Thomson sentenced to 12 months jail
Former federal MP Craig Thomson has been sentenced to serve three months in prison with a nine-month suspended sentence for misusing union funds.PT0M39S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-35f3l 620 349 March 25, 2014
The test of whether the ALP has assimilated the lessons of Craig Thomson's graceless fall is not what its MPs say. This after all, is a movement looking for distance and firmly set in damage-control mode.
No, the real test of Labor's re-education will be measured in the difference between how the party chieftains have traditionally apportioned power and how they operate from here on.
Former prime minister Julia Gillard with former Labor MPs Craig Thomson and Deborah O'Neill, in 2010. Photo: Mark Kolbe
While prostitutes, lavish restaurant meals, and ATM cash withdrawals grabbed the headlines, the real significance of the Thomson case was the window it provided on union and political power, its shadowy allocation, and its systemic abuse.
After five years of squalid denials and heartfelt claims of innocence, Thomson was eventually convicted and sentenced for theft committed not as the federal Labor MP for Dobell but as a corrupted official during his time as national secretary of the Health Services Union. In other words, he was dodgy long before being elevated to the final prize reserved for too many union leaders - a parliamentary sinecure.
Evidence from others at the HSU suggests at the very least, suspicions were widespread about corruption, intimidation, and a culture of largesse among the HSU leadership while Thomson was in charge - all funded by the dues of some of the nation's harder working yet least well-paid workers.
Labor says it was unaware of these matters prior to Thomson's preselection and subsequent entry to Parliament in 2007. Yet even if this is to be believed, he was re-endorsed by Labor for the 2010 election, which was after reports by this newspaper that his union credit card had been used to pay for prostitutes and other assorted non-union expenses.
In the wake of Thomson's sentencing on Tuesday, former colleague and HSU whistleblower, Marco Bolano observed that the only thing that will get at the full extent of institutional corruption is Tony Abbott's long-resisted royal commission on union corruption.
The Thomson case and Labor's refusal to address its own internal problems has made Bolano's point impossible to argue against.
As a minority prime minister, Julia Gillard stuck doggedly to Thomson, terrified apparently that he would either abandon Parliament or else be rendered bankrupt by his legal expenses and thus be ineligible to remain. This did more long-term damage to the ALP than Thomson himself, proving that in government there are worse things than losing.
Like so many Labor selection processes, Thomson's was decided by factional powerbrokers.
The party's silver lining is that all this has been exposed, giving more strength to the arm of reformers. Bill Shorten, that means you.
There is a topical lesson for Tony Abbott, too. If someone on your side has been associated with impropriety before entering Parliament, it only becomes your fault when you choose to ignore it.