Craig Thomson and Altantuya Shaaribu

Craig Thomson is to Julia Gillard what Altantuya Shaaribu is to Najib Razak


Thomson and Friends – More Gillard Woes

Craig Thomson was exonerated by the NSW Police. Or was he? The police investigation simply found that there was no evidence to suggest the credit card in question was used illegally. Craig Thomson had earlier suggested it wasn’t him who used the card to pay for prostitutes, implying the card was used by someone else. This was where the illegality could have resided – it could have been a credit card fraud offence. The fact that there was no suggestion that the card was fraudulently used simply confirmed Craig Thomson did use the card to pay for prostitutes, contrary to his denial. So in a funny way, the “exoneration” actually implicated Craig Thomson – not for any criminal conduct for in relation to using union money for an improper purpose.

Craig Thomson said he would provide a full statement to the parliament, but did not say when.

HSU members should no doubt be up in arms that union officials can be allowed to use their hard earned money for personal benefits and for despicable peccadilloes no less. The likes of Thomson continue to tar the image of unions and its officials.

The more recent story of Michael Williamson being accorded favours by Gilleland and his printing business surely does the image of unions and its officers absolutely no favours. The “Health Standard” must be one of the most glossy union newsletters around and “Communigraphix” probably need to maintain the gloss to continue operating out of the northern beaches of Sydney.  The continuing silence of these union mob can be telling. I often dislike the saying “there is no smoke without fire”, as it can be easy to create smoke in order to create the impression of a fire, but in this case, I have a feeling most would that saying its usual meaning and unless Thomson and Williamson both responded vigorously, they will do themselves, and the Labor Party absolutely no good whatsoever.


Gillard inching closer to Najib Razak

Julia Gillard‘s telephone call to John Hartigan to spike a story by Glen Milne of The Australian, brings her government ever closer to the style of the UMNO Government. Both face certain doom and are living on borrowed time.

See this piece.

The point of the story was her judgment of people around her. Her involvement with Bruce Wilson, someone convicted of embezzlement of union funds, ought to speak volumes of