Why is Thomson stalling in rush to clear his name?
Craig Thompson has quit the Labor Party. Photo: Nick Moir
"I will make a comprehensive statement in the near future," promised Craig Thomson in September last year.
Ever since the allegations that he misused union funds were first raised almost four years ago, the embattled federal MP has been promising an explanation, and offering to aid authorities at every opportunity in order to clear his name.
But to date he has declined to be interviewed by NSW police, who are investigating claims that he and the head of the HSU, Michael Williamson, received secret commissions in the form of credit cards.
Nor has he availed himself of the opportunity to assist Victorian police in their investigations into allegations that he spent $100,000 of Health Services Member's money on himself, plus $5223 on the services of prosititutes.
A similar thing happened with the tabling of the Fair Work Australia investigation into allegations of financial mismanagement within the HSU.
Initially Thomson could not wait for the report to be made public, then he engaged lawyers to have its public release blocked.
It is worthwhile to go back to where it all began to unravel: when Thomson left the HSU to become a member of parliament.
Thomson spent most of his working life with the HSU, becoming national secretary in 2002, a position he held until he was elected the federal member of Dobell in 2007.
It was only after he left that the union's auditors, BDO, were asked to conduct an investigation into allegations of mis-spending by the departing national secretary.
The following is a summary of prostitute services that were allegedly put on Mr Thomson's Diners Club card and MasterCard, which were paid for by the union:
- Aboutoun Catering (Milson's Point escort service) February 26, 2003 - $330.
- A Touch Of Class (brothel in Surry Hills), August 26, 2006 - $660.
- Sydney Outcalls Network (high class escort agency), March 11, 2003 - $570; April 9, 2006 - $2475; August 16, 2007 - $770.
- Tiffanys (brothel in Surry Hills), June 11 2005 - $418.
According to the findings of BDO's audit, Thomson said he was interstate on most of those occasions and he had not incurred these expenses.
The audit report raised the question of why he had submitted such expenditure to be paid by the union if it was not incurred by him.
"Thomson has categorically denied ever attending these places. He has stated that he was not in the state of NSW on each and every date of the relevant transactions," said the report.
Then came the matter of the $100,000 he had made in cash withdrawals, which he had explained to the union's financial controller were "meeting expenses" and that he had supplied invoices.
One example Thomson gave was an Aboriginal elder who had participated in a "Welcome to Country" ceremony at a national conference and had demanded payment in cash.
However, investigators found none of the cash withdrawals from July 2002 to November 2007 were supported by invoices.
He told the BDO auditor that the practice of cash withdrawals was commonplace in most trade unions. BDO notes that this was not the case.
The auditor was unable to conclude whether the cash withdrawals were appropriate but recommended "the practice of withdrawing cash should never occur again and that it is the antithesis of of transparency and accountability."
Interestingly, Mr Thomson agreed that he had made the cash withdrawals on his CBA MasterCard and that he did not give the card to anyone. However, with regard to the prostitutes, he denied incurring such expenses on his card.
The BDO report, which was conducted in 2008, was passed on to Fair Work Australia, which commenced an investigation in 2009.
That same year Fairfax Media reported the allegations raised in the BDO report. Mr Thomson sued for defamation over the reports.
Among the explanations offered by Mr Thomson, apart from being interstate on most occasions the prostitutes were used, were that someone had forged his signature and another union member had incurred the expenses and had paid the union back $15,000, including for the prosititutes on Thomson's card.
However, Jeff Jackson, the former husband of the current national secretary, Kathy Jackson, claimed he had paid back the $15,000 and further denied that any monies were spent on prostitutes.
A subsequent audit confirmed that Mr Jackson, a former state secretary, had to pay back $15,000 for unauthorised salary increases.
"Mr Thomson again today has loudly proclaimed his innocence but has done everything possible to make sure that HSU members are kept in the dark about what he was up to during his time as an HSU official," Ms Jackson said in a statement today.
"To my knowledge, Mr Thomson has refused to be interviewed by both the Victoria Police and Strike Force Carnarvon, while falsely stating publicly that he was assisting police. If Mr Thomson has any respect for HSU members then next week he will do what he earlier promised and give a full account of his conduct to the parliament and to the members of the HSU.
"But I'm not holding my breath."
Thomson later dropped the defamation action against Fairfax when further records were produced showing his mobile phone had been used to make the bookings and that his signature and driver's licence details were on the brothel receipts.
In September, 2011, a few months after dropping the defamation action, a senior NSW police officer was quoted saying:"We are satisfied that the person who used the card was the person whose name was on the card," a senior police officer said. "It would have been deception if someone else used it; that would have been a crime."
Now that Thomson has agreed to cooling his heels on the cross-benches, perhaps he has time to work on that "comprehensive statement" that would no doubt clarify everything.
But sometime in the "near future" never gets any closer.
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