A Craig Thomson Reader

Craig Thomson addresses Parliament (note Andrew Wilkie's expression)

More often than not these days, even day-to-day political “footie commentary” is purveyed with greater depth and perceptiveness by the blogosphere and alternative media than in Australia’s sadly diminished mainstream mass media.  The Craig Thomson soap opera is a case in point, although Thomson’s Parliamentary performance on Monday was rated equally poorly by both sectors.

Strategically and no doubt wisely abandoning any pretence of academic objectivity, UNSW’s Mark Rolfe gave Thomson’s performance a one star rating at the G8 universities’ site The Conversation:

Thomson’s statement showed him to be a man lost in politics, lashing at enemies with the usual tactics of push and shove because that’s how the game has been for him and others in this sorry little saga.

Thomson’s case about conspiracy was at best circumstantial and at worst composed of the kind of supposition that political players often make about enemy moves and intentions, even if it was more outlandish than usual. He expects us to believe this line of thinking, when we are actually incredulous at his story.

The Health Services Union has been decidedly unhealthy for more than 12 years. Thomson has been in the thick of it and has thrived in the melees, beginning with victory in 2002 in a struggle that involved allegations of defamation and gross misbehaviour. Why would Williamson be trying to destroy Thomson at the same time that he was supporting Thomson’s federal election campaign in 2007 and 2010 with election funds subject to an AEC investigation?

Still, Rolfe wasn’t going to let Tony Abbott and his Coalition cronies off scot-free either:

It’s the same game with the current fight in NSW Liberals which is spilling into the public square. For all the po-faced reactions of Abbott & co., we know they’d adopt Labor’s same arguments if in the same position. This is just the adversarial nature of the political game.

Meanwhile, Tom Cowie at Crikey provided profiles of some of the extensive list of characters on Thomson’s sh*t list.

Cowie’s Crikey colleague Bernard Keane was marginally more positive about Thomson’s performance:

Every political cycle has rare moments when an otherwise disengaged electorate tunes in to politics. The Godwin Grech moment in 2009 was one such. Leadership stoushes are another. Political journalists understandably ride them for all they’re worth. Craig Thomson’s defence yesterday was one such moment.

It was, even Thomson’s few defenders would admit, not exactly up there with Nixon’s “Checkers” speech in successfully wriggling out of a tight spot, although, like Nixon, Thomson offered plenty of detail about his early career in order to, well, humanise the figure behind the scandal.

But Thomson managed to throw up plenty of confusion, especially about the operation of Fair Work Australia in the conduct of its investigation, and offer a narrative of persecution by internal enemies that, oddly, exactly complements one of the stories the Coalition has been running in relation to the affair, that there’s something innately crooked about unions. And it’s only a few weeks since Tony Abbott smeared the whole industry superannuation sector with his reference to “gravy trains” and “venal” union officials.

Sydney University legal academic Anne Twomey appears to be much less than impressed by Thomson’s claim that the Australian Electoral Commission’s report had somehow both exonerated him in relation to spending half a million dollars of HSU funds on getting elected and also discredited the scathing Fair Work Australia report which precipitated this latest episode of the soap opera:

First, the ‘donations’ that allegedly funded the employment of staff to raise Mr Thomson’s profile in the electorate of Dobell did not require disclosure because they occurred before the date he was pre-selected as a candidate for the seat in 2007. As he was a new candidate and had not run in the previous election, donations to support his campaign did not count until he was pre-selected. The vast bulk of the HSU money that was allegedly used to support Mr Thomson’s campaign, as set out in the Fair Work Australia report, occurred before he was pre-selected. Equally, his electoral expenditure only counted if it occurred during the election period (from the issue of the writs to polling day). So any expenditure that occurred earlier than this did not need to be declared by Mr Thomson.

The second issue is the high disclosure threshold, which in 2007-8 was $10,500. While the amount of all donations needs to be recorded by political parties and by donors in their returns to the AEC, they do not need to be ‘particularised’ unless a single donation is over the threshold amount. For example, expenditure of $4,826.99 to establish a Campaign Office would have to be disclosed in the overall total of donations made by the HSU or received by the ALP, but didn’t have to be specifically itemised. Hence the AWC cannot tell whether or not it has been disclosed, because all it has is a global figure.

