Putting A Bit Of Stick About: Dealing With Sex Scandals, FU-Style

Have a look at this short video from YouTube. Then have a think about the way our government and Prime Minister are dealing with the scandal which threatens to bring down the government.

It’s the scandal that keeps on giving, isn’t it?

ALP insiders knew about it prior to Craig Thomson’s entry to parliament in 2007, and desperately tried to have him barred from being preselected; it reared its head again in 2009 which led to an unsuccessful challenge to Thomson’s preselection and to a defamation case against Fairfax that was withdrawn; it led to a large payment by the Sussex Street headquarters of the NSW ALP, to pay his legal debts and keep him out of bankruptcy; and now it has exploded: a genie to be rebottled no more.

As it seems we will be intermittently discussing this issue for a while, the clip I alluded to last week from House Of Cards just had to be thrown in. Yes, it’s fictitious, but FU and his sidekick Tim Stamper are ruthlessly brutal in dealing with the merest whiff of scandal.

It’s true, they swept the matter involving backbencher Stoat under the carpet, but the issue was killed off once and for all.

Compare and contrast this with the vapid, implausible and entirely inappropriate response from Julia Gillard and her parliamentary colleagues to the present scandal.

The Prime Minister — in the face of the increasing volume of evidence to suggest her backbencher has, at the minimum, been involved in misconduct — says that he is doing “a fine job” and that she foresees him remaining the member for Dobell for “a long, long, long time.”

Frontbench colleague Anthony Albanese defended Thomson by effectively saying that if he’s told something, and “believes” it to be the truth, there’s no reason to think any differently.

That, my friends, is putting one’s head in the sand. Good old-fashioned naivety.

Utterances from other government identities have been just as worthless as Gillard’s.

I’ve been monitoring some of the comments being placed in response to articles appearing on the websites of various outlets of the mainstream press.

For example, one such commentary theme seems to run the line that as the alleged incidents occurred prior to Thomson entering Parliament, the scandal therefore has nothing to do with Parliament and that as such, Thomson should not be hounded out of Parliament.

Excuse me? Spare me.

These events haveĀ  everything to do with Parliament and, specifically, the worthiness of the member for Dobell as a fit and proper person to hold elected office.

The alleged events surrounding the member for Dobell, as they filter out into the public arena, raise serious questions about the improper misappropriation of monies from a union Thomson was the head of; the possibility of fraudulent and criminal operation of a credit card, forgery of signatures, or — if none of this transpired — a perjurious cover-up which would pervert the cause of justice.

Revelations that Mr Thomson’s union credit card was used to draw in excess of $100,000 in ATM cash advances alone — in isolation to any other factor in these matters — is enough on its own to suggest misconduct.

And revelations published today in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph — that Thomson allegedly tried to cover up payments for prostitutes by reversing charges then processing them on a different credit card — are hardly suggestive of the actions of somebody with nothing to hide.

It’s not as if Gillard and Labor can seize the high moral ground here: there isn’t any to seize. Not now. Not given they way things have been handled thus far.

Labor refuses to disendorse Thomson or to even stand him aside from the parliamentary committee he chairs; it has refused to have him put on the stand in Parliament to explain its actions; it has given him a large sum of money to keep him from bankruptcy; there are allegations HSU funds were used for political purposes by Mr Thomson in contravention of electoral laws; and the only response that seems to be forthcoming from the government is to simply stand firm, say nothing of substance, and hope the whole thing blows over.

Let’s not forget, too, that this mucky episode isn’t exactly a PR coup for the Health Services Union or the union movement in general, and as long as key people in those quarters continue to sit on their hands, they will suffer the collateral damage from these events as a consequence.

I’m not at all naive — I am very cogniscent of course of the political stakes involved — but the time has arrived for Gillard to be the leader she purports to be, and to take the only appropriate course of action open to her.

And that is to stand Thomson aside from all duties bar those emanating from his role as a backbencher; refer all allegations concerning Thomson to the NSW Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions, co-operate fully with all inquiries into Thomson, and to seek to have these matters expedited.

A formal complaint from the HSU would be helpful, given it’s HSU funds that have been rorted in the first place — and let’s face it, someone has rorted union funds by the admission of Thomson himself. It appears to simply be a question of who.

If Thomson is innocent of all alleged wrongdoing, then let open investigations show it: the damage is already done in one sense, given the explosive publicity the issue has now generated. If his name is to be cleared, he should have the opportunity to do so.

If however Thomson is the perpetrator of all that is alleged, and criminal charges and prosecution ensue, then he should be involuntarily removed from Parliament at the earliest opportunity for his constituents to elect a successor.

There’s nowhere for Gillard and Labor to hide. And one way or the other, the truth will out in the end.

Ironically, if this is the issue that does bring down the government, it’s better for the ALP for it to happen sooner rather than later: the longer it drags on, the more damage it will inflict upon Labor, and the greater will be the retribution extracted at the ballot box by angry voters.

And not just in Dobell.

By all means, have a laugh at FU bringing an errant backbencher into line in the clip I have posted; the circumstances may be somewhat different, and the obvious solution even more so; but it’s an indictment that a character in a TV drama can deal with something like this, whereas an Australian Prime Minister can’t.

UPDATE: (6.53pm, 23 August) — Craig Thomsom has resigned the chairmanship of the parliamentary committee he held. It’s a start, but by no means sufficient in addressing these issues. His statement continues to deny any wrongdoing in these matters.