Just Desserts: Former HSU Boss Michael Williamson Jailed

LITTLE SYMPATHY and a lot of contempt should befall former ALP President and Health Services Union boss Michael Williamson following his incarceration for a minimum five-year stint at Her Majesty’s pleasure; Williamson has shown no remorse for stealing $1 million from the union or for obstructing the Police investigation into him, and whilst he reportedly contemplated suicide when caught, he deserves to live to be punished.

If there is any satisfaction to be derived from the fact Michael Williamson will spend at least five years behind bars, it lies in the fact that a filthy specimen who has preyed on the membership monies of honest working folk has had the book thrown at him, but in truth there are few winners in the outcome that was played out in a Sydney court room this morning.

It is perhaps a regrettable sign of the times where unions and the leeches who illicitly profiteer from them that all readers — in Australia at least — will be well and truly familiar with the case; even so, for those wishing to view a news report on this morning’s proceedings, they can do so here or here.

I am fed up with the “defence” that has become fashionable for crooks like Williamson to seek to deploy that their fathers touched them when they were children; readers know what I think should happen to paedophiles, and it doesn’t extend to their continued consumption of oxygen, to put it mildly.

Even so, the notion that such an assault renders the judgement of the victim so defective as to assuage any pangs of guilt or conscience over the perpetration (in this case) of a million-dollar fraud, committed systematically and with forethought over a lengthy period of years, is grotesque, and so distasteful as to be dismissed from any consideration of Williamson’s culpability.

If nothing else, the efforts he went to to conceal his crimes and obstruct official investigations into his wrongdoings — readers might recall his arrest at HSU premises a couple of years ago, during which he was apprehended trying to remove computer drives and cases of incriminating documents before Police arrived — should dispel any doubt over what is, despite guilty pleas, a total and utter lack of remorse.

I contend those guilty pleas were entered into only to attempt to mitigate the penalty handed out this morning, and the same can be said of psychologist reports suggesting being molested as a child and/or a story about abandoning acting out a suicide that were tendered in Court on his behalf.

A cynic would certainly be entitled to laugh, wryly, that all manner of sins cause people like Williamson to stick their fingers in the till: it’s almost always money when the “consequent” offences are committed, and almost always lots of it — irrespective of the misdeeds of the past that were allegedly wrought upon the perpetrators.

Had he followed through on his planned suicide, he might have saved the taxpayer some money in keeping him, for sure; yet this would have been a selfish, self-serving outcome rendered by Williamson in his utter obsession with his own welfare that would have denied his victims — those HSU members who paid their dues in exchange for what they were reasonably entitled to expect would be union representation — the natural and legal justice his criminal activities entitle them to.

Justifications — such as Williamson’s desire to see his five children educated privately, and that they didn’t “go without” — simply don’t wash; I would like to send my kids to private schools that I have no idea how I will afford when the time comes, and certainly don’t want them to “go without.” I would never help myself to a million dollars of someone else’s money to make it possible, and neither would any other decent, fair-minded and law-abiding citizen in the same position.

The sense of entitlement that goes with Williamson’s offences is an insult to the ordinary folk who either struggle and scrimp to afford such things, or accept that they must go without.

Not that Williamson was poorly remunerated by the union before he ripped it off.

The comment of sentencing judge David Frearson that Williamson had developed a “reprehensible sense of entitlement’’ is a succinct and deadly accurate assessment of Williamson’s attitude.

Still, in being jailed for a five-year non-parole period of a seven and a half year sentence, I am satisfied the punishment fits the crime; it would fit even better if Williamson were forced to repay, in full, the monies he stole from the HSU by way of restitution, and to the best of my knowledge he isn’t being compelled to do so (any readers with more up to date knowledge in this regard should feel free to comment).

And that sentence contrasts with the veritable slap on the wrist administered to fellow HSU miscreant and general grub Craig Thomson on Monday, who was handed a twelve month prison term with nine months of it suspended; like the piece of shit he is, Thomson walks free even now: pending an appeal, too arrogant and conceited to even acknowledge or show remorse for his crimes, and still clinging to the spurious defence that as HSU chief he had the ultimate sanction over what union monies could be spent on and therefore should not be punished for spending them on prostitutes, cash advances, and God alone knows what else.

In closing, I should point out that whilst I do not like unions and am implacably opposed to most of their tactics, objectives, and the methods they use to pursue them, the bulk of union figures are generally good people, if misguided; it is the odd rotten apple that gives the rest of the barrel a bad name.

So it is in this case, and Williamson and Thomson are excellent advertisements for the Royal Commission into the wider union movement that is soon to commence.