On the other hand, an earlier article by Twomey points out that Parliament does not have the constitutional power to expel Thomson, although that would occur by operation of law in the event of criminal conviction and imprisonment satisfying the criteria in s 44(ii) of the Australian Constitution.  However that prospect seems highly unlikely before the excruciatingly distant expiry of the current Parliament next year by the effluxion of time.  Even the extent of its power to suspend him is uncertain:

It is unclear whether the power to suspend continues to apply to conduct which does not fall under the Standing Orders and does not amount to an ‘offence against a House’ as defined in s 4 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act.1

However, when questions of power arise, it is ultimately for the courts to determine whether an institution of government, including a House of the Parliament, has the capacity to exercise a power.

As a general principle, the courts try to avoid interfering in internal parliamentary matters and treat them as ‘non-justiciable’ (i.e. something that they cannot or will not determine). However, when questions of power arise, it is ultimately for the courts to determine whether an institution of government, including a House of the Parliament, has the capacity to exercise a power….

In the case of the Federal Parliament, where the power to suspend is determined by reference to the scope of the powers of the House of Commons at the time of federation, the courts have not so far been called upon to intervene. They might agree to do so, however, if the challenge related to the power to suspend, rather than the merits of the suspension.

The exercise of such a power might be challenged on the ground that either (a) it was beyond the power held by the House of Commons at the time of federation (which is unlikely); or (b) that the power has been impliedly altered since by legislation or constitutional implications. For example, it might be argued that since the enactment of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987, the power to suspend is limited to ‘offences against the House’ and could not be exercised in relation to events that took place before the Member was elected and did not interfere in any way with the free exercise of a House of its authority or functions. It might also be argued that the constitutional implications derived from the system of representative government preserve the right of a Member of Parliament to exercise his or her vote in the Parliament on behalf of his or her constituents unless disqualified from doing so by legislation or the express provisions of the Constitution.

But of course these events aren’t really about removing Thomson from Parliament, however much Tony Abbott may posture to that effect.  They’re about prolonging and exacerbating a public aura of chaos and decay around an increasingly punch-drunk Gillard government, so that its reputation with the electorate remains at historic lows through until next year’s election.  And you’d have to give short odds on Abbott continuing to succeed in that aim, absent enough ALP pollies mustering the intestinal fortitude to eat a KRudd sandwich, however nauseating, in the interest of their own political survival.

In a more general sense, however, Bernard Keane argues it’s really all just about the soap opera:

What it definitely tells us is that the media and their audiences are far more comfortable with personalities and scandal than the “real issues” everyone says they prefer in political coverage.

This finally yielded some meaning for an otherwise meaningless saga. What does the Thomson affair tell us? That unions are corrupt? That we’re a lynch mob ready to drop the pretence of due process? What it definitely tells us is that the media and their audiences are far more comfortable with personalities and scandal than the “real issues” everyone says they prefer in political coverage.

The Thomson saga is, of course, Important, no doubt; the government, after all, Could Fall; big issues are at stake, such as The Future Of The Union Movement. The saga is not for trivialising. And yet it now looks nothing less or more than a torn-from-the-headlines crime drama missing only the characteristic doink! of Law & Order, the much longed-for transformation of boring politics into prime-time drama.

Thus has minority government served us; its hothouse atmosphere encouraging the hypertrophy of the more grotesque organs of the body politic, each to be placed on display by the media. It’s not so much that we’ve become judge, jury and executioner, but judge, jury and showman, reproving and castigating that which we’re delighted to display. That’s entertainment.

Nevertheless, looking at the bright side, the Gillard government might not be able to organise a root in a brothel (at least in PR terms), but Craig Thomson probably can (unless it was someone else).

 

  1. Fairly clearly Thomson’s behaviour to date, absent a finding of misleading the House on Monday, does not amount either to a breach of Standing Orders or an ‘offence against a House’.
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About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic at Charles Darwin University, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law) and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 12 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in he early 1990s.

