The Craig Thomson saga will drag on for many more months, with Fair Work Australia handing its investigation yesterday over to public prosecutors to decide if criminal charges will be laid.
The investigation examines whether Labor MP Thomson (and other union officials) misused Health Services Union funds, including $100,000 worth of cash withdrawals from a union credit card when Thomson was head of the HSU. That cash was been linked to Sydney hotel rooms and escort agencies.
In its report, Fair Work Australia found 181 contraventions of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 and the HSU rules. Of those 181, 105 relate to civil penalty provisions within the act.
Fair Work Australia did not recommend whether those involved should be charged and has left that up for the Department of Public Prosecutions to decide. “In so doing, I have not sought to satisfy myself that the material considered by the Delegate in his report establishes any particular likelihood of criminal conduct, as that is a matter for the DPP,” said Fair Work Australia general manager Bernardette O’Neill in a press release. “I am satisfied that the report raises many significant matters which may be appropriate for the DPP’s consideration.”
The report goes for over 1100 pages, and names three former union officials and one other person. While it’s assumed that Thomson is named in the document, this has not been verified.
“I maintain my innocence and will continue to do so,” said Thomson in a statement.
Thomson himself yesterday noted his frustration at the lengthy investigation process. “It is incredibly frustrating that after four years it appears [the report] has been sent to someone else to do exactly what Fair Work was meant to do for the last four years,” he told reporters. “We have no notice, no knowledge, no details. There’s four people, we don’t even know who the four people even are at this stage.”
Now that the report is in the hands of the Department of Public Prosecution, Fair Work Australia’s report should be made available to the public, declared Opposition leader Tony Abbott.
“The public deserve to know whether a member of the Gillard government has been referred to the DPP for possible criminal charges.
“This report was prepared at vast taxpayer expense, and the public deserves to have this report,” he told AM.
If charged for a criminal incident which could potentially carry a jail term of one year or more, Thomson may be forced to resign as a member of parliament.