Look Craig, three wrongs don’t make a right
Craig Thomson claims he has been vindicated over the Fair Work Australia’s report into the HSU East Branch after an independent report found flaws with FWA’s investigation processes. Mr Thomson’s response is peculiar given it that this most recent report does not have a whole lot to do with him.
KPMG were asked to look only at the investigation methodology of FWA. They did not comment, nor was it within their ambit to comment on the findings. However critical of the methods of the investigation KPMG were, it does not flow that the findings made in the FWA HSU report would have changed.
It is however a blow to FWA’s credibility in being able to professionally exercise its powers under relevant workplace laws.
By Mr Thomson claiming vindication, he is saying that a third party investigation into the FWA investigation of his former employer can set him free from this mess. Two wrongs do make a right it seems.
In one interview, Mr Thomson telegraphed his nemesis Kathy Jackson is about to feel some heat. So it may even be that three wrongs make a right.
Mr Thomson’s response to the KPMG report is however instructive on where he sits with personal responsibility.
Some basic issues have been lost in the giddy cloud of hookers, corporate malfeasance, talk of Mr Thomson’s delicate mental heath and conservative politicians being more supportive of hospital orderlies than ever before.
As a metaphor of clumsiness on the big issues from this Labor Government, it named the workplace and union regulator “Fair Work Australia” and cleverly also the tribunal “Fair Work Australia”. They are as different as the police are to the courts.
This has created confusion as many believe the tribunal has made findings against Mr Thomson. In fact it was the regulator making findings against the union. The workplace police do have limited powers to look at individual union officials’ conduct. Their real power, though, is to regulate and investigate unions and employers for potential breaches of workplace laws, including laws governing unions.
In other words, Mr Thomson is a bit player in the FWA report, not the star.
Mr Thomson has not disputed that there is substance to the findings around cash withdrawals, reckless spending into the millions without a tender process and entertainment at brothels.
Cleverly, Mr Thomson has hinged his conduct to the criminal test, which has a very high threshold. George Brandis did not play his best hand by pressing this issue when he wrote to NSW police urging them to keep digging.
In defending Mr Thomson early, Julia Gillard used terms like “innocent until proven guilty” and “he has a right to a fair trial”. This is true for potential civil and criminal matters, but not so for matters of what is right and what is not.
Because the lax systems and procedures at the HSU East Branch, Mr Thomson may not have committed a crime as he wasn’t doing anything he was told he couldn’t. As the boss of an organisation lacking reasonable governance policies, he and perhaps the board in essence were able to authorise the gouging of the union. Not illegal. Just grubby.
This saga is not about fraud. It is not about hookers. It is about integrity. So while the courts can sometimes make comment about the integrity of a person, it is not a crime to lack personal integrity.
Some questions for Mr Thomson that a court does not have the power to rule on:
1. As you have a company credit card, what sort of items could not be purchased on this, especially as even suppliers of sex take Mastercard? My local fish and chip shop is cash only but not sure what else is?
2. Please explain why it is OK for a supplier to the Union to pay the school fees of your children (if this is true as alleged)?
3. Why do you propose that your conduct should be considered in the context of others, such as Ms Jackson and the investigator from FWA? Shouldn’t they all stand-alone?
4. If you were truly concerned with acting in the best interest of your union members, how could there by such shoddy corporate governance practices, allowing millions to be wasted? Even if these pre-dated your time as the boss, why did you not fix them when you rose to the top?
Independent reports will come and go, as may trials of other players in the HSU pantomime. These will divert attention from the Honourable Member for Dobell, but reality they are wholly independent of Mr Thomson. The bloke that Mr Thomson stares at as he is cleaning his teeth before bed-time knows this.
This morning on the Today Show, Mr Thomson offered his deliverables to the electorate in response to a question about whether he did the right thing. He can talk about his achievements in Dobell all he likes. He is only deluding himself. He could have organised for every constituent to receive a first class trip around the world, but it won’t change the fact that before entering Parliament, he was reckless with the money of people he was paid handsomely to protect and to advance their interests.
The question begs, if Mr Thomson had a different perspective on his personal responsibility, would he have even run for office? That question doesn’t matter so much now that he has damaged the reputation of the responsible employees at the HSU, the union movement more broadly and of course every parliamentarian.
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