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Liberals want union inquiry

Pressure is building on opposition leader Tony Abbott to commit to a broad inquiry into unions in answer to the outcry over rorting in the HSU and AWU.

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Craig Thomson's lawyer has praised Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Manager of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne for toning down their attacks on his client.

As Mr Thomson again denied allegations he used his Health Services Union credit card to pay for personal travel expenses, flights and prostitutes, his lawyer, Chris McCardle, insisted the former union boss had acted in the ''interests of the association at all times''.

''I'd actually like to pay tribute to Mr Pyne and Mr Abbott. Since I told them to either put up evidence or keep quiet, they have kept quiet, and I'd like to congratulate them for behaving themselves,'' Mr McCardle told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

Independent MP Craig Thomson.

Craig Thomson will face the allegations in court in February. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

In October, Mr McCardle lashed out at Mr Abbott, challenging him to produce evidence if he was making allegations of criminal wrongdoing by the Member for Dobell or ''shut his mouth''.

Mr Thomson filed a 28-page defence with the Federal Court on Tuesday in an action brought against him by Fair Work Australia.

The MP has denied most of the claims made against him by the national industrial umpire, and has demanded that some allegations be dropped altogether because, he argues, Fair Work Australia does not have the power to pursue them as they happened too many years ago.

Mr Thomson's hearing is set to begin on February 1 in Melbourne.

Mr Thomson faces civil action over the unauthorised use of union credit cards to pay for prostitutes, and cash advances totalling more than $102,337.45.

Fair Work Australia is seeking to fine Mr Thomson for these alleged misdemeanours and others, and the repayment of the funds.

The statement of claim lists various escort services Fair Work Australia alleges Mr Thomson used, including Young Blondes, Melbourne's Boardroom Escort Agency, and a brothel called Tiffany's.

On Wednesday Mr McCardle dismissed the escort service allegations as prurient.

''People are absolutely pruriently fascinated by this one....Allegations in these 322 paragraphs cover about $200,000 or $300,000. Someone seems very, very fascinated with the allegations with respect to $7,000, which is the total amount of these prurient allegations,'' he said.

Mr McCardle also explained Mr Thomson spent the hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of his normal duties as national secretary of the Health Services Union, insisting he acted in the ''interests of the association at all times''.

''It's a multimillion dollar budget organisation. He was secretary of it for five or six years. In that time he of course spent that much money running the office. He had to pay the payroll, he had to pay the rent, he had to pay the light bill, he had to purchase the stationery, he had to run conferences,'' Mr McCardle said.

''Of course he spent that much money in that time. He hasn't misappropriated one cent, he hasn't improperly spent one cent.''

Mr Thomson was elected in 2007 as the Labor MP for the NSW seat of Dobell, but was suspended from the party in April and moved to the cross benches following the release of the FWA report. FWA has until December 20 to reply to Mr Thomson’s defence.

with AAP

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