37 thoughts on “A Craig Thomson Reader

  1. I thought Mr Thomson’s performance in the house was very good. Clearly Mr Thomson is a person who can look you in the eye and tell you a story and you will believe him, as long as you don’t look to closely at the facts, which is why PM Gillard probably stood by him for so long and why when she finally received the report from FWA she cut him loose.
    Mr Thomson made a number valid of points about the opposition and the msm handling of the matter, and I tend to believe that threats were made by people in the Union movement. I also believe the FWA investigation lacked transparency and that the possible conflict of interets that the personal relationship between some of the protaginists in the HSU, FWA and the Liberal Party have not been significantly examined and separated to give full confidence that the report was totally unbiased.
    For all the talk of hundreds of thousands of dollars, it is the five or six thousand dollars spent on escort agencies which is the key to the nub of the story. I have strong doubt that the Union officials who I believe probably made the threats, or similar ones, to Mr Thomson, would have actually carried them out. To many people, using prositutes is very unseemly, however using other people’s money to use prostitutes is unconcsionable.
    As these matters happened before Mr Thomson was in Parliament, and I doubt, due to the lack of actual factual evidence, that there will ever be a civil conviction let alone a criminal conviction, I believe the matter should be resolved by the people of Dobell at the next election.

    • Yes, I also found Thomson’s performance quite persuasive at the time, until I started to analyse all the gaps, non sequiturs, illogicalities and the like.

      For example, his suggestion that perhaps the phone calls to escort agencies from his hotel room might be explained by the fact that he often booked a whole set of rooms for all delegates at a conference. But even if he did so, have you ever been to a hotel where you weren’t checked in as a guest as an individual? I suspect that the law actually requires this in most States, so this excuse just doesn’t make any sense.

      Similarly with Thomson’s claim that the law required escort agencies to keep CCTV footage for 7 years, and consequent “demand” that police obtain the footage. Apparently that isn’t the case, only 5-10% of brothels even have CCTV and they don’t keep the footage for very long. So it was a pretty safe “demand” for Thomson to make.

      Similarly with the real situation with the AEC report and what it does and does not prove (see primary post). It says nothing at all about the accuracy or otherwise of the FWA report, and nothing at all about whether Thomson might or might not have committed any criminal offence, civil breach of trust etc in relation to using HSU funds for electoral purposes. It merely concludes that he did not breach the disclosure requirements of electoral law.

      BTW I share your guess that Thomson won’t be convicted of a criminal offence. He might not even be charged. OTOH civil proceedings are quite likely and quite likely to succeed, I think. That could conceivably result in bankruptcy in due course, which would disqualify him from parliament under Constitution s 44. However there is no way that would occur before the next election, and no way Thomson will be an MP after that time. Thus it’s all about the political theatre of the moment, as Bernard Keane suggests.

  2. Ken, I am not sure there will be civil proceedings, and if there are they will be after the next election and I believe there would be a negotiated settlement. This matter has never been about money, morality or parliamentary behaviour. It has always been about politics at a multi facited level and if the media would have focussed on the poltical agendas of all the parties involved, separated facts from opinion and had not tried to wrap their utterances in some sort of faux moral outrage, these matters would have been completed and we would be concentrating on more imprtant issues.

  3. I thought Thompson was impressive. I am undecided, The Fair Work Australia report is, to me anyway, persuasive but not conclusive. I think it’s pretty alarming to propose that an MP can be tossed out of the parliament on an unreviewed report by a public servant. I think the position of Stephen Mayne on Qanda that it’s gone on too long was reprehensible and about the feeblest excuse I’ve heard for throwing procedural fairness out the window.

    Clearly some mechanism is needed to test the Fair Work report. That mechanism should not abandon natural justice because it’s gone on for a long time and we’re all bored. I am not sure that speculating on whether Thompson or Fair Work got it right is all that helpful.

    There was once a baby who was taken by a dingo. There was a Queensland chief magistrate who served actual jail time before the High Court found her original conviction was absolutely null and void.

    I also think this shows beyond any doubt we need a code of conduct and an independent integrity commissioner to enforce it. Integrity commissioners are more or less standard in Canada and have not led to the collapse of democracy there.

    PS I know they have just sacked the federal integrity commissioner for, um, a lack of integrity. Checks and balances work.

  4. I really should have included a certain party leader from Queensland who served actual jail time for breaches of the Electoral Act before the High Court found her conviction absolutely null and void.

  5. Without doubt, a report by an agency like FWA is serious, but it is by no means conclusive and even if his response is less-than-convincing the appropriate venue for that decision is a court… if one is ever asked, which like others I am unconvinced of.

    Also without doubt, this misses the point for mine.

    I expect MPs to act with at least the probity of Public Company CEOs and there is no way that he should be in the House under that (or, indeed, the Public Service’s) standard. This whole thing is portrayed as an attempt to find Thomson guilty of something, but surely all that anyone is attempting is to do is the equivalent of asking the CEO to step down when it’s revealed he carted about a bag of dope some years ago?