The pursuit by unionists of union objectives is one thing, but the criminal fraud, theft or otherwise abusing the power entrusted to union officials is another matter altogether. Alas, there are too many rotten apples in too many union barrels, and the Heydon commission should rid the wider movement of much of the insidious filth that perpetuates the poor name unions wear in the eyes of most people who choose not to join their ranks.

Williamson can rot in hell for all I care, and if he still wants to top himself when he gets out of prison then nobody should stand in his way.

But it is imperative he be punished first, and this alone means that the sentence handed down to him in Sydney today is a win for his victims, the rule of law, and what is right.

 

 

Sentencing: A Heavy Penalty Befits Craig Thomson

FOLLOWING PRE-SENTENCE SUBMISSIONS in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today, former Health Services Union head and disgraced Labor MP Craig Thomson is to be sentenced next Tuesday, having been convicted recently on 65 theft and dishonesty charges stemming from his time in charge of the union. The cavalier Thomson — who has shown no remorse, and thumbed his nose at attempts to bring him to justice — deserves a heavy penalty.

For fairly obvious reasons, I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of next week’s sentencing hearing, nor particularise what I think an appropriate penalty for the criminal sins of Craig Robert Thomson, other than to say that in the circumstances I think it fair that Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg would be justified in throwing the proverbial book at the bastard, and should indeed do precisely that.

I do think Thomson should be jailed, if only to make an example of him as a warning to others in public life. But beyond that, it would not be proper to speculate or postulate further as to the sentence Thomson should be given.

Even so, I want to run through some of the points listed in an article that appeared across the Murdoch titles today; these relate to sentencing submissions from the prosecution and the defence that are in the public domain, and as such can be regarded as fair game to tear them to shreds.

Some of this stuff is “cuckoo-land” stuff, and so tear it apart I will.

I must say I have enormous sympathy with the Crown prosecutor, Lesley Taylor SC, who in noting that Thomson had not shown a shred of remorse and blamed others consistently for his deeds, described Thomson and his denials as “arrogant in the extreme.” Her account of his behaviour aligns perfectly with his conduct during his embattled time as the member for Dobell, smugly and unswervingly sheltered by the assiduous protection of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The submissions on Thomson’s behalf from his defence counsel, however — barrister Greg James QC — defy credulity.

James claims that in committing the offences for which he will shortly be punished that Thomson was confronted by “moments of need or desire” during his time as HSU national secretary, when his relationship with his then wife was breaking down.

Perhaps this was so, and perhaps these were difficult personal times for Thomson. But they do not justify ripping the Health Services Union off to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

James says that Thomson’s actions were “a response by him to his own impulses on a more or less opportunistic basis,” and that his client — in his time of darkness — “sought comfort somewhere else;” I’ll leave it to readers to make their own individual judgements on whether the procurement of prostitutes fits within their own code of ethics, but I would say very forcefully that it clearly did in Thomson’s case — and that having elected to go down such a path, he should have paid for their services from his own pocket.

The Australian quotes James as saying that “the climate (at the HSU) appeared to be that if he hadn’t spent the money on prostitutes and pornographic movies then there was unlikely to have been concern,” to which I would simply say such a speculative contention is invalid: Thomson spent money on airfares, cigarettes and accommodation, too, among other things, and the HSU wasn’t happy with those purchases, either.

Apparently, Thomson has “already agreed” to repay the HSU the sum of $24,538.42 “in compensation” for his actions, and James told the Court Thomson had taken out a mortgage and intended to pay these monies within three months.

Should that ameliorate whatever penalty he receives next week? Hardly. Such a repayment should form part of that penalty, not be made in an attempt to evade it.

James said — again, to quote The Australian — that Thomson had lost every prospect of a career in politics or public life, and suffered from anxiety as a result of his humiliating downfall. “From the very moment of his arrest on, he was very publicly pilloried,” Mr James said.

From the very moment…what melodramatic, jumped-up pseudo-emotive poppycock.

Perhaps if Thomson has suffered ridicule, it is because his actions have made him a public laughing stock; any rational and intelligent individual — which, by almost every account, Thomson is — would foresee the great shame and ostracisation his actions would bring if they were ever publicly revealed, and prosecuted as they deserved to be.

If Thomson is now unemployable and/or unelectable, he can only blame himself. Such a reality does not merit sympathy or leniency in the circumstances.

And in further reporting by sister publication the Daily Telegraph of Sydney, it is noted that James even canvassed “alternative options” with which to sentence his client, suggesting Thomson “would be happy to travel from his NSW home to undertake community work in Victoria.”

