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An MP sits wondering, lonely as a cloud, as Labor sets sights on fairer weather


One of its own vied for attention on the government's banner day, writes Tony Wright.

Craig Thomson sitting alone in question time yesterday.

Craig Thomson sitting alone in question time yesterday. Photo: Andrew Meares

CRAIG THOMSON was the loneliest man in the House of Representatives on budget day.

Inhabiting what appeared to be a total exclusion zone on the crossbenches, far from the Labor colleagues who had protected him for years, the alleged rorter of $500,000 in union funds roused himself only to vote … for his own survival.

The Speaker, Peter Slipper, pleaded innocence of his own alleged transgressions and swept away to a future uncertain, leaving us no more than the memory of a billowing gown. The former speaker, Harry Jenkins, found himself voting against his own proffered return.

Such a peculiar atmosphere. No mass shrieking, roaring and bluster, the usual stuff of Parliament. Instead, there was a fearful tension punctuated by ringing invective from the dispatch boxes about the plunging reputation of politicians and Parliament.

The budget papers may have been holding others in thrall behind locked doors across Parliament House but you would scarcely have guessed it in the House. The press gallery, normally all but deserted on budget day, was heavily populated by senior reporters lured by the heady combination of drama performed upon a high-wire.

Mr Slipper stayed only a minute or two, offering the Lord's Prayer, a denial of the allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of taxi dockets levelled by a former aide, James Ashby, the plea that his attempts to reform Parliament had met approval from the broader public and a lamentation that it was ''unfortunate that trial by media has become the order of the day''.

The people of Australia, cried the opposition's Christopher Pyne in riposte, viewed the Parliament with nothing but ''sheer horror and revulsion''.

He and his colleagues wanted to ''wind back the clock'' to November 24 and restore Harry Jenkins as Speaker. And they wanted Mr Thomson suspended from Parliament for 14 sitting days, and then to return to explain himself in the light of the findings of Fair Work Australia, after which the House could decide his political fate.

The wire on which Julia Gillard's government tottered was exposed for all to see when the MPs came to vote on the idea of winding back the clock on Mr Slipper. It was tied at 72-72, though falling short of an absolute majority, it was lost.

Independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor saved the day for the government, spurning Mr Pyne's entreaties, though Andrew Wilkie backed the Coalition.

The attempt to toss Mr Thomson to the wind was lost rather more convincingly, 73-70, after a Coalition backbencher was thrown out for interjecting and Bob Katter didn't vote at all.

Ms Gillard, having survived another day swaying on the high-wire, called off question time after two questions.

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  • It had to happen sooner or later. Christopher Pyne finally says something true.

    Former Voter
    Date and time
    May 09, 2012, 6:48AM
    • Mr. Thomson, on being asked by Prime Minister Gillard to step to the back bench, said he would continue to support the government in no-confidence motions & supply bills and stressed that “he was a Labor MAN with Labor VALUES”.

      Some values!

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 8:17AM
    • No one wants to sit near him because of the pong....even Gillard has now finally got a whiff of it.

      Up until a week ago, I thought there was something wrong with her olfactories.

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 9:24AM
    • Abbott wants to deny the people of dobell representation by denying thompson a vote,but abbott is moretainted as he is only leader due to slippers toxic vote,so abbott should have a revoye for leadership.

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 9:51AM
    • And to think they threw Belinda Neal out for insulting a waiter! If that is not a double standard I don't know what is.

      Hunter NSW
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 10:47AM
    • Like a high reving Ford Cortina, Chris Pyne always manages to over do it, and makes himself look like a fool.

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 12:09PM
    • Hooble - I am a constituent of Dobell & appalled at the level of miss use of HSU funds. I do not want a man of his caliber voting on my behalf as I do not trust the man to do the right thing by me after what has been unearthed with the FWA report.He should resign immediately & give myself & the other constituents of Dobell the chance to elect someone who has a better standard of honesty & integrity. As being a constiuent of Dobell, I certainly didn't want a carbon tax - & neither did all the people I have spoken to in the area. The reason apart from this that I turned away from him was he bagged out the new state member Darren Webber for not stopping the coal mine. Now Labor were in when the final submission was handed down to say that the then current labor state govt determined that it would not be allowed. We then had the election, & obviously the outed labor govt had done nothing to stop the coal mine management from applying again. So here he is in a newsletter bagging out the current state lib member, for something that the state labor govt at the time should have put the policies in place to say that there never should be one in the first place! I am sick of spin & blaming someone else for their actions! BY the way - if Craig was a Lib I would still have reacted the same!

      Modern Woman
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 12:28PM
  • If it were me, I'd resign as a member of Parliament. But we don't know whether he has the integrity for that.

    I know of at least one sitting Labor member in the Reps that has confided in a couple of colleagues that he will resign from the Labor Party if the budget does not provide a boost to its fortunes in the polls after the budget. If there is one, there must be more.

    Date and time
    May 09, 2012, 7:05AM
    • If it were you, you would resign..WHAT a pathetic comment..NO YOU WOULD NOT!...

      If it were you
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 7:49AM
    • Looking forward to that Labor member to resign Steve if the government doesn't get the boost in the polls and then we will know who it is. Talk about fairy tales Steve you probably don't know the cleaner, it is only the Coalition party who have the poll outcomes on their office walls. Labor is getting on with the job as usual whilst the Coalition plan the next conspiracy. Utegate and the Pyne/Brough advising service haven't exactly been the Coaltion's defining hours have they?

      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 7:57AM

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