    Our institutions actually run on the underlying ethical standard that if you are accused of something which is hurting the company (or the “brand”) you will do the right thing and resign. If you are subsequently cleared then, well, we try to make good.

    It is not always very edifying, nor is it always just, but it is how things tend to work. Trying to ignore this is swimming against a tide as old as the printing press.

    • In my mind, the fact that Thomson did knowingly use union funds at a brothel has been established beyond reasonable doubt. Thomson first tried to claim some mysterious other person used his card, and three independent investigations (NSW Police, Vic Police and FWA) all concluded that the person with card in hand was none other than Thomson himself. The other matters such as the election funds might be more difficult to fully piece together, but even after a speech in Parliament, we still don’t know the name, nor anything about this mysterious other person who used his card. It would require that the brothel was in on it (because a driver’s license is a photo ID) or a complete fake license constructed, and this mysterious person had the ability to steal Thomson’s mobile phone, make multiple calls and sneak it back, and further presume that neither Thomson, nor anyone else ever made the slightest effort to reconcile receipts (not even a quick glance). If he was set up, why would the people who set him up sit quiet for so long? If Thomson knew he had been set up, why not say this when the FWA first started investigating?

      All of this is possible but none of it is plausible. Sure he is innocent until proven guilty, the law may be that there is no crime they can find that has actually been committed here, but we have given the due process an awfully long time to grind through. As a voter and as a citizen, I’m held responsible for the behaviour of my government, I think Thomson has been offered quite a big benefit of the doubt already. I he was just a regular Joe, it wouldn’t matter if it took decades to come to trial, but this is a case of national importance.

      Also, if you can’t trust police to investigate something like this, then why even have police? Every crook should just claim they were set up. Craig Thomson has been cut a lot more slack than a typical 20 year old found with some tiny particles of drug residue in his clothes pulled up by a sniffer dog. I would expect an MP to be held to a much higher standard than some kid on the street, rather than being offered additional leniency. I’m not claiming police are perfect by any means, but then who should we believe?

      It does point to a much bigger issue which is the complete lack of oversight that large unions manage to get away with. A public company CEO is under vastly more scrutiny than any union official. I see no reason why large unions should not be held to the same accounting standards as their corporate equivalents.

  6. I expect MPs to act with considerably better ethics than corporate CEOs. One aspect of the standard I expect is upholding the presumption of innocence. Both elegant arguments for disregarding the presumption of innocence and intemperate arguments for it are still arguments for disregarding the presumption of innocence.

    If a proper investigaton by the privileges committee finds the Fair Work report accurate then that’s fine and parliament can throw the book at him. But let’s not shortcut natural justice because we are bored and let’s not listen to a claque of MPs who have forgotten what they are there for.

    I see a far greater threat to the integrity of the parliament from kangaroo courts than from misconduct by a former union official.

  7. If Thompson is ever charged with a criminal offence, and if it ever gets to court, could his lawyer argue that it should not proceed on the basis that there is no reasonable prospect of him receiving a fair trial because he has been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. What do the lawyers think about that?

    If so it could be regarded as an own goal for the Libs for going so hard at his stage. Of course it probably won’t matter to them if the matter is resolved after the election.

  8. Sick & sad! That union leaders abuse the trust of union members with all kinds of financial and political misdeeds do not surprise me one bit. Union leadership (with the exception of a very few idealists) are famous for declaring pious platitudes re member welfare but covertly (and sometimes overtly) abuse their position for their own personal gains. Even as a uni student I was painfully conscious of this sort of rorting by student union leadership. To top it all, nepotism is rampant in most union hierarchy (sisters, half-brothers, nieces, lovers, husbands, ex-husbands, cousins and in one case father and son) and perhaps this is why heaps of misdeeds do not see the light of day. Cover-ups appear to be the norm in unions. Thomson (and other unionists like him) is enough reason why working people should quit unions. That the current Labor party is controlled by union strong-men (unelected by the general public) is enough to make one puke. Nothing can save Gillard’s Labor!!

    Thomson needs to walk away from politics and focus on his family. This public whipping of Thomson may be doing more harm to his family than to Thomson. Forget politics, Thomson, forget Gillard’s support (she has never been known to be trustworthy anyway). You made mistakes (big ones) but there always is redemption. That redemption and comfort will be the love of your family. Just get out of politics like yesterday

  9. I expect MPs to act with considerably better ethics than corporate CEOs. One aspect of the standard I expect is upholding the presumption of innocence.

