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Craig Thomson's day in court gives cause to remember Gillard's day in Parliament

On May 21, 2012, the former Labor MP Craig Thomson spoke in the Federal Parliament for one hour, delivering 8300 words before a packed chamber, press gallery and public gallery about why he was the victim of an elaborate set-up.

This is what he had to say about claims that he had improperly used union funds to pay for prostitutes: ''Turning to credit cards and escorts, I have consistently, from day one, denied any wrongdoing in relation to these issues. I make it clear … that I had many enemies in the HSU [Health Services Union], many enemies who did not like increased transparency, many enemies who preferred that there be no national office. I was the subject on numerous occasions of threats and intimidation … There was a particular threat that was made that I thought was just part of the routine threats that were constantly made in working in this environment. That was a threat by Marco Bolano in words to the effect that he would seek to ruin any political career that I sought and would set me up with a bunch of hookers. This was a threat that started in Kathy Jackson's office.''

So Thomson told the Parliament he had been set up and by whom, among many claims now being dissected in a court in Melbourne. That court has heard evidence from a former prostitute, then known as Misty, that Thomson was a regular client. Let us place Misty's evidence against Thomson's account, as told to Parliament: Someone misused his union credit card. Someone misused his driver's licence. Someone forged his signature on receipts. Someone misappropriated his phone. Someone made calls from hotels where he was staying. He could explain why his credit card, driver's licence and phone were not reported stolen. As for the 1100-page Fair Work Australia report into his alleged improprieties, it was ''nothing short of a joke''.

There has been an enormous joke played on the Australian public. It is still playing out. The Labor Party, the union movement and Julia Gillard and her government have ownership of Thomson and all the other cowboys in the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, the HSU and elsewhere who flourished under Labor patronage and protection.

When Thomson delivered his maiden speech on February 19, 2008, he thanked three key Labor machinists, Mark Arbib, Karl Bitar and Sam Dastyari, as crucial to his support. He said: ''The support I received from the entire union movement but in particular from Unions NSW, the TWU, the CFMEU mining division, the PSA and, of course, the Health Services Union, was phenomenal.''

Indeed it was. As much as $250,000 that was never declared to the Australian Electoral Commission may have been spent to get Thomson into Parliament. In the months before the 2007 federal election, the Labor Party poured resources into the adjoining marginal seats of Dobell and Robertson. No effort was spared to support Thomson in Dobell and Belinda Neal in Robertson. Kevin Rudd visited. Bob Hawke visited four times. Labor's field general in Dobell was the now disgraced Michael Williamson, then national president of the HSU, a member of the ACTU executive, a vice-president of Unions NSW, a director of the SGE Credit Union and, later, national president of the ALP. After Julia Gillard became prime minister, she employed Williamson's daughter, Alexandra, as a media adviser. Arbib, a key ally of Thomson, rented a Canberra apartment with Alexandra Williamson for two years.


Thomson also offered this advice in his maiden speech: ''As a Labor government, we cannot afford to treat the electors as fools through political spin. We need to be honest and forthright.'' Yes, there needs to be a royal commission into what Thomson himself described as ''the routine threats that were constantly made in working in this environment''. That extends to many unions, especially the CFMEU.

And think about this: it was Gillard who relied on Thomson's survival for her government to survive. It was Gillard who became embroiled in slush funds at the AWU. It was Gillard who shut down the Australian Building and Construction Commission after pressure from the CFMEU.

The ranks of those who think Gillard was a successful prime minister have shrunk to a progressive sisterhood which can only see her as a hero and victim, no matter what evidence accumulates to the contrary.

Twitter: @Paul_Sheehan