Which — let’s face it — would be awfully big of him; a miscreant criminal prepared to submit to the indignity of an occasional aeroplane ride as a price to pay for keeping himself out of prison.

James’ assertion that Thomson was “suffering a major depressive illness and had been punished by widespread media attention since his arrest in September 2011” is — again — something I would simply shrug my shoulders and say “who cares?” in response to; once again (as noted four paragraphs above this one) actions such as Thomson’s bring adverse consequences when revealed and prosecuted.

The whole idea of alleged criminals having their day in Court is to establish their innocence or guilt in relation to the matters with which they have been charged, and — where guilt is found — to punish those offences proportionately.

To accept any or all of the recommendations put by Thomson’s barrister is to accept that despite committing the crimes, Thomson should effectively get off scot-free.

Prosecutor Taylor’s submission — that anything less than an immediate jail term would be “manifestly inadequate” — is, to my mind, much nearer the mark.

After all, this is a bloke who breached the trust of tens of thousands of low-paid union members in a self-indulgent romp at their expense, and then went to elaborately intricate lengths to either escape prosecution for his offences and/or to deflect blame for them to others.

Taylor is right: Thomson has never uttered so much as a syllable publicly by way of remorse.

We’ll look at how this plays out next week, but it is to be hoped Magistrate Rozencwajg makes an example of Thomson, and throws the book at him.

 

 

BREAKING: Craig Thomson Guilty Of Fraud Charges

FORMER UNION OFFICIAL and Labor MP Craig Thomson has been found guilty this morning of some — but not all — of the scores of fraud charges brought against him in the wake of the scandal around the Health Services Union, of which he was head; the development legitimises criticisms of the previous government for doing everything in its power to shield him. It also bolsters the need for a royal commission into unions generally.

Just a very short post this morning, as the development is quite fresh and events fluid; Thomson has been convicted this morning of many of the charges he faced for ripping off the HSU to pay for sex with prostitutes, dirty movies in hotels, cigarettes, and other unauthorised items.

At this stage it is unclear how many convictions have been recorded against Thomson, when sentencing is likely to occur, and what penalty he will face — so clearly there is some room left to run in this story.

I will keep an eye on developments during the day and once the picture becomes clearer, will post again on these matters — perhaps this evening.

Crossroads: Many Careers On The Line As Craig Thomson Charged With Fraud

NEWS that Dobell MP Craig Thomson has been charged with fraud — over the alleged misuse of credit cards whilst the head of the Health Services Union — brings to a head a saga that has dragged on for years; it raises questions, and imperils the careers of many others beside the disgraced former Labor MP.

As these matters are now before the Court, I am not going to offer any comment on the charges, their merits or veracity, or an opinion on Thomson’s innocence or guilt.

I do, however, propose to look at the potential fallout from a conviction — should one eventuate — and its likely impact and risks on other key figures in this tawdry labyrinth of accusation and alleged immorality.

Thomson is the subject of 150 fraud charges brought against him by Victoria Police, following their investigation into allegations of improper financial transactions during periods Thomson spent in Victoria; these will be heard in Melbourne at a date to be fixed.

Thomson is also faced with a litany of civil charges brought against him by Fair Work Australia, relating to that agency’s investigation into the HSU, and he also remains a “person of interest” in a current NSW Police investigation which mirrors and complements that undertaken by their southern counterparts.

The first thing I considered on learning that Thomson had been arrested this afternoon was whether Prime Minister Julia Gillard knew that the arrest was imminent when she announced a 14 September election yesterday.

(The issue of Gillard’s election announcement will be covered by this column, although due to my other commitments this may not occur until the weekend. We will definitely look at it: that ill-advised event really does need to be picked apart).

Certainly, there has been a whisper around the traps today to that effect; Gillard herself has denied knowledge, although Thomson has intimated that he knew in advance that he would be arrested.

Indeed, there is some dispute over whether he was “invited” to surrender himself to Victoria Police prior to Christmas in relation to these matters; Thomson’s lawyer claims it was simply an invitation to an interview, whilst VicPol maintains it was to face charges.

Either way, it’s clear that advance knowledge of something is, at the very least, acknowledged to varying degrees by the parties directly involved.

Did Gillard also know? I would be staggered if she didn’t, despite her denial. If she did, then the election announcement was even more of a cynical stunt than I thought yesterday.

Whether she did or not, the charging of Thomson has the potential to ruin many careers aside from his own — even if he is acquitted on all charges.

For starters, Gillard will be sweating on the timing of the eventual hearing of charges; whilst it’s possible these matters will not reach Court until after the federal election, the greater probability is that they will.