    Which is it?

    • I am not aware of a parliamentary tradition of resignation for damaging the brand. I also think MPs owe their electors a higher standard o conduct than CEOs owe their investors. And a part of that higher standard is upholding the presumption of innocence. I do not see the conflict you refer to.

      For the record I don’t think Fair Work Australia, the government, the opposition or Thomson have covered themselves in glory in this matter.

  10. Pingback: Recall elections? at Catallaxy Files

  11. It is completely pointless for Parliament to expel Craig Thomson. Presuming that the power was available, it would still require a vote, and if Tony Abbott had the numbers for that, might as well go straight to a no-confidence and bring down the house of cards. Also, my understanding is that Craig Thomson can in principle be temporarily suspended (preventing him from voting) and if that happens you can bet it would also go very quickly to no-confidence.

    I note that Wilkie looks kind of unhappy with the proceedings. Possibly he just picked an uncomfortable spot to sit in.

    • Procedural fairness is not leniency. The main cause of delay is the unconscionable time that FWA took to make their report, followed by additional delays when they were not game to publish it except under privilege. Thomson cannot be held responsible for that. The police investigations are under way. Really saying you have to trust the police is another way of arguing for the abandonment of the presumption of innocence. The police, like public servants, do get things wrong. That si why we have courts that observe procedural fairness.

      Holding MPs to a higher standard does not mean driving a truck through our judicial traditions.

      • Having years and years of accounting records just up and vanish with no explanation didn’t help either, but I’m just talking about the specific issue of whether Thomson was the one who paid the brothel. I’m basing my viewpoint on [1] the police, [2] the FWA, [3] Thomson’s own explanations which make no sense at all, and [4] my own common sense. If it was the average employee, caught spending thousands in corporate money on personal entertainment, and someone who was expected to pay their own legal fees, then they would have seen about 1/10th of the amount of procedural fairness that Thomson has seen, and the case would have been closed a lot quicker.

        So if you all up in arms over the lack of procedural fairness in this country, there’s a lot of useful advocacy you could be working on; but on an equity basis you probably should be considering defendants much less privileged than Craig Thomson.

      • The time FWA took to write its report was not under Thomson’s control. The premise that others do not get good advocacy is both true and outrageous. It does not support abandoning procedural fairness as a general principle or the claim that procedural fairness is leniency.

        MPs are elected by the people. If they can be removed on an unreviewed report by a single public servant then you are going to see a whole lot of MPs under allegation. Parliamentary immunities are part of what maintains democracy, Before parliament abolished the right to expel MPs that power had been used only once, in 1920, in a blatantly political exercise by Billie Hughes.

        The next house of representatives is likely to have a large majority for an Abbot government. Do you really want to give them the ability to expel or suspend MPs on an allegation?

      • I think you are missing the point a bit. Members get suspended on a regular basis, usually for one hour, usually for speaking out of turn in question time… no big deal really, and pretty much under control of the Speaker, who in turn is selected by government anyhow (although the quiet presumption is that the Speaker will be even handed, but presumably you don’t trust Tony Abbott, so I see no reason why you should place any special trust in a Speaker that he selects).

        Once a government has a comfortable majority vote, there’s no particular reason to go suspending opposition members for the fun of it. It doesn’t change the outcome. The only time it would make a big deal is if you had a government hanging in there by only one vote, and if the suspension was for a long time, enough to put together a no-confidence (I don’t know the technicalities, but I’m sure that can’t be done in an hour).

      • Sorry, Tel. I could not disagree more.

        Suspension was regularly misused for political advantage in Queensland before 1988. Even the famous Mahon expulsion in 1920 was not about numbers, it was about Billie Hughes trying to paint the ALP as a gang of dangerous Fenians disloyal to the British empire.

        Open this door and I assure you that an Abbot majority will leap through it as fast as they can. They are already all but accusing the AEC of bias even though keeping the commission outside politics has been common ground for all parties since it was established as an independent body.

  12. If a parliamentarian is alleged to have breached the conditions of membership as enumerated by s.44 of the Constitution, in the light of the Parliamentary Privileges Act, who has the right to, deem that parliamentarian’s tenure null?

    I note parenthetically that under s. 44 a parliamentarian needs only to be attainted with treason but needs to be convicted of other serious crimes.

