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Craig Thomson

Craig Thomson MP

The Craig Thomson affair is an Australian political scandal concerning allegations by Fair Work Australia that Craig Thomson used funds of the Health Services Union to pay for personal expenses.[1][2]

Craig Thomson

Thomson was elected as the National Secretary of the Health Services Union (HSU) in 2002.[3] In 2007 Thomson was elected as the Australian Labor Party (ALP) candidate for the seat of Dobell on the New South Wales central coast.[4] He was re-elected in 2010. This election resulted in a hung parliament, with the Labor government of Julia Gillard and the Liberal/National opposition led by Tony Abbott each winning 72 seats in the 150 member parliament. Gillard retained power with the support of four of the six cross-bench MPs.[5]

Fair Work Australia inquiry

Fair Work Australia (FWA)—Australia's industrial relations regulator—investigated allegations of financial impropriety involving the Health Services Union and Craig Thomson. Terry Nassios, a senior Commonwealth public servant, was delegated by the General Manager of FWA to provide an investigation into the National Office of the HSU, under section 331 of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009.[6]

In 2012 Nassios produced a report consisting of 183 findings. 153 findings pertain to Thomson's alleged breaches of union rules and sections 237(1), 285(1), 286(1), and 287(1) of Schedule 1 of the Workplace Relations Amendment (Registration and Accountability of Organisations) Act 2002.[7][6]

The FWA investigation has been criticised for failing to investigate the finances of the HSU No.4 Branch following a petition by HSU members in July 2009.[8]

Counter allegations made by Craig Thomson

Craig Thomson questioned the impartiality of the investigation. Michael Lawler the Vice President of FWA was involved in internal HSU politics at the request of his partner Kathy Jackson. Jackson allegedly supplied most of the documents used by the FWA in the Craig Thomson investigation.[9]

In his speech to the House of Representatives on 21 May 2012 Thomson said that Jeff Jackson—a former HSU executive member and the former husband of HSU National Secretary Kathy Jackson—was responsible for the spending on prostitutes.[10] This claim was made by HSU branch president Pauline Fegan.[11] The FWA report stated that Jackson had "settled and repaid the HSU in 2009 an undisclosed amount in a confidential settlement following allegations of using a union credit card at the named escort agencies in Sydney;" (page 466).[12] FWA's Terry Nassios, citing a newspaper report, stated the $15,000 had been repaid by Jeff Jackson in settlement of three payments of $5,000 identified as "back pay" dishonestly claimed.[13] When asked by Fair Work Australia to clarify if this claim pertained to Jackson, Thomson declined to provide any details, citing legal advice. [11]

2007 election campaign

The Fair Work Australia report concluded that Thomson had spent almost $270,000 of HSU funds on his 2007 election campaign to win the seat of Dobell on the NSW Central Coast. This included $200,000 for two staffers who worked on the campaign, and another $71,000 directly expended on the campaign. Other money, including from Thomson's union credit card, was used to pay for office supplies including furniture and utility connections.[14]

Possible expenditure after leaving HSU

Following his successful election campaign to the the federal House of Representatives as member for the Division of Dobell, New South Wales for the Australian Labor Party at the 2007 federal election[15] Thomson resigned from the HSU on 14 December 2007. On 18 May 2012 it was reported that Terry Nassios, the Fair Work Australia investigator said he was unsure if some payments had been made on the card after that date and that he was recommending the payments after the resignation date be reported to the public prosecutor for investigation.[16]

Role of external bodies

Australian Council of Trade Unions

On 15 May 2012, ACTU president Ged Kearney addressed the ACTU congress on the HSU scandal. "I know I speak for everyone in this room when I say that misuse of member's money and contempt for the accountability to members are unacceptable", she said. Union figure Paul Howes stressed the positive, saying, "I'm actually pleased that we know that this happened because it's the lesson for us is making sure it never happens again and never allowing a couple of disgusting individuals get away with stealing money out of the pockets of hard-working, low-paid health workers or any other union members in this country."[17]

Prime Minister

During Question Time on 16 August 2011, Prime Minister Julia Gillard was asked if her confidence in Craig Thomson was based on a thorough investigation of his credibility. She replied, "I have complete confidence in the member for Dobell. I look forward to him continuing to do that job for a very long, long, long time to come."[18]

Addressing an ACTU congress on 15 May 2012, Gillard said of the HSU's impact on the Australian union movement's reputation, "...the very poor conduct of one union risks tarnishing that reputation."[19]

Plans for reform

Paul Howes, addressing the ACTU congress on 16 May 2012, said, after defending union skills in hunting down unscrupulous employers, "If we have a dodgy trade union official who rips off those workers, we need to hunt them down too, hunt them down too to make sure they pay back what they took from the hardworking men and women of the Health Services Union."[20]

