Gillard denies Thomson arrest alert
JULIA Gillard's extended election campaign hit major turbulence on its first full day following the arrest of the former Labor MP turned independent, Craig Thomson.
Mr Thomson, who was forced to resign from the Labor Party early last year, was arrested in his Central Coast electoral office at 1pm on Thursday and faces 150 charges - including theft and fraud - relating to the alleged misuse of entitlements when he was national secretary of the Health Services Union.
After an 18-month investigation, Victorian police notified Mr Thomson in December that they had enough evidence to charge him. The member for Dobell was then asked to surrender himself to the offices of the Victorian police before Christmas.
Mr Thomson refused this offer, so New South Wales Police executed a warrant on behalf of their Victorian colleagues on Thursday. ''He's accepted what's been said to him, he hasn't argued,'' said the NSW fraud squad's Superintendent Col Dyson, who made the arrest.
Ms Gillard's minority government relies on the vote of Mr Thomson and a clutch of independents for its working majority.
The Prime Minister yesterday stated she had no knowledge of the Mr Thomson's arrest other than from media reports.
A spokesman from her office later stated Ms Gillard had been given no advance notice that police intended to move on the embattled MP.
But the opposition's workplace relations spokesman, Eric Abetz, asked whether Mr Thomson's arrest was a factor behind Ms Gillard's announcement of the election date on Wednesday.
''[Ms Gillard might] like to tell us whether she had any pre-warning in relation to this arrest and her decision to call the election date yesterday.''
He said that while it was important ''we constrain our comments'' while the matter was before the courts, it was right for the Coalition to pursue the question of the Prime Minister's judgment regarding Mr Thomson.
''She has been acting as the chief defence counsel for Craig Thomson now for a number of years,'' he said.
News of the arrest emerged while Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was on his feet at the National Press Club.
He said it was important to be circumspect given legal proceedings, but he used the opportunity to slam Ms long-running saga.
''The Thomson matter isn't just about Craig Thomson,'' he said. ''It's always been about the judgment of the Prime Minister and I'm afraid the judgment of a prime minister who was running a protection racket for Craig Thomson for months and years, long after it was obvious that there were issues.''
The charges laid on Thursday relate to allegations that Mr Thomson improperly used Health Services Union funds to spend on prostitutes, air travel, entertainment and cash withdrawals in excess of $100,000.
Mr Thomson was the union's national secretary from 2002 until his election to Federal Parliament in December 2007.
Representing himself in Wyong Court yesterday afternoon, Mr Thomson was bailed to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court on February 6. His bail conditions included not approaching anyone he has paid for sexual services and notifying police if he intended to travel overseas or interstate, except to Canberra as part of parliamentary duties.