    It appears that the law governing this case appears to be a dog’s breakfast. Indeed, the Parliamentary Privileges Act may be unconstitutional.

  13. Well we do know now that there is at least one member of the Federal ALP that can organise a root in a brothel.

  14. Alan on May 23, 2012 at 9:13 pm said:

    Do you really want to give them the ability to expel or suspend MPs on an allegation?

    I most certainly don’t… and that goes to the nub of my point. It is encumbent on the MP in this situation to do the “right thing”, not to wait on some (possible) legal process. There appears to be no process by which Thomson can be booted, and I am happy that is the case. If there were it would be used and abused by all and sundry.

    This is not about some supposed guilt or innocence, no matter how some may say it is. It is about ethics.

    • Asking MPs to all ont heir swords as a matter of ethics, and without going through a legal process, is just another way of advocating an end to procedural fairness, natural justice, the presumption of innocence etc etc.

      I am reasonably confident Thomson is not hanging on for grim death in defence of the highest principle, but his motives really do not matter. There are uncompleted police inquiries. There is a report from a public servant that cites not one witness statement and not one expert statement. For example the validity or otherwise of various signatures is determined by the public servant speculating about whether the signatures is authentic or not although he does not appear to have any quals as a handwriting analyst. The delegate in facts says nothing except that the signature is Thomson’s. A whole lot of the report is explicitly based on radio and TV interviews. The report would be thrown out by a court of petty sessions if it was tendered as evidence of shoplifting.

      You cannot make up for the deficiencies of the process by asking the guy to take a walk outside the tent. That is just an invitation for deficient process in the future to be replaced by overheated parliamentary and media speculation.

      • Asking MPs to fall on their swords as a matter of ethics, and without going through a legal process, is just another way of advocating an end to procedural fairness, natural justice, the presumption of innocence etc etc.

        Sorry, but I don’t see it that way. I am entirely happy that matters should take their natural course through the courts, and further I am entirely against any expulsion / suspension.

        But there is no way that any run-of-the-mill employee would still have their job after what the FWA have said, nor can I conceive of any public company CEO who would. They would either be “asked” to resign or sent on indefinite unpaid leave.

        We ought not, as a principle, expect less from our MPs than we do from the average Jill or Joe in the street. Procedural fairness is fair enough… to a point. Long passed in this case.

        If Thomson had the slightest shred of decency he would resign. If the government had, they would force his resignation.

  15. Nabs, according to press reports, Fair Work Australia has not proffered any evidence of any actual penetration, no matter how slight.

    • The Electoral Commission has also contradicted a number of the conclusions (I struggle not to talk about penetrating insights) by the delegate of the General Manager of Fair Work Australia. The Coalition is in the process of trying to shoot the commission.

  16. I thought Thomson showed tenacity and ingenuity in rejecting an overwhelming case against him. But like almost everyone I didn’t believe his story and was not impressed by his cry baby antics.

    The ‘be in it mate’ syndrome is a part of the ALP’s central ethos. Thomson is one of many – most in the NSW Branch executive are worse. A bunch of self-serving deadheads who make a nominal commitment to Labor ideology to cloak their selfishness. Very limited people in an overall sense whose only feasible path to self-aggrandisement rests in crooked deals and hypocrisy.

  17. I will await any charges. There are what 9 inquiries at present into his conduct.

    He is not a convincing person. I did find it interesting the charges he made against Jackson were not denied by her. They were deliberately ignored in Sinclair Davidson fashion by her. No-one has picked this up at all.

    It also appears the person who wrote the FWA report had no idea of what the DPP would want.

    • I agree with hc’s comment. The affiliated unions have largely turned into either antechambers for the factions. I also agree with KB Cairns.

      It’s just extraordinary that the FWA report, which is designed under FWA’s own legislation to be referred to the DPP for prosecution, was not usable. Ditto the sections of the FWA report referred to the AEC. And all this after 3 years of effort.

      I have not seen a lot of media comment that the delegate of the General Manager of Fair Work Australia. who some would make the final authority on Thomson’s case, seems not to understand the requirements for a criminal prosecution or the Electoral Act.

      We will see what the nine inquiries produce.

  18. Wasn’t an MP expelled from parliament by Billy Hughes’s government for daring to support the Irish against the British Empire?

