Troubled MP Craig Thomson took to Parliament yesterday to finally address the slew of allegations that have been made against him. Thomson claimed that the Fair Work Australia investigation into misuse of Health Services Union funds during his time as national secretary was affected by the personal relationship between an FWA chief and his successor as national secretary, Kathy Jackson. He also named others who, says Thomson, swore to damage his career by setting him up with hookers.

The day was a long time coming. Here’s a look at how the commentariat viewed it.

The Australian:

Dennis Shanahan, ‘Damage and distraction will be worse than ever

“Craig Thomson’s statement to parliament has ensured the political distraction and damage for the Gillard government is going to continue — nothing has been resolved and there is no end in sight for Labor.”

Niki Savva, ‘Parliament must judge naked truth

“As painful as it undoubtedly is, as queasy as it might make some members feel, or as reluctant as a few obviously are and for different reasons, parliament has every right, and a responsibility, to adjudicate, and it is not a trashing of democracy to exercise that right as an emotional Thomson tried to claim yesterday.”

Gabrielle Chan, ‘Command performance, but no one’s the wiser

“May 21 was Craig Thomson Day. Nothing else in the parliament mattered.”

Editorial, ‘Mr Thomson’s account is simply not convincing

“In our editorial yesterday, we argued that Mr Thomson needed to give an open and honest explanation for each and every finding in the FWA report. But the allegations have not been adequately dealt with nor will they go away. The stench of scandal will continue to undermine the government’s authority and credibility.”

The Australian Financial Review:

Editorial, ‘Nation needs early election

“If this tawdry episode has a silver lining it is that it could flush out the sleaze in Labor, the unions and possibly the Coalition. But we should not have to wait for an outcome to the Thomson legal process for this to occur. The best outcome would be a speedy election with a decisive result.”

Geoff Kitney, ‘Politics trumps principle

“For all its posturing about the principles of the presumption of innocence and the importance of due process, the truth is that what the government is trying to do is put as much distance as it can between itself and Thomson, without losing his vote in Parliament.”

Jennifer Hewett, ‘The face of Labor’s ills

“Even as an exercise in delusion, Craig Thomson’s hour-long speech was painful to watch. And to the extent he tried to defend himself, it was primarily by accusing his former union colleagues of corruption, and Fair Work Australia of incompetence.

None of this, of course, will help Labor or the broader union movement in the slightest.”

The Sydney Morning Herald:

Phillip Coorey, ‘Thomson gives PM a reprieve

“The chances of the government collapsing over the Craig Thomson affair have lessened after his spirited defence of allegations against him entrenched views among independents that the courts, not the Parliament, should decide the matter.”

Jacqueline Maley, ‘Hardly Atticus Finch, but demanded attention

“Whether or not you believed him, Thomson’s sense of aggrievance was clearly very real. So real that he saw fit to quote, in conclusion, from the definitive text of the wrongfully accused, Harper Lee’s American classic To Kill a Mockingbird.

The book revolves around the trial and ultimate acquittal of a black man accused of rape. It is, of course, fiction.”

Peter Hartcher, ‘MP ticked the right boxes

“It looks like the government has got away with it. That’s what the Craig Thomson excitement was all about yesterday — can the Gillard government, with its wafer-thin advantage, survive his statement to Parliament?”

The Age:

Michelle Grattan, ‘An extraordinary spectacle

“His performance was an extraordinary spectacle. He has been telling Labor people for years that he is innocent, and for a long time they gave him the benefit of the doubt. When he spoke in Parliament, we got a glimpse of why. He either has convinced and deluded himself, or he is able to play the part he has assumed with an amazing degree of brazenness.”

Daniel Flitton, ‘Thomson: A tale full of sound and fury

“Craig Thomson has been wronged. By the opposition, the media, the Labor government and his erstwhile union colleagues – but mostly by timing. He is doubtless a victim of this very weird moment in Australia, a political stalemate, with the community stretched by antagonism and apathy, where personality trumps policy.”

Tony Wright, ‘Craig’s list: the greatest conspiracy of them all

“If you were to believe him, Craig Thomson is the victim of the greatest conspiracy in modern Australian public life.”

The Herald Sun:

David Penberthy, ‘Thomson’s speech was unconvincing

“Speaking of yourself in the third person is usually a sign that you’re suffering from delusions of grandeur, martyrdom or both.

…  If Craig Thomson was meant to give a speech which was a restrained and methodical line-by-line explanation of his actions, he clearly didn’t get the memo.”

The West Australian:

Nick Butterly, ‘Sob story and a blame game

“He ended with a plea to allow the courts to prosecute the matter, quoting lawyer Atticus Finch in the 1960s novel To Kill a Mockingbird: “In our courts all men are created equal.” Only time will tell if Mr Thomson turns out to be as badly misunderstood as Boo Radley.”

The Canberra Times:

Judith Ireland, ‘Man in middle takes centre stage … finally

“Indeed, Thomson has made something of an art at being Australia’s most talked about and least talkative politician. Even as the Coalition used question time after question time to ping Labor on the CTS, Thomson would sit there as if he was a cardboard cut-out of himself, put there to prop up the government.”

Peter Fray

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