Court the great leveller as Thomson saga washes up before magistrate
Craig Thomson's day in court began with a kiss.
In courtroom number one of the Melbourne Magistrates Court, Thomson and his wife Zoe Arnold had taken the end two seats of the front row, as the alleged fraud case against him was called.
As the proceedings began, Thomson and Ms Arnold kissed briefly, a public moment of support for the federal member of parliament who, as the court would hear, is facing 154 charges. Ms Arnold sat close to her husband, the pair whispering to each other as the hearing unfolded.
Craig Thomson, accompanied by his wife, arrives to face court in Melbourne. Photo: Mal Fairclough
''I still love my husband,'' Ms Arnold, former radio journalist, declared in an interview with the Australian Women's Weekly last July. ''This will all end one day and then we will still have each other.''
And so that support continued as this remarkable political and legal soap opera played out its next scene in Melbourne. Ms Arnold was still standing by her man, despite the full weight of the law being applied, in this case by Victoria Police detectives.
His appearance was part of a remarkable few days for the ex-Labor MP, who came to Melbourne via the Wyong police station in NSW, a strip search and a Wyong magistrate. He had promised to front in Victoria, and did.
There was no mistaking the interest in this case, which centres on Thomson's alleged use of his Health Services Union credit card when he was the union's national secretary, including allegations union money was spent on prostitutes.
In the courtroom, the reporters' seats were filled while on the steps, a small army from the media had gathered. Thomson was the star turn. But on this morning, he was just another case on a list of 38 for Magistrate Donna Bakos.
On any given morning, the court is where the things that go wrong in society wash up. It is a swirling mass of anxious humanity, the innocent and the guilty gathered up by the long and encircling arms of the law.
Thomson had arrived vowing to clear his name, but he would have to wait to begin the process that involves. Cases of failing to give way, of a laptop found in a boot underneath the spare tyre, of family violence, came first.
In normal circumstances, Thomson would be in another place. The federal parliament is sitting, and the now-independent member for Dobell would be on the cross benches.
When his turn came just before 10.30am, Thomson maintained the calm demeanour he has often exhibited throughout this whole affair. If his stomach was twisted in a knot of anxiety, he didn't show it.
At the end of the hearing, Magistrate Bakos asked him if he understood the terms of his bail being altered. ''Yes I do, your honour.''
On the steps on the court, Thomson appeared with his lawyer, Bill Dwyer, and Ms Arnold close by his side.
''You'd think it's the AFL grand final, with all you guys here,'' Thomson joked, and certainly, there was a sense of sport about it.
He repeated concerns about the circumstances of his arrest last week, and that police did not yet have a list of witnesses: ''We're trying to get on with this, get it on as quickly as we can.''
The next instalment is a committal mention set down for May 22. ''I'm sure you'll all be back here on the 22nd, and we'll see you then. Thanks,'' he added, before he and Ms Arnold disappeared into the back of a black car.
Shane Green is associate editor.