  19. It is true that sometimes people turn out to have been innocent, but that is not a good reason to pretend that Thomson should be afforded some ongoing regard and support unless and until he is convicted. The ALP has been busily trying to protect him to protect the govt. In the long run that will be a proved a mistake. Is an extra year or so for the govt really worth buying with the price they are now paying. The honourable thing would have been to have investigated internally and ditched Thomson when the depth of the problems became apparent some time ago. If he had then resigned from parliament or voted against the govt then so be it. It’s usually the case that the honourable thing is also the sensible thing.

    The pox on both sides line now being run in the media is ridiculous. If I was sitting in a room with a reeking turd I’d want it out too. Does anyone really think the Libs would be ignoring the Thomson scandal if the majority was bigger? Can anyone remember a previous case of serious and well-evidenced allegations that had so many people running around trying to pretend some legal or constitutional rule meant it had to be ignored?

    The real counterfactual is that with a bigger buffer Gillard would have sent him to the Xbenches in 2010 when the Herald’s reporting made it obvious just how slimy the shit is. By supporting him the silly woman has been loading abbott’s gun for him. I predict the Thomson story will just get worse because of the ALP’s efforts to protect him.

    • Someone in the hang em high crowd really has to have a better argument than procedural guarantees are important except when the culprit is repugnant, or the outrage is great, or the process takes a long time. Everything said here about Thomson was equally said about any other number of people eventually found innocent from Chamberlain to Fingleton.

      I am seriously surprised that no-one is concerned in the slightest about the ethical conduct of MPs who are trying, for political advantage, to drive a truck over the presumption of innocence.

      • The presumption of innocence is a rule of criminal court procedure and is a completely different thing from saying every rogue and spiv ought to be treated as honest and upright unless and until convicted. But anyway, I only said that the ALP should have ditched him when the defamation case withdrawal was reported in the Silly as the jig was then up.

        As for your comparisons to some wrongful convictions, the evidence was a bit different in those cases. Fingleton as convicted and then quashed on different interpretations of the law and not the facts. Chamberlain was a combination of circumstantial evidence and wrong interpretation of forensic evidence.

  20. When you begin a comment with ‘It is true that sometimes people turn out to have been innocent…’ quite a lot of people would assume you are talking about questions of criminal responsibility. Apart from various qualification issues like nationality and bankruptcy, the constitution does not envisage removing people form parliament except for criminal convictions. Section 44 could be widened but that’s a matter for the future not for now. In the same way a code of conduct and an integrity commissioner could have avoided a lot of this mess.

    I do have a problem with ‘short-circuiting’ proposals that demand Thomson act as if he were already convicted. One commenter wrote In this thread ‘Also, if you can’t trust police to investigate something like this, then why even have police?’. This despite the facts no police have laid charges, the AEC has rejected quite a lot of the claims in the FWA report, and the DPP has said the FWA report is inadequate grounds to prosecute. Another advocated resignation as a matter of ‘ethics’ that overrides any little incidental questions like whether Thomson has been proved to have done anything that actually disqualifies him from parliament in legal terms.

    Gillard has acted foolishly and should have referred this matter to the privileges committee a long time ago. Continuing to oppose referral after the FWA report and the Thomson statement just compounded her folly.

    • ” the AEC has rejected quite a lot of the claims in the FWA report”
      Really, you should tell the AEC who seem to think they’ve nothing to say about the miss use of union funds for election spending other than that it most of it did not breach the Electoral Act for various reasons totally unrelated to the findings in the FWA report.

      “and the DPP has said the FWA report is inadequate grounds to prosecute”
      I’m sorry, but you must be a dill. That’s the second misreport of the facts. The DPP said that the report was not presented as a brief of evidence, they did not say it had inadequate grounds to prosecute and suggested that the police do a proper job of reviewing it so they could get a brief of evidence.

      I don’t know why this is so hard. A sleazy guy does a very bad thing with lots of other peoples money and you think we have to wait for a conviction before deciding how the people around him should act.

      • I may well be a dill, but unlike you I do not need to pull purely definitional arguments to try and win a point. It really is the oldest trick in the book to take a broad claim, give it a narrow meaning, and then disprove the narrow meaning without saying anything about the broad claim.

        Greiner was found guilty of corrupt conduct by the ICAC in 1991. He resigned the premiership under large public and media pressure. The NSW Court of Appeal later reversed the finding.

        I am not asking you to gloss the Court of Appeal finding so that not guilty becomes not guilty by reason of whatever springs to mind for you as you claimed with Chamberlain and Fingleton. In our law you are guilty or you are not.

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