And if they do, there is no “ideal” time — for the ALP politically — for it to occur; but a nightmare scenario for the government would be a steady stream of sensational headlines emanating from Thomson’s criminal trial in the final weeks of what was always going to be an extremely difficult election campaign.

I think it is fair to assert that readers are, by now, well aware that if Thomson is convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of one year or more, he will be automatically disqualified from Parliament, meaning his seat of Dobell will require a by-election to be held.

However, this would also be the case if Thomson were to become bankrupt — either by declaring himself so, or involuntarily — and to my mind this is the greater immediate risk to the government’s numbers.

It is also a risk to the careers of many other people in the present Parliament.

It is common knowledge that the ALP covered expenses for Thomson to the tune of some $350,000 prior to suspending his membership; this was in large part to offset legal expenses and a settlement over a defamation action involving Fairfax Media.

Much was made at the time of the fact that it kept Thomson from going bankrupt in 2011 and disqualifying him from Parliament then; it is unknown whether the Labor Party would bail him out again now, in light of the political risks involved in doing so and with an eye on the fact it has already distanced itself from him by suspending him.

Clearly, Thomson faces massive costs in defending both the civil and criminal charges brought against him.

I want to outline a scenario — hypothetical for now, but deadly serious in its potential to eventuate — to explain my point tonight to readers.

Let us suppose that in, say, three months’ time — in late April — Thomson is forced into bankruptcy under the weight of his legal bills.

At that time, his eligibility to sit in the House of Representatives would automatically be terminated.

There has been some discussion today, in the lightning analysis of the Thomson charges, of what would happen in such a scenario; indeed, the consensus in the mainstream media seems to be that the (Labor) Speaker, Anna Burke, would decline to issue the writs for a by-election in Dobell on the basis a federal election date has already been set.

At the risk of stealing my own thunder from my pending article on the 14 September date, I must emphasise to readers that what Gillard did yesterday has no legal standing, or binding validity, whatsoever: she has simply, literally, named a date.

The actual “calling” of an election is a complex process involving a dissolution of Parliament and the issue of writs — and these things and other necessary legal steps cannot be taken in relation to a 14 September election until much, much closer to the date.

As half the Senate must also be voted upon, they can’t be taken until July at the earliest, owing to constitutional considerations.

So back to our scenario: Thomson, April, bankrupt. What happens?

In the proper performance of her duties, the Speaker would be required to issue a writ for a by-election in Dobell; indeed, I believe that is exactly what should occur.

To refuse to call a by-election so far out from an intended federal election date would be a flagrant abuse of power and an endeavour to rig the House of Representatives to improperly maintain the Gillard government’s numbers in the House.

There is a precedent; in late 1989, a vacant National Party electorate in Queensland was left vacant for a couple of months ahead of that state’s election. Even so — despite the Nationals hurtling toward their first election loss since 1956 — the seat made no difference to the Nationals’ majority in state Parliament, even if it were lost in a by-election.

So I don’t see that either the 14 September consideration, nor a modern precedent in Queensland, could excuse such an outrageous disregard for democratic process.

Were Burke to take that path, her prospects in her own electorate of Chisholm — held by a reasonable but not invulnerable 6.1% margin — would become that little bit more tenuous.

And if such a course were pursued by the Gillard government, the certain outcome would be to render it unelectable at a general election, and seal the fate of dozens of its MPs.

It would also guarantee that Labor would suffer a bloodbath when the general election finally occurred.

Replacing Burke with another candidate seems implausible; none of the Independents is likely to touch the Speakership, and it would be unlikely that a rebel Liberal or National would do so to prop up a dying government committing undemocratic acts.

So that would seem to close off the option of adding another Labor vote to the mix of 149 in total on the floor of the House by selecting a new Speaker.

Yet even without losing Dobell outright at a by-election, a disqualified Thomson and a vacated seat would still take the minority Gillard government a step closer to the precipice if the Opposition refused to grant a pair for Dobell; in such circumstances, it seems an unbelievable proposition that Abbott and his colleagues would grant a pair.

This would make the mix on the floor of the House 70 ALP to 72 Coalition, and it would bring the Independents into play for the inevitable vote of no-confidence the Opposition would move in the government in an attempt to force it to an election, with the refusal to conduct a by-election in Dobell the pretext — and a resonant pretext at that.

Communist Greens MP Adam Bandt would side with Labor, and Bob Katter with the Coalition; the numbers become 71 to 73.

