Craig Thomson’s counter offensive strategy was based on attracting public attention to his case this week. To his distress, the Victorian Police beat him to it.
The raid on his central NSW coast home this morning was unexpected and will underline the perception that the former Labor MP, now an independent, has something to hide.
Whatever the objective of the raid, there will be a view that police had to strike early in the morning to get information Mr Thomson would not otherwise provide.
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Tony Abbott has threatened to do many things when and if he gets into Government. Actually most of them involve undoing things rather than doing them.
But the one thing that now appears almost certain to be among his first acts of vengeance won’t be directed toward a Labor policy but the ALP itself.
Senior Liberal sources reckon that it’s now a safe bet that Abbott will push for a Royal Commission into the broader trade union movement – specifically the affiliated ALP unions – if he wins, and assuming he can control the Senate.
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Normally you have to delve pretty deep into a report to find the gritty stuff, whether it’s a Federal Budget or a report by a well known QC into years of shonky business dealings by the boss of a major union.
In the case of the Temby Report into the Health Service Union’s East branch, you need only to read as far as page three. There you will find some recommendations which would be laughable if they weren’t so serious.
In point 8 (i), Mt Temby suggests in his most restrained legalese, that it might be useful for the union to obtain at least two prices before it procures any goods or services. Mr Temby goes on to state that it’d be a good idea to place orders in writing and retain order forms!
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Under pressure himself over his crusade against Craig Thomson, Tony Abbott has moved to present a softer side, suggesting that the ex-communicated Labor MP should quit politics for, ... wait for it, his own good.
“The best thing for everyone, to take the pressure off him, to take the pressure off his family, would be for him to leave the parliament,’’ the Opposition Leader told the Nine network during his regular Friday morning spray.
Mr Abbott acknowledged that the NSW crossbencher was under “enormous’’ pressure but offered no apology for his constant references to Labor’s “tainted’’ vote, his attacks on Fair Work Australia, (since redefined as the author of a rigorous piece of independent investigation) and his ceaseless prosecution of both the Government and Thomson.
For Julia Gillard subject to renewed leadership discussions by powerful forces inside her own party, this is a full-blown existential crisis.
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Craig Thomson’s wife Zoe must really love him. His political career is over. His reputation is shredded. He has become the butt of a national poor taste joke. And yet he continues to put up a front - blaming everyone, EVERYONE, but himself for the situation in which he’s landed.
He can only be doing it for his wife. When you love someone you want to believe them, but you can only believe them if they give you something to hold on to. And so Thomson is giving the mother of his children his ever expanding denials to cling to.
He’s being aided in this bizarre soap opera by the Labor Party, which is simultaneously defending him and barring him from the Caucus. The moral relativism being practiced in Canberra at the moment is almost comical, and Thomson is in the strangest state of career limbo you can imagine.
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Speaking of yourself in the third person is usually a sign that you’re suffering from delusions of grandeur, martyrdom or both. And so it was with Craig Thomson’s speech to the Parliament yesterday, which he used to lash out at the media, the Opposition, Fair Work Australia, his former colleagues at the Health Services Union, unnamed Labor Party staffers…indeed pretty much everybody.
He also invited the people of Australia to reflect on the real Craig Thomson, the wide-eyed young idealist who cut his teeth in the union movement winning award protections for radiographers, the family man whose pregnant wife has been hounded by stalker television crews, the big-hearted local member who encourages Dads on the NSW Central Coast to read books to their kids.
If Craig Thomson was meant to give a speech which was a restrained and methodical line-by-line explanation of his actions, he clearly didn’t get the memo. This was a bucket job of the highest order.
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Like a good movie director, Craig Thomson knew the scene which would get the most viewers should be kept until towards the end, and that is when he finally addressed the allegations he on seven occasions hired prostitutes.
But he also knew that this was the allegation for which he had to have the strongest defence, the most convincing line of rebuttal. And he just didn’t.
