Thomson charade still going as the players await a final curtain
Let us pause for a moment to enjoy the majesty of Craig Thomson's magnificent gall, the gall on which Julia Gillard and her government have relied for the entire time Gillard has been Prime Minister.
The Thomson defence: Someone else misused his union credit card. They also misused his driver's licence. Then forged his signature on receipts. They misappropriated his phone and made calls near his home and from hotels where he was staying. The phone was used to call escort agencies. The $250,000 allegedly spent by Thomson to help get into Parliament but never declared was not spent on electoral matters.
He can also explain why his credit card, driver's licence and phone were never reported stolen. And why bills that included receipts from escort agencies and cash withdrawals were paid under his authorisation.
"Magnificent gall" ... Craig Thomson. Photo: Penny Bradfield
On Monday, Fair Work Australia finally released a report into the Thomson affair. It runs to 1100 pages. Thomson responded: ''This whole investigation has been nothing short of a joke.''
To appreciate the scale of the damage done to the reputation of the government, the Parliament, the Labor Party and the federal bureaucracy, the timeline is key. It is shocking.
FWA has a case to answer. The Australian Electoral Commission has a case to answer. So does the Prime Minister. And the Labor Party. And two independents, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, who have repeatedly voted to prolong this appalling charade.
More than three years have passed since Mark Davis broke a story in this newspaper on April 8, 2009, which began: ''The federal Labor MP and former union boss Craig Thomson faces allegations that his union credit cards were used to pay for escort services and to withdraw more than $100,000 in cash, as well as bankroll his election campaign for the central coast seat of Dobell.
''Documents provided to the Herald show that Health Services Union officials concluded last year that union credit cards issued to Mr Thomson - and other financial resources - were used for election campaign spending. These had not been disclosed under electoral law.''
Thomson initiated defamation proceedings against the Herald. In April 2011, shortly before the trial was to begin, Thomson's lawyers filed a notice of discontinuance. It was revealed the Labor Party had paid $150,000 to Thomson for his legal fees to keep the matter open for two years and stave off bankruptcy, which would have obliged Thomson to resign his seat.
On July 31 last year, in a radio interview, Thomson claimed he was a victim of fraud.
On August 16 last year, Gillard, by now Prime Minister, responded to a question in Parliament: ''I have complete confidence in the member for Dobell. I think he is doing a fine job … [and] I look forward to him continuing to do that job for a very long, long, long time to come.''
On December 14 last year, the Herald reported that Thomson had plagiarised various sources for a report tabled to Parliament after an overseas trip. It was also six months late.
FWA finally delivered a report on March 28. On April 4, a Senate standing committee asked when it would see the report. The general manager of FWA, Bernadette O'Neill, replied the next day: ''I consider that [providing] the report to the committee while I am considering these matters would not be in the public interest.'' She anticipated another four to six weeks.
On April 7, the leader of the opposition in the Senate, Eric Abetz, filed a Freedom of Information request asking for the report. FWA was obliged to respond within 28 days.
Gillard announced on April 29 that she had asked Thomson to remove himself to the cross benches, saying ''a line had been crossed''. She provided no specifics.
On May 7, the last possible day for responding to the FOI request without having to seek an extension, FWA released its report.
It found that Thomson's explanations were implausible: ''Mr Thomson claims that these transactions were incurred fraudulently by another person using his credit cards. However the [evidence] overwhelmingly support an inference that it was Mr Thomson who used his own credit cards to make these transactions.''
On Tuesday, in Parliament, the opposition proposed a motion that Thomson be suspended for 14 sitting days and provide a statement to Parliament in response to the adverse findings of the FWA report. The government defeated the motion with votes of Windsor and Oakeshott.
Yesterday, even though the FWA report concluded Thomson had spent up to $250,000 of union funds in undeclared campaign spending, the AEC said that, as the FWA report had taken three years to appear, the statute of limitations had expired.
The core revelations were placed in the public domain three years ago. The charade rolls on and the desperate buy more time.
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