Julia Gillard spoke in support of a parliamentary code of conduct, saying, "I do want to see members of Parliament always doing the right thing. There are various rules now for members of Parliament but I'm obviously open to suggestions that we have a code of conduct." Independent MP Tony Windsor flagged action along with Rob Oakeshott to increase Parliament's powers to deal with cases such as Thomson's. "I think that there is a need for, if people are proven to be guilty in some of these circumstances, that Parliament may need some greater power or have a process where they actually leave the building", he said.[21]

References

  1. Grattan, Michelle. Threat to PM's numbers. The Age. Retrieved on 10 May 2012.
  2. "Craig Thomson union credit card rort paid for brothels". Smh.com.au. 8 April 2009. http://www.smh.com.au/national/labor-mp-accused-of-credit-card-rort-20090407-9zl7.html. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  3. Mr Craig Thomson MP Dobell. ABC News. Retrieved on 24 January 2010.
  4. Labor wins marginal Dobell. ABC News (24 November 2007). Retrieved on 24 January 2010.
  5. Rodgers, Emma (7 September 2010). "Labor clings to power". ABC News Online (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/09/07/3005028.htm. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Higgins, Ean (8 May 2012). "Escorts and campaign funds 'put on Craig Thomson's card'". The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/industrial-relations/escorts-and-campaign-funds-put-on-craig-thomsons-card/story-fn59noo3-1226349339192. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  7. Nassios, Terry. Investigation into the National Office of the Health Services Union. Report of the Delegate to the General Manager of Fair Work Australia. Fair Work Australia. Retrieved on 10 May 2012.
  8. Millar, Royce (13 September 2011). "Fair Work refused to investigate HSU books". The Age. http://www.theage.com.au/national/fair-work-refused-to-investigate-hsu-books-20110912-1k63i.html. Retrieved 07 June 2012. 
  9. Uhlmann, Chris (29 May 2012). "Senior Fair Work official embroiled in HSU fighting". ABC News. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-05-28/fair-work-australia-vice-president-deeply-involved-in-hsu-fight/4038274. Retrieved 07 June 2012. 
  10. Parliamentary Debates, {{{house}}}, 21 May 2012. Retrieved 08 June 2012.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Wallace, Rick (09 April 2009). "Second Labor figure Jeff Jackson embroiled in union brothel scandal". The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/second-labor-figure-in-brothel-scandal/story-e6frg6n6-1225696993824. Retrieved 08 June 2009. 
  12. McClymont, Kate (22 May 2012). "Any questions? Member for Dobell raises a few during his 'answers'". The Brisbane Times. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/political-news/any-questions-member-for-dobell-raises-a-few-during-his-answers-20120521-1z1ec.html. Retrieved 14 June 2009. 
  13. Schneiders, Ben (4 July 2009). "Chief of strife-torn union promises to pay back $15,000". The Age. http://www.theage.com.au/national/chief-of-strifetorn-union-promises-to-pay-back-15000-20090703-d7v1.html. Retrieved 17 May 2009. 
  14. Jones, Gemma (8 May 2012). "HSU cash spent on election campaign". Daily Telegraph. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/hsu-cash-spent-on-election-campaign/story-e6freuy9-1226349270733. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  15. Commonwealth of Australia Legislative Election 24 November 2007. Retrieved on 24 January 2010.
  16. Nicholson, Brendan (8 May 2012). "Craig Thomson still spending long after departure from HSU". The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/industrial-relations/thomson-still-spending-long-after-departure-from-hsu/story-fn59noo3-1226349331251. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  17. Cullen, Simon (16 May 2012). "Gillard pledges allegiance amid HSU scandal". ABC News. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-05-15/gillard-disgusted-by-hsu-scandal/4012312. Retrieved 16 May 2012. 
  18. Sheehan, Paul (22 August 2011). "Thomson saga sinks Labor into the abyss". Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/thomson-saga-sinks-labor-into-the-abyss-20110821-1j4im.html. Retrieved 16 May 2012. 
  19. Lucas, Clay (15 May 2012). "Gillard hits out at Abbott, HSU". Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/gillard-hits-out-at-abbott-hsu-20120515-1yod6.html. Retrieved 16 May 2012. 
  20. Iggulden, Tom (17 May 2012). "Kelty points finger at Labor amid union woes". ABC News. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-05-17/kelty-points-finger-at-labour-amid-union-woes/4015988. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  21. "Gillard flags code of conduct amid Thomson affair". ABC News. 14 May 2012. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-05-13/gillard-flags-mps-code-in-wake-of-thomson-affair/4008356. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 

External links

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