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DELUSION: Libs kidding themselves about Craig Thomson departure

Liberal-friendly VEXNEWS investigators have been telling us all year that the former HSU national secretary Craig Thomson was about to be charged and would be quickly tried, fried and chewed out of Parliament.

We have expressed our view back to them that this is a complex question and that it may well be that he is not going to be charged for a long time, if at all.

We have studied these matters in some detail and don’t reach this conclusion lightly but when raising this view, there is much incredulity in response.

This is not the best forum to canvas all the issues but his foes in the union, Kathy Jackson, have accused him essentially of expense claims irregularities. Other more recent claims from Jackson relate to the NSW branch, VEXNEWS understands that there are also complaints being investigated by Victoria Police into Jackson’s own branch and the conduct of Victorian officials. Neither of these, we are told, have anything to do with Thomson.

Whether or not Craig Thomson is pursued on expenses claims is not an easy matter to resolve because it will depend on whether the organisation had policies, what authority had been delegated on incurring the expenses, whether they’d actually been approved and so on.

Our own view is that Craig Thomson will never actually be charged with anything. We accept this is a minority view and in Liberal circles is seen as sensible as enthusiasm for Flat Earth theory or even global warming.

The most serious claims of wrongdoing levelled by his foe in the union, Ms Jackson, relate to secret commissions from suppliers to the union. There has been no specific suggestion that Thomson was ever a beneficiary of any such arrangement. Claims against him by Jackson that have had extensive reporting relate to expenses claimed by him in the time he was a national official.

But the point we’ve made recently in relation to the Age hacking scandal is that these investigations always move slowly. The Police can be very swift when it’s necessary to be so, in violent criminal matters, but with white-collar matters, everything moves at a more gentlemanly pace.

It’s not because they’re shirkers, it’s just a very laborious process of paper-trail building that doesn’t greatly benefit from being rushed. The imperative of NSW Police isn’t to get Craig Thomson out of Parliament as quickly as possible, it’s to get to the truth of the complaints made against him.

It has always been Liberal staffer and MP fantasy that somehow this wouldn’t apply in this case, that it would all come together quickly.

Many Liberals have refused to believe it and continue to look for any possible sign that somehow he’d be charged, and quickly.

Laura Tingle of the Financial Review makes it very clear in an interesting summary of yesterday’s dramatic events in Canberra that there was renewed talk that Speaker Jenkins’ retirement to Labor’s backbench had nothing to do with a quick resolution to the multitude of HSU claims and counter-claims. She writes:

Rumours swept federal Parliament yesterday that the reason for the timing of Mr Jenkins’s announcement was related to the fact that the NSW police were close to completing an inquiry into alleged secret commissions involving officials of the Health Services Union, during the tenure of Federal Labor MP Craig Thomson. But a senior NSW police spokeswoman said that the investigation had a long way to run. Strike Force Carnarvon was established in September 2011 to investigate allegations of fraud committed against the HSU.

“The investigation is still on­going,” the police spokeswoman said. “It is a complex investigation and is anticipated to be protracted. No charges have been laid and it is not envisaged charges will be laid against any person in the near future.”

And that makes sense when you think about it. They have to collect records, stored in the archives of the HSU and with banks and so on. And that takes forever. They then need to consider a range of internal documents, rules, policies, minutes and then conduct interviews about expenses. It could take a year or two to be resolved and that would be making good time. Even if there were charges, which we doubt, we think it’s safe to assume they would be vigorously defended and that process obviously also takes a long time. The prospect of it being resolved in time to bring a forward a federal election is close to zero.

Discussion

Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. “The imperative of NSW Police isn’t to get Craig Thomson out of Parliament as quickly as possible”

    Despite the best efforts of George Brandis SC and Mike Gallacher to make it so.

    Posted by The Claw | November 25, 2011, 9:27
  2. I doubt this case will ever obtain sufficient evidence to charge anyone? Why?

    1. The HSU lawyers were not able to determine who actually took the money.

    2.The office manager has admitted that much of the records and files relating to the relevant period were missing making it near impossible to recreate.

    Posted by Space Kidette | November 25, 2011, 9:43
  3. As a Vic member of that union in the old HEF days, I can tell you the whole lot of them at the top were not exactly able to stand up straight and tall. It would be no different in 2011, probably worse.

