In his long-awaited statement to federal parliament, Craig Thomson has attacked Fair Work Australia’s findings against him as grossly incomplete and influenced by a vendetta against him by his enemies within the union.
In particular, he singled out Health Services Union national secretary Kathy Jackson and its national president Michael Williamson for leading a campaign against him and providing the basis for the allegations contained in the FWA report, and named union deputy general secretary Marco Bolano as having threatened to link him to escorts several years ago.
Thomson opened by declaring that he had wanted to make a statement for some time, but had held off thinking FWA’s process would be faster. He then spent some time covering his personal history at the union and his claimed achievements as an MP, before devoting himself to addressing the findings made by FWA.
According to Thomson, he became the subject of a vendetta within the union after imposing accountability on the union and insisting on more stringent control of expenditure. He accused FWA of being biased by the relationship between Jackson and her partner, FWA vice-president Michael Lawler, and of only speaking to Jackson and Williamson to investigate the findings and not investigating exculpatory matters raised by Thomson himself.
Thomson argued that the union had no policies in relation to his expenditure and that FWA had erred in its assessment of his accommodation and travel costs. He also claimed, under parliamentary privilege, that HSU deputy general secretary Marco Bolano had once threatened to “set him up with escorts”.
He also spoke of the materials required to do so, including a copy of his driver’s licence — which Thomson says was easily available — and cloned phones.
Thomson rejected claims he had used union funds for his campaign for the seat of Dobell, relying on the Australian Electoral Commission’s own report finding no issues about Thomson’s behaviour.
Thomson concluded first with an attack on the media, crying as he recounted Channel 7 invading his pregnant wife’s privacy and attacking Fairfax’s coverage of the affair, claiming he now regrets settling his defamation lawsuit against the media outlet. He then rounded on the Opposition, accusing it of populism, usurping the rule of law and, ultimately, of “damaging democracy”.
Comment Craig Thomson has raised a series of questions about Fair Work Australia’s conduct of its investigation and provided a little more detail about some allegations about his HSU enemies but ultimately added little to our knowledge of what went on during his time as National Secretary. His basic contention that he has, in effect, been framed by his former union enemies can only be fully tested in court (or via a royal commission or judicial inquiry, which the Opposition will surely at some point call for). In a way, that is Thomson’s point: this sordid matter can only ever be fully resolved through legal processes – if it ever can be.