Oct 24, 2012

Craig Thomson’s home raid and what it means for Labor

The link between this morning's raid on Craig Thomson's family's house and the fall of the Gillard government remains a tenuous one. There are plenty of hoops first.

Andrew Crook — Former <em>Crikey</em> Senior Journalist

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

This morning's dawn raid on Craig Thomson's home while his young family slept -- pre-leaked by police to the media who wet themselves over pictures beamed to breakfast television -- is highly unlikely to have any implications for the longevity of the Gillard government. They are essentially the same credit card claims, stemming from Thomson's five-year term as Health Services Union national secretary from 2002-2007, first raised by Mark Davis on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald way back in April 2009. Outside his house, Thomson told journos he had "done nothing wrong", was "fully co-operating with the police" and that he was very much looking forward to concluding the matter "before the end of the year". His lawyer then took to Sky News to issue grave warnings about defamation. Despite this morning's action being executed by NSW Police on behalf of their Victorian fraud squad counterparts, Thomson was repeatedly badgered by the Bateau Bay press pack over why he had refused to sit down with the NSW Force as part of their investigation. NSW's Strike Force Carnarvon is actually focused predominantly on the NSW branch and the merged HSUEast branch when it was under the control of Michael Williamson. It is also investigating, at a lower level, allegations of malfeasance in the NSW branch of the HSU when Thomson was assistant secretary from 1999 until 2002. Victoria Police are trained on Thomson's period as National Secretary, as well as other claims around the Victorian No 1 and No 3 branches controlled at the time by Kathy and Jeff Jackson. There were suggestions today they were keen to get hold of Thomson's signature to compare with old-style credit card receipts used in various brothels. Thomson has maintained in federal Parliament he was set up by union rivals. The road from the raid to a premature Tony Abbott government is a long and torturous one, and almost certainly won't be resolved before the next federal election. It requires the opposition to jump through at least five flaming hoops. The constitution mandates that an MP is banned if they are convicted of a crime that carries a penalty of over a year, regardless of how much time they are actually sentenced to. So, for example, if Thomson was ever convicted of fraud or theft under the Victorian Crimes Act he would be banned from federal Parliament because that crime is "punishable" by up to 10 years in prison. But an early exit from parliament would mean a subsequent trial and all appeals would have to be exhausted before mid-July at the latest. The other option is bankruptcy stemming from Fair Work Australia's civil claims lodged last week that could potentially (although probably won't) attract penalties of up to $450,000. But as Thomson lawyer Chris McArdle and Industrial Relations academic Andrew Stewart explained last week, those could well fail on a two-year statute of limitations provision, pending the outcome of an appeal in the Toyota Materials Case currently before the Federal Court. Assuming one or both of those bans eventuated, a byelection in Dobell would then need to be won by the Liberals' preselected candidate Karen McNamara (held by Thomson by 5.1%). Then, assuming Peter Slipper continues to vote with the government, Julia Gillard would still hold a 76-74 advantage in the House before the exclusion of the speaker, or 75-74 with Anna Burke in the chair. If Slipper votes with the Coalition in a motion of no-confidence we're getting closer to a new poll, although all indications are he won't act to bring down the government. Andrew Wilkie has already said he probably won't back any no-confidence motion unless it relates to a proven instance of sleaze. Amusingly, Liberal MPs Ross Vasta, Andrew Laming and Gary Hardgrave all had their offices raided by police before the 2007 poll but none ended up facing charges. There may well be a lot of damage to HSU finances, but it seems the worst of it occurred during post-Thomson era. Twelve days ago, Crikey revealed a $7 million hole in HSUEast's finances -- a legacy of the disastrous 2010 merger between the NSW/ACT branch and the Victorian No. 1 and No. 3 branches. The No 3 branch controlled by forces loyal to Kathy Jackson was "apparently insolvent". In an interview with the local Central Coast Express Advocate last week, Thomson claimed he wanted to be judged on his record with constituents and not on the media storm. Despite his suspension from Labor, he is still close to local party figures and appeared not to rule out another run next year as an endorsed candidate. While he doesn't sit in the federal Labor caucus, Thomson is believed to have recently been invited by the Dobell Federal Electorate Council to address them. However, NSW general secretary Sam Dastyari is unlikely to countenance that possibility and has instead called for a preselection ballot to be held early next year. The heat has also gone out of the allegations from other angles. The HSU has disaffiliated with Labor in Victoria, a move that sapped the vigor out of the feverish battle for control of the union to gain delegates at ALP state conference and in turn influence state and federal preselections. Meanwhile, also in Victoria, the lower-level saga of the de-merged Victorian No. 1 branch elections will kick off in the Federal Court tomorrow before Justice Treacy. As first revealed by Crikey last week, secretary hopeful Diana Asmar is fighting to get her name on the ballot paper and has accused her rivals of repeatedly ignoring her membership payments in order to deny her the ability to run under internal union rules.

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121 thoughts on “Craig Thomson’s home raid and what it means for Labor

  1. Jimmy

    This won’t impact the govt’s tenure or it’s prospects for re-eletion any more than it already has – people have made up their mind on the issue and now don’t particularly care and I doubt that anyfindings will be handed down beofre next years election (or at the very least early enough for a by elecion to be held).

  2. Ruprecht

    I’m not comfortable with cops tipping off the press before a raid in this type of investigation — Thomson is hardly Al Capone.

  3. Jimmy

    Ruprecht – I find that bit more than a little disturbing as well – questions really should be asked who tipped them off, why & what did they get in return.

  4. Cyndi

    By ‘Bateau Bay press pack’ I assume you mean Ray Hadley?

  5. GeeWizz

    And we had Craig Thomson with his usual weak excuse “It twasn’t me, honest mister!”

    If FWA had done it’s job properly this guy would be out of parliament by now.

    As to tipping off the media, seems to be standard practice in a lot of these high profile cases. It’s amazing that the Labor hacks are more worried about that then they are of someone ripping off low paid union members of 1/2 Million dollars to live the high life… ahhh.. Labor values

  6. Filth Dimension

    @Geewizzbangguffaw!!!. You really should spend less time thinking about Labor values and more time on the value of your posts.

  7. Jimmy

    Well said Filth – when Geewizz get’s some credibility by making just one factual statement regarding policy, economics or even predicting political implications of any given situation then maybe his posts may be given some weight, but I won’t be holding my breath for that to happen.

  8. drmick

    Murdoch press tipped off by cops….now where has that happened before? Melbourne?………..Terrorist raid?…….Britain?……..ongoing investigations…….? Nah. It could never happen here? Could it?
    And I see the special bus has pulled into the handicap parking space early today. Wonder where Aunty Sophie & Great Great Great granny Bron took the wizzer and her speial friends today. No where near reality it seems.

  9. Scott

    “Despite his suspension from Labor, he is still close to local party figures and appeared not to rule out another run next year as an endorsed candidate. ”

    Maybe a new definition of behaviour is required…Armstronging : To honestly believe you are innocent of an allegation, regardless of the merit or wealth of evidence that is put up against you.

    Is Craig Thomson armstronging? I’ll let others be the judge.

  10. The Pav


    If Geewhizz and the odious Suzanne Blake were genuine in their concerns about standards they would:-
    Express their concern about Mirabella’s conduct which certainly has a long way to go. Elder financial abise is rife and needs to be stamped out

    I mean they’re rabitting on about a cross bencher who hasn;t been convicted yet were happy for their party to contain a convicted shop lifeter who only left after further convictions.

    Liberal Party drones that they are so they lack etics to go along with their lack of policies

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