Andrew Wilkie and Peter Slipper are the unknowns; having been comprehensively shafted by the Gillard government, it is difficult to see Wilkie supporting it in a no-confidence vote.

Slipper, despite having enjoyed the favour of the government, is a conservative Liberal turncoat who would seem disinclined to preserve a Labor government in office in such circumstances.

And then there’s Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott.

Windsor has signalled his intention to stand again in his ultra-conservative seat of New England; Oakeshott has equivocated, but I suspect he, too, will renominate. Like Windsor’s, his electorate of Lyne is one of the most conservative in the country.

Both are likely to struggle to win anyway, given their support of a Labor government, but a failure to act — in this scenario — to terminate that government, when it is refusing to allow a by-election that could result in its downfall anyway, would guarantee their own demise as well.

In such a situation, their votes would get the opposition the 75 votes on the floor of the House required, and a no-confidence vote to succeed.

And that’s before the votes of Wilkie and Slipper — and who carried them — are resolved.

But which way would they all jump?

It may well be that on that question, the careers of dozens of our politicians could rest.

And thus, there is a great deal at stake as a result of Thomson being charged this afternoon; the potential ramifications are vast, but not necessarily due to the scenario most people — the imprisonment of Thomson if convicted — are primarily focused on.

BREAKING: Labor MP Craig Thomson Arrested

This is a very quick lunchtime post, and primarily with a link to the news report carried in the Fairfax press; but after years of investigation, Dobell MP Craig Thomson has been arrested on fraud charges emanating from his days at the helm of the Health Services Union.

Readers will know we have followed this issue as it has intermittently surfaced; indeed, in the next day or so — when I have some time — I will post again at greater length.

I will simply say that this development comes as a surprise to nobody, although what happens from here is to some extent fluid.

And it raises additional questions over yesterday’s election “announcement” — something else I will be returning to in the next day or so, and probably this evening.

 

For now (as I literally have 10 minutes at present), I simply share a link to the article carried in The Age to break the story.

And I will return to both the election date and this latest turn of events in the Thomson matter very soon.

 

“Please Leave Me Alone:” Craig Thomson Just Doesn’t Get It

Hot on the heels of his reprehensible speech to Parliament this week — which may bring more self-inflicted trouble than anything — Craig Thomson played the misery card again today, begging the opposition and media commentators to leave him alone. They shouldn’t, and they won’t.

There are people in this world who genuinely believe themselves to be beyond scrutiny or reproach; people who think they can do whatever they like, to whomever they like, at whatever cost, and that they should walk away scot-free if their travails are ever uncovered, with neither consequences nor responsibility, and with ultimate accountability to nobody.

It increasingly appears, and not least by the man’s own words and deeds, that Craig Thomson is such a specimen.

In what is (for Thomson) a rare media appearance indeed, he conducted a doorstop interview in Canberra today, imploring those in pursuit of him over scandals at the HSU, his alleged use of prostitutes at union expense and the misappropriation of $500,000 of HSU monies to back off.

Thomson went on, identifying nine different inquiries, investigations and legal proceedings against him that are underway involving the courts, Parliament and Police.

“Enough is enough, really,” he said. “Is this about trying to push someone to the brink?”

Really? Really?

We’re going to see exactly why Thomson should not be “left alone” under any circumstances; but I would first make the observation that his remarks today are an insult to those in the community who really are suffering depression, feeling suicidally miserable, and so forth.

People on the brink of self-harm — or worse — tend not to prate of it; they simply go ahead and do it, rather than looking for attention, sympathy or, in this case, a reprieve from scrutiny.

Ever since Thomson started to talk a couple of weeks ago — and even then, it was only to evade censure in the House of Representatives — the “woe is me” theme has been prevalent in his utterings; the clear impression is that Thomson wants everyone to feel sorry for him, and that his alleged misdemeanours should be quietly dropped and forgotten.

The general message is that Thomson should be able to skip off into the sunset, and that anyone standing in his way is, quite simply, a bastard.

Well, I have a message for Craig Thomson: this column won’t leave you alone until either you satisfactorily and credibly explain your purported innocence of the allegations you face, or you are prosecuted.

And I have a small inkling that the Liberal and National parties, the vast majority of those in the mainstream media, a similar proportion of commentators here in the new media space, and maybe — just maybe — the odd federal Independent who has been “solid” for Thomson until now don’t intend to leave him alone either.

Collectively, we can’t — Thomson must be held to account.

Here’s a little rap sheet, and some reasons why the scrutiny Thomson clearly despises is not going to go away — and nor should it.

