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?”
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.