    Posted by Alison | November 25, 2011, 13:45
  4. Im pretty sure screwing prostitutes or paying for some1 else to …would have been approved what a joke. If all these shinanigans were occurring in a small business we would have been hung drawn and quartered……im extremely disallusioned by our pollies . Bring on an election so i can vent …..merry xmas all

    Posted by kevin | November 25, 2011, 14:09
  5. Even if he were charged today, a trial would be a year away, then even if he is found guilty he would appeal and not until the appeals process is exhausted would he then be booted from Parliament.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 25, 2011, 15:00
  6. I think you are being a bit optomistic Mr Vex. Firstly we know a printing supplier has claimed to have provided an Amex to Thompson, and secondly we know that the NSW Police have got the records from Amex which seem to show Thommo used the card. If Thommo gets charged then he is going to plead guilty. The last thing the ALP want is a corruption trial in the run up to the Fed election. Thommo will also want to plead guilty to show remorse and hope for leniency. I suspect Thommo has warned Julia that the time for a charge is getting close and that he will plead guilty in everyones interest. Thommo is a lawyer after all, as is Julia who has taken out insurance with a dodgy firm. I will be looking for charges and an early guilty plea from Thommo over the Christmas break.

    Posted by John Comnenus | November 25, 2011, 22:00
  7. Mr. Comnenus what exactly do “we know that the NSW Police have got the records from Amex” mean. Who gave you this information? I spoke to Mr. Thomson last night and he is quite confident that he will be exonerated so where does that leave your assertion that he will plead guilty to some mythical charges before Christmas? And a Merry Christmas to you too.

    Posted by asgard | November 26, 2011, 11:41
  8. asgard … I would hardly expect that Thomson would say to anyone “I’m guilty as sin and will go a row”

    As far as investigations go my sources in VicPol tell me their NSW colleagues are proceeding at glacial pace (stopped short of calling them “obstructive”, but …. )
    The VicPol investigating officers, on the other hand, have … shall we say … a certain level of enthusiasm for seeing this concluded quicklyand are pulling out all stops to get a brief together, even if they have to lay charges in series rather than in one go.

    Posted by Toad of Toad Hall | November 26, 2011, 16:20
  9. Allegations were widely reported in the media that secret commissions were paid via an AMEX card from a printing company. A few weeks later a new report said the Police had succeeded in getting all the records form AMEX USA. That would tend to support the claim that he took a secret commission. I said IF Thommo gets charged he will plead guilty. But given that Julia has now got her signature issues through the house, why does she suddenly need the extra numbers? I stand by my assessment, although I accept I could be wrong. Merry Christmas to you too.

    [VEXNEWS: I read those reports too, I am told that they do not relate to the national office of the union but to one of the state branches (and possibly two). Thomson was not a state branch official and I don’t believe is being investigated in relation to taking secret commissions, at all. That’s obviously not come from the Police on letterhead so it’s just gossip from those reasonably close to the events. We’ll soon find out, but I don’t think it changes anything about these matters being resolved prior to late 2013. We accept this is a big call but that’s what we do here. We find out stuff and tell you our considered opinion about it. Predicting events is a crazy thing to do but we’re more often right than wrong and in this case we’ll just have to wait and see.]

    Posted by John Comnenus | November 26, 2011, 23:08
  10. Clarification Mr Vex, Thomson was Asst Sec of HSU NSW prior to 2002. This is when he and Michael Williamson were alleged to have received the AMEXs.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 27, 2011, 18:44
  11. That’s why I enjoy this blog. I still reckon he will plead guilty if charged. Time will tell. Keep up the good work.

    Posted by John Comnenus | November 27, 2011, 23:12
  12. You must be joking, he’ll be in prison by Christmas. Vic. Police are hot on his trail. Why do you think that the PM insisted that HJ resign from the Speaker’s Position, a job that he loved … AND why do you think that the Labor machine paid in excess of $90,000 for his rescue package for his legal fees….

    Posted by Kate | November 29, 2011, 2:52
  13. A picture is worth a thousand words, security camera vision on the other hand……

    Posted by Armed against the Enemy | November 29, 2011, 5:37

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