What was supposed to be a watertight explanation of all allegations against him in his speech to Parliament was nothing of the sort; at first glance, those passages dealing with the allegations seem guided by saying something — anything — against each accusation in turn rather than by any requirement for a credible or even cogent overall account.

And defences to specific allegations — such as inviting investigators to secure CCTV footage from escort agencies that only provide outcall services — fool nobody.

In point of fact, they merely make Thomson appear like the idiot he seems determined to play everyone else for.

In the past 72 hours Thomson has smeared several people both under parliamentary privilege and, through a leak to the Murdoch press, outside Parliament; those people consequently may not have recourse against Thomson, even if they can show they were defamed. But Thomson — having tried to settle scores by throwing stones from a glass house — expects and believes his address to be a repercussion-free exercise.

Thomson, in rattling off the details of the various inquiries and investigations into his conduct that are currently underway, claimed that “these (investigations) are the appropriate places for these matters to be dealt with.”

Yet he has repeatedly frustrated or otherwise refused to co-operate with them, especially two current inquiries (and one that lapsed as a result of his failure to co-operate) being undertaken by the NSW and Victorian Police.

The headkickers of the ALP are lining up behind Thomson to do his bidding; Leader of the House of Representatives Anthony Albanese, in particular, seems determined to terminate any further scrutiny of Thomson and to protect him, and the government, from any further fallout from the scandal.

Indeed, Thomson can’t even be said to have made a credible stand in his own defence; until last week, his security of tenure has largely rested on the refusal of the Prime Minister to do anything other than to reaffirm her full confidence in him.

Whenever challenged on the ethical or legal implications of allegations surrounding Thomson, Gillard has attempted to talk about Tony Abbott, or to ignore the question.

More recently, she has simply walked away — be it to an overseas conference, or out of question time when the subject matter of the discussion is not to her liking.

All this comes as the Nine network prepares to air a segment on its A Current Affair programme; Nine says it has located and interviewed one of the prostitutes who allegedly slept with Thomson, and who claims to have details of credit cards and other incriminating material to prove that Thomson was with her.

The programme’s executive producer, Grant Williams, visited Thomson in Canberra yesterday and offered to allow Thomson the opportunity to view the ACA segment and to respond if he saw fit.

Oddly — and, I would have thought, unbelievably — Thomson declined.

For the record, Nine has emphasised that it did not pay the prostitute to appear; and this also comes as Melbourne’s Herald Sun reports that Police have been told to look into whether Thomson used American Express cards on escorts:

“Detectives in NSW are believed to have referred to Victoria Police fraud squad detectives information about an American Express card allegedly linked to Thomson…sex industry sources in Victoria have (also) told police to look into Thomson’s use of that card, and not only (other) records checked by Fair Work Australia.”

It was also reported today in the Murdoch press that a payment account linked to a Sydney sex industry supremo appears to have allegedly had funds deposited to it by Thomson during his time in charge of the Health Services Union, and that when asked specific questions about payments to that account, Thomson refused to answer.

I could go on…but what would be the point?

Aside from sympathy, why would anyone back off Thomson when he can’t give a straight and honest answer to questions about matters in which he is implicated?

Why should he be let off the hook, when not a word of what he has said remotely excuses him from even one of the myriad of allegations against him?

Indeed, why would anyone have any sympathy for him at all?

Liberal backbencher and retiring MP, Mal Washer — a doctor of medicine — has attempted to intervene this week, on account of his genuine concern for Thomson’s wellbeing and general health.

Such an intervention is not unwelcome; I actually think Dr Washer should be commended for coming forward despite the fraught, charged political atmosphere and the highly partisan nature of the events that are playing out.

But Thomson must face scrutiny; until or unless he is either exonerated or prosecuted, the matters in which he is alleged to have engaged in misconduct must be rigorously pursued.

I note — near the end of my remarks tonight — that the opposition’s focus is now turning more sharply towards Julia Gillard — as it should.

The conduct of a Prime Minister in office should always be unimpeachable; in the current circumstances of minority government, the need to uphold standards is ever-more critical, with parliamentary numbers so finely balanced and the overriding requirement for the country to remain governable.

Yet Gillard — with her selective honesty, smart answers, glib slogans, questionable ethics and deceptive manipulations — has directly facilitated the trashing of the reputation of Parliament as an institution, and in so doing has provided a grub like Thomson with a safety house in which to shelter, free from the repercussions of his alleged actions.

I’m not a brute; simply a plain, no-nonsense Tory. I think it of paramount importance that any and all legitimate methods of investigation in the Thomson matters required to establish the truth — once and for all — must be utilised.

