whether [Ms Zanatta had] successfully delivered this secret material…to Mr Parker and the CFMEU”.

“I could have just been asking her if everything was okay,” Ms Butera said, prompting the rebuke from the commissioner.

Ms Butera also told the hearing she could “not remember” whether a text message that read “Lisa, did BP call you back, M?” was referring to Brian Parker at the CFMEU, sparking another strong reproach from Mr Heydon.

“What do you think it is? British Petroleum or something? You are not doing yourself justice, Ms Butera,” Mr Heydon said.

“You're a highly intelligent, able woman. You really must pull yourself together and answer Mr Stoljar's questions in a serious and responsible manner, which you have not been doing for most of today.”

Cbus CEO David Atkin faced the royal commission last week.