As Mr Thomson said today after around 35 minutes of speaking: “One of the things I have difficulty in making an explanation about - and I’m certainly not going to use parliamentary privilege to lie or change that - is in relation to phones and how records were on my phones. I don’t have an explanation.”
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At midday all eyes will turn to the House of Representatives, as the Member for Dobell Craig Thomson gives a 30-minute speech addressing the amazing credit card/prostitutes/union funds scandal that has engulfed him and the Gillard Government.
Punchers David Penberthy and the Torii (Maguire and Shepherd) will be watching. Join them in the Cover-it-Live module below as they hope for anything but an anti-climax.
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Reluctant as I am to bowl up consecutive columns on the same subject, the spectacularly tawdry and ever-evolving scandal surrounding former Labor MP and Health Services Union chief Craig Thomson merits continuing attention. Especially as there is nothing more riding on his statement to Federal Parliament tomorrow than the continuing existence of the Gillard Government.
When I wrote last week’s column, Thomson had not yet given his so-called “explanations” to reporters Simon Benson and Laurie Oakes as to how his union-funded credit card ended up being used on everything from flash restaurants and business class travel to repeated encounters with prostitutes. All of it by somebody else, of course, as part of a sinister and elaborate plot to discredit the member for Dobell.
The one glaring question which Thomson has not answered is as follows. If as he says someone had accessed his credit card details, his driver’s licence number, and was somehow making telephone calls not just from his hotel room but also from his mobile, why on earth didn’t he go to the police himself?
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Can somebody please explain why the cops haven’t charged Craig Thomson with theft, fraud, or whatever the appropriate offence is arising from his wholly inappropriate use of his member-funded credit card at the Health Services Union?
How much more evidence do they need that he at least has a case to answer? His bizarre interview with Laurie Oakes yesterday did nothing to clear him of any suspicion, and succeeded only in further damaging Labor by keeping him in the spotlight.
The Thomson case has gone beyond being a farce. Now it is just offensive. You could even say that it is sick, as it has at its amoral starting point the fact that some of the lowest-paid workers in Australia, people who empty bed pans for a living, were enlisted to underwrite an A-list lifestyle for the most repugnant bunch of gougers ever to disgrace the Australian union movement.
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Parliament is growing weary of Craig Thomson riding the “presumption of innocence’’ principle for all he is worth. In fact, Parliament is tired of Craig Thomson.
The allegations against him point to behavior so objectionable that if true would be more than enough to end Mr Thomson’s public life. But it’s not just the allegations.
The Health Services Union saga has been so drawn out - over close to five years - that even the most staunch defender of the right to proper process is wondering when that entitlement becomes a means to dodge accountability.
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There are just 1.83 million members of trade unions in Australia, roughly 18.4 per cent of the national workforce. Take out the heavily unionized public services and the proportion is 13.2 per cent. That means about 1.3 million out of 10 million workers in all areas are employed in private companies and are in trade unions.
It’s these 1.3 million workers - a scrap of the dwindling union membership - that the Opposition will be targeting today with claims that the entire union movement is led by self-indulgent shonks who have been wasting their money and their trust.
There will be indications of this having happened in one trade union, but all will be painted by the Health Services Union brush. The Fair Work Australia report on the Health Services Union has been bouncing around the bureaucracy unloved and unwanted but today will be released to those most eager to embrace its 1100 pages of findings.
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It’s been so long coming that release of the report into credit card use within the Health Services Union is being hailed as a huge stride in resolving this lingering, messy controversy.
But all we’ve done is slip from one inquiry into another, after which there might be yet another examination of the facts, this time in a court. And we don’t yet know what those facts are.
The Fair Work Australia report filled 1100 pages. It is possible that not one of those pages contains evidence of criminal activity by Labor MP Craig Thomson - the former HSU national secretary - despite the fears of the Government and the hopes of the Opposition.
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@Kittu64 That's true. Pretty sure I referred to "high salaried" women.
@michelangeloruc not at all mate it is a great story and photo
@nswpolice very polite and helpful officers manning the Pyrmont road closures this morning
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