Developments in two separate investigations loomed large over Gillard government figures Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper today; Police activities indicate the prospect of criminal charges against either or both is still well and truly alive.
This is just a quick post tonight; I’m sure that today’s events represent merely the lifting of the curtain on the next instalment of the dramas enveloping Messrs Slipper, Thomson, and Thomson’s old buddies over at the HSU.
NSW Police this morning raided the Sydney offices of the Health Services Union, as part of their Strike Force Carnarvon campaign; Fraud and Cybercrime Squad personnel seized documents, computers and other storage systems in relation to their investigations of multiple instances of misconduct and possible criminal activity at the Union.
What probably didn’t help the cause of any of the figures accused of misconduct — and least of all, himself — was the revelation that Police intercepted HSU boss Michael Williamson, allegedly attempting to make off with a quantity of documents central to Police inquiries.
Whether or not Williamson is charged separately over that activity will apparently become clear “in the next few days.”
Still, with inquiries into the HSU and alleged misconduct dragging on for years — and some of these matters directly centre on former HSU head, now MP for Dobell, Craig Thomson — the appearance of Police at HSU head office will no doubt send a shiver down the spines of quite a few interested parties.
Not least, down the spine of Craig Thomson himself, who has repeatedly and systematically refused to co-operate with all Police investigation into his conduct as a HSU official, particularly where the abuse of a Union-provided credit card and misappropriation of HSU monies on prostitutes, fine restaurant meals and inordinate cash advances are concerned.
Meanwhile, the Australian Federal Police have commenced a formal criminal investigation into allegations surrounding former Speaker Peter Slipper’s misuse of travel entitlements, and specifically allegations that he repeatedly misused CabCharge vouchers.
Police have taken a little over a week to evaluate whether to formally investigate the allegations against Mr Slipper “taking into account the likelihood of a criminal offence and the AFP’s resources.”
An AFP spokesperson was quoted in Melbourne’s Herald Sun today as saying ”the AFP has now assessed that the matter requires further investigation,” adding that investigators spoke to a number of potential witnesses and gathered information in relation to the matter before deciding to pursue a formal investigation.
Can I just make the point — again — that much of the defence not just of Thomson and Slipper, but of the Gillard government figures surrounding them — and not least, of Gillard herself — has variously been based on obfuscation, refusal to co-operate, stonewalling and “standing firm,” all the while exuding the smugness of a conviction that “they” can’t be caught.
Well now…today’s events simply bring the constabulatory, officially, one giant step closer to Messrs Slipper and Thomson.
Unlike a Fair Work Australia inquiry of dubious rigour, these Police inquiries won’t drag on for three or four years.
We don’t know yet whether Thomson and/or Slipper are guilty of anything they are accused of as yet; this is all the more reason for this latest developments, and this new round of Police activity, to be welcomed.
But if either man is guilty of the accusations being levelled at them, then the walls are now beginning to close in on them.
And this should give Julia Gillard — and those of her colleagues who have likewise relied on stonewalling and standing firm as a panacea to these issues — cause for very grave reflection indeed.
We’ll keep an eye on developments, and discuss as the inquiries develop.
Ten out of ten to the boys in blue, for the record; at least somebody is acting without fear or favour today. The members of our constabulatory involved are to be applauded.