I am not insensitive to any health issues that may afflict Thomson and I really don’t think the likes of Abbott and his MPs or the media community are either, but I would point out that Dr Washer’s idea to offer care and observation can easily be carried out simultaneously with ongoing investigations, and that both should proceed.

But if Thomson wants people to back off him, I will make this offer:

  • Immediately submit to full co-operation with all outstanding Police inquiries;
  • Provide any and all material and intellectual evidence as demanded by such inquiries, including under oath as reasonably required;
  • Seek to make a personal explanation (or similar) to Parliament, on the next available sitting day, substantially retracting in full the speech made on Tuesday;
  • Utilise whatever options are available to have the Hansard record of the speech struck out; and
  • Citing the irreconcilable incompatibility of ongoing, protracted allegations and investigations with the effective representation of a federal electorate — and irrespective of any potential political ramifications — announce the resignation of the seat of Dobell in the House of Representatives, effective from 6pm on Friday 1 July, 2012.

If Thomson is prepared to do all of those things — effectively turning his back on the ALP protection racket whose favour he has enjoyed, throwing himself on the mercy or the law and proper process, and leaving the Parliament, albeit in disgrace — then this column will make no further critical comment of him.

It seems fair: with so many questions to answer, and the apparent weight of evidence against him almost overwhelming, if Thomson wants a break then he’s going to have to give something for it.

Of course, this won’t happen; Thomson wants everyone to know exactly who the bastards are and why they’re such evil people, and he wants the world to lavish him with pity and sympathy and “understanding;” but he refuses to take responsibility for his actions — either as determined by Fair Work Australia, or otherwise alleged.

I’m sorry, this bozo simply doesn’t get it.

Contrary to what he and others in the ALP might think, this is not a game.

Standards of governance in this country are lower than at any time since 1975, or perhaps ever; there is a great deal at risk the longer this goes on.

And hypothetical questions about what Tony Abbott might do if the shoe were on the other foot are — irrespective of their merit or otherwise — irrelevant.

Craig Thomson is an utter disgrace to this country; the sooner he leaves Parliament — one way or the other — the better off Australia will be for it.

Enough is enough, all right, Mr Thomson. It is time for you to go; your legitimacy as a member of Parliament has long since expired.

And if your departure results in the fall of the government and an election, then so be it.

Stalemate: Thomson Saga Rolls On…But To Where?

It’s like being in the eye of a storm; Craig Thomson fired his bullets in Parliament on Monday, and despite a lot of rough, tough talk — and the requisite Question Time ruckus — there doesn’t seem to be a great deal happening. Or is there?

Whilst political commentators are at one that the Craig Thomson scandal will now drag in indefinitely, and most — including me — agree that the government will suffer ongoing damage as a result, some have opined that the process of dealing with Thomson has reached a stalemate.

In fact, whilst there has been a lot of noise and chatter in the past couple of days, a number of small, seemingly unrelated events tend to suggest there are more turns in the road ahead in the context of this story.

I want to look at just a few of these; in and of themselves they offer nothing conclusive, but in them is sown the seeds of determining where the federal polity tracks for the next 12-15 months.

Since the melodramatic, accusatory and insult-laden twaddle that passed for the member for Dobell’s grand statement of explanation was delivered to the House of Representatives on Monday, a subtle yet significant split has opened in the ranks of the so-called Independents.

On the one hand, Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie reaffirmed their support for the Gillard government in Parliament, ruling out supporting a suspension motion against Craig Thomson and guaranteeing the government’s survival in the immediate term.

Both have made a lot of noise about not being judges, juries and executioners, and both have insisted the allegations against Thomson be tested in Court. Neither has proposed any meaningful way for that objective to be advanced; in fact, neither of them have proposed or done anything meaningful whatsoever.

Indeed, whilst they have opted to prop Labor up in government, they have as a result revealed themselves to be interested in no more than the retention of their seats in parliament for as long as possible: were they committed to integrity and probity in practice, as opposed to the form of words both have adhered to, there would at least be substantive, constructive ideas coming from them as to how to proceed.

Instead, there is nothing.

And on the other hand, there is the “Third Independent,” Rob Oakeshott.

It is generally agreed outside Labor circles that of the Independents who agreed to support Gillard after the 2010 election, Oakeshott was the most politically damaged by the act; in the past week it has become known that Oakeshott is deeply angered by the Thomson saga, and specifically with the length of time it has taken the Thomson to explain himself and with the time it is taking for these matters to be dealt with.

Oakeshott at least proposed to move a censure motion against Thomson, a move since abandoned upon confirmation that Windsor and Wilkie refused to support it. And as consistently critical as I have been of Rob Oakeshott in this column, I think it appropriate to note he was, at the minimum, prepared to do something.

It’s true Oakeshott’s motion, if moved and carried, would not have brought down the government and would not have called for Thomson’s suspension from Parliament. Even so, it remains to be seen whether this display of discord among the Independents is a precursor to them acting alone rather than as a bloc in the future.

An interesting sub-plot has been the referral of Thomson to Parliament’s Privileges Committee to face allegations his speech on Monday misled Parliament, and the route taken to get him there; for reasons of strategic insurance, the Coalition initially asked Peter Slipper — who remains Speaker despite having stepped aside from presiding over the House of Representatives on a daily basis — to refer Thomson, as Slipper is empowered to do.

Slipper refused.

The stench is already emanating from that on streets and in backyards and kitchens well-removed from Canberra; one MP accused of multiple transgressions and possible criminal offences has been seen to shelter another MP also accused of multiple transgressions and possible criminal offences from scrutiny.

It’s not difficult to see what Coalition was up to, but I think we’ll let that one rot and fester on the vine for a while before we revisit it in a later column.

Yet somewhat surprisingly, the government announced it would support a Coalition motion in the House to refer Thomson to the Privileges Committee: my guess is that Labor thinking is that it was the least they could do; to refuse would send a dreadful, dreadful message in light of its already shattered credibility and reputation for sleaze.

Perhaps ALP types are taking solace in the fact that the committee is controlled by the government; of its 10 members, 6 are Labor Party MPs.

This reality has not been lost on the Coalition leadership; the means are there by which Labor can clear Thomson of misleading the House but to do so the government may well be walking into a fatal trap.

To that end, the Coalition has made a change to its numbers on the Privileges Committee, replacing first-term Bennelong MP John Alexander with former Liberal Attorney-General and Immigration minister Phillip Ruddock.

The change is significant: Ruddock, a 39-year veteran of Parliament, has a well-deserved reputation as a tactician and strategist, and remains a wily old political bird; and whilst his presence on the committee will in no way alter the balance of its numbers, it will add an additional layer of forensic investigation and hawk-like sharpness to the Coalition’s arsenal.

Whilst all of this has been going on, a report appearing in The Australian today suggests nominations for Labor preselection in Thomson’s seat of Dobell are open, and already prospective candidates are coming forward.

In an obvious and expected move — but unpredictable insofar as any consequences are concerned — NSW Labor secretary Sam Dastyari has already declared Mr Thomson will likely be ineligible to stand on account of the probability of allegations against him being unresolved when the preselection scheduled for September occurs.

Dumping Thomson from Dobell solves one problem — how to ultimately get rid of him — but raises another for the ALP: what if Thomson himself quits Parliament? He professes to remain a “Labor Man” in spite of everything that has happened, but could  the effective termination of his career tip him to the point of resignation? If so, the government could be forced to a poll before Christmas.

But that, of course, assumes the present Parliament and the current government even make it to an election in August/September 2013; the poll-driven, focus group obsessed ALP will scrutinise the next round of polling figures even more closely than usual, and that means the simmering issue of the Labor leadership will boil over again sooner rather than later.

My tip would be that the next ALP leadership showdown is a matter of weeks away, not months, and it certainly won’t take until a scheduled election loss in August or September next year to materialise.

Irrespective, now, of whether a switch to Kevin Rudd or to another candidate such as Stephen Smith occurs, it is difficult to see how another change of Prime Minister could be anything but a lit fuse beneath the powder keg on which the ALP’s stability as a government sits.

At some point — somehow — common sense will prevail over the self-interest and self-preservation which currently drives the ALP and the equally electorally doomed Independents; if it doesn’t, and even if it takes the death or resignation of an MP through ill-health, the odds on an election sooner than later are rapidly shortening.

As I said, despite the relative lull in events, much has been happening; these few examples — and other events in Canberra — could lead anywhere insofar as the sordid mess that is the Thomson/HSU scandal is concerned. Only time will tell and we will, of course, watch with great interest.

The bottom line remains that a wide majority of the voting public (and even, it anecdotally seems, among some Labor voters tired of minority government) want a fresh election to resolve the instability and the sense of chaos and crisis — to say nothing of the dishonesty of a Labor government rotten to the core — once and for all.

And if the final result of Craig Thomson’s “five minutes of fame” on the floor of the House of Representatives on Monday is to trigger such an election, then maybe he will have effected some good out of this mess after all.

Whichever way you cut it, the stakes — and the bar for survival — just got a hell of a lot higher for Gillard, the ALP, and for the government.