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Thomson saga brings government crashing back down to earth

Date
Craig Thomson speaks to independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor as Christopher Pyne moves a motion to force the embattled MP to address Parliament.

Craig Thomson speaks to independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor as Christopher Pyne moves a motion to force the embattled MP to address Parliament. Photo: Andrew Meares

Wayne Swan is calling it his ''battlers' budget''.

It is supposed to encapsulate the government's pitch to low and middle income mums and dads around Australia.
But it could just as easily stand for the government's battle to keep the parliamentary debate focused on the budget.

The opposition were not content to sit there and let the government claim budget victory. 

In question time this afternoon, Labor asked itself no less than seven direct budget related questions - with the phrase ''how is the budget spreading the benefits of the mining boom'' on high rotation.

Julia Gillard was poised to bring an end to question time, but Christopher Pyne beat her to the punch.

Julia Gillard was poised to bring an end to question time, but Christopher Pyne beat her to the punch. Photo: Andrew Meares

The government was particularly keen to keep pointing out that they were giving lump sum payments to parents of school-aged children - and that the opposition does not support the bonus, calling it a ''sugar hit'' that isn't linked to educational outcomes.

Julia Gillard took great pleasure in taking the Coalition to task on their stance, given it was the Coalition who introduced the baby bonus in 2002.

''Babies grow into schoolchildren!'' Gillard exclaimed. ''How out of touch can these people be?''

But the opposition were not content to sit there and let the government claim budget victory.

Joe Hockey wanted to know why the government had raised the Australia's ''credit card limit'' (net debt capacity), as Andrew Robb pressed the government on it ''net debt blow out''. For his part, Malcolm Turnbull said that when the national broadband network was factored in, there was actually a budget deficit of $12 billion (that's not a surplus!).

Swan couldn't help himself and reverted to the government's tried and tested line on the Coalition's ''$70 billion crater in their budget bottom line'' as he waded through his responses. In Anna Burke's first proper question time (there were only two questions yesterday), the deputy speaker was taking no prisoners.

She freely interrupted Gillard to bring her back to the point on several occasions and sternly warned Tony Abbott about interjecting across the table.

Burke only sent one MP packing from the chamber (Nationals MP Michael McCormack) but she did have some ominous words for the rest of the House.

Early on in proceedings, she observed she would issue a general warning if pushed - ''and there will be very few people left in the chamber.''

But as the government battled to keep question time on budget matters, there was another issue brewing.
Late in proceedings there were two questions from Christopher Pyne and then one from Bronwyn Bishop on Craig Thomson, trade unions and parliamentary accountability ... this wasn't going anywhere surplus-y.

With 19 questions done, Gillard sat poised to bring an end to question time, but Pyne beat her to the punch.
He moved a motion to suspend standing orders (that's 52 times this year), to try and get Thomson to explain himself to the House.

Gillard left the chamber as is her usual practice, but it soon became clear this was no usual motion.

Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott had words with Thomson, who was sitting nearby. Then Thomson made the long march over to government whip Joel Fitzgibbon and had a further chat, before leaving the chamber for several minutes.

The ensuring flurry inside the House - Stephen Smith conferencing with the independents, Oakeshott talking to the clerks - made it clear that something was up.

When Pyne had finished lambasting the Thomson affair as ''one of the most tawdry episodes to ever besmirch the parliament'' and Anthony Albanese's five minutes of reply (the member for Dobell is innocent until proven guilty) were over, the House breathed in.

In the gap, Thomson was on his feet, on indulgence.

The embattled independent MP - who once was Labor - said that he would say something. But not right now because it was budget week. He promised to give a statement when parliament next sits (the week after next) and with that, resumed his seat.

The independents were satisfied for now and the Coalition then lost the motion to suspend standing orders, 70 votes to 72.

And with that, Gillard could finally announce that further questions ''be put on the notice paper''.

The Scorecard:

Number of MPs kicked out: 1 (Joe Hockey was also warned)
Number of time the opposition have tried to suspend standing orders this year: 52
Number of times they have been successful: 0
Number of minutes the opposition wanted Craig Thomson to speak and explain himself: No more than ten
Headline government insult: ''They couldn't be trusted to run a chook farm'' (Wayne Swan to the Coalition frontbench)
Headline opposition insult: ''Tricky Julia'' (Christopher Pyne on the Prime Minister ... he immediately withdrew the remark)

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34 comments

  • If it was OK the throw Belinda Neal out of govt. for allegedly abusing a waiter, and with all due respect to the waiter, then its more than OK to throw Thompson out until he can prove he is innocent.

    Commenter
    annie
    Location
    Hunter NSW
    Date and time
    May 09, 2012, 5:43PM
    • If we threw Thompson out we'd have a precedent for throwing any MP out of the parliament any time an untested allegation was made. (I'm not saying that would necessarily be a bad thing.)

      Commenter
      whytee
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 5:57PM
    • when was belinda neal thrown out of govt and not allowed to vote in parliament as an elected member?

      guilty until proven innocent, good idea. lets run with it. see where it goes. I'll start... Christopher Pyne allegedly bribed Ashby to make up claims about Slipper.

      Seriously.....

      Commenter
      Domer
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 6:05PM
    • annie- check your facts. Neal was not thrown out of government. She did not win preselection for the 2010 election. From wikipedia: "On 29 July 2010 Neal announced that she would not recontest the seat but did not rule out a future in politics, saying that the Labor Party still had her full support"
      Thomson has been suspended from the Labor Party but has the right to stay as a sitting member. on the cross benches. He has not, I repeat NOT, been charged. He is the subject of an unfavourable report from FWA but has not been charged, let alone proven guilty.
      Until then, he has the presumption of innocence.

      Commenter
      stevek
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 6:10PM
    • Annie, it's painfully obvious you're a Liberal Party troll. For the sake of the long suffering people who read the SMH comments, please take a vacation or find yourself more gainful employment, or perhaps a hobby.

      (And now you reply with something derogatory about Labour ruining small business and raising unemployment levels so there are no jobs to be had). See, we know the routine well.

      Commenter
      Jessica
      Location
      Mosman
      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 3:08AM
    • We can hardly expect the PM to throw the baby out with the bath water willingly.

      If Thomson ever leaves parliament it will be with Julia grasping his ankles and being dragged along behind screaming 'Don't go Graig, Don't go!'

      If it comes to that hopefully she won't lose anything more than a shoe or two.

      Commenter
      SteveH.
      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 7:17AM
    • So Annie based on your comment..then Mr. Thompson should be thrown out..No problem..So you would agree then we I ask for Mirrabella, Hockey, Pyne, Bishop, Abbott to be thrown out until they face the court and answer the allegations. These are only the ones I know about..I bet their are probably others with the LNP aswell..So Annie please write to the above and request this.

      Commenter
      So base on
      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 8:00AM
    • @So base on

      Just for clarification exactly what are the libs you mentioned being investigated for?

      If its bad politics you are on a winner, but unless someone actually makes an accusation, has a three year investigation and then states their are potential civil charges then you are backing a loser,

      Slipper is under investigation for the cab charge fraud by the AFP, so regardless if the whole thing is politically motivated (which of course it is) he may still well be guilty.

      In regards to those in the senate, so what, it doesn't effect the balance of power as the Labor Greens (Labeens) have a reasonable majority. Even if they resigned its a straight one for one liberal, labor or green exchange. No by-elections in the senate.

      Commenter
      Reality
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 11:21AM
  • How is it that Craig Thomson's misuse of funds cannot be categorised as criminal, with criminal proceedings underway. If I misuse my employers funds I'll be pursued as a thief. If an intention to not pay the money back isn't theft I don't know what is. So much pussy footing about with words. If he did it (sure that has to be proven) is should be seen as theft.

    Commenter
    petermac
    Location
    Central Coast
    Date and time
    May 09, 2012, 5:50PM
    • Thank goodness for the digital media because I would hate to have to guess how many trees would have to be sacrificed to continue report this rubbish (all parties) in traditional newsprint.

      Commenter
      Dvaid
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 5:56PM

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