FEDERAL MP Craig Thomson has blamed an elaborate plot by a union rival he says fitted him up by using union credit cards in his name to pay for prostitutes - claims greeted with derision by the opposition.
Mr Thomson, the former head of the Health Services Union, gave his first detailed explanation yesterday of allegations in a Fair Work Australia report that he misused some $500,000 of union funds on escort services and on personal and election campaign expenses.
Mr Thomson, who has been suspended from the federal Labor caucus, said the HSU was a very dysfunctional union and, among a range of threats, rivals warned they would ruin his political career by ''setting me up with hookers''.
Asked how payments for prostitutes were made on credit cards that he controlled, and how his driver's licence details and signature appeared on receipts, Mr Thomson said the HSU executive had access to his personal details.
''The whole executive knew what my credit card numbers were,'' he said. ''My driver's licence was readily available.''
Mr Thomson admitted only that he should have checked his credit card statements more closely before signing off on them.
He's promised a more detailed explanation, including naming people he suspects, when he addresses the House of Representatives when Parliament resumes on May 21.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he didn't think anyone believed this story.
''Fair Work Australia didn't believe his story. I don't think the Australian public will believe his story either,'' he said.
Mr Abbott said this was all about giving Prime Minister Julia Gillard an alibi so she could cling to his vote in Parliament and, if she was fair dinkum, she would disown that vote.
That scepticism extended to the social network Twitter, with many questions on Mr Thomson's claims, including one as to why, if he was innocent, he had withdrawn a defamation action against Fairfax over the matter.
One wag tweeted: ''Should nickname Thomson 'Blue Poles' - (both 'framed', and cost the government a lot of money …)''
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said allegations against Mr Thomson would no doubt be tested in court and he was entitled to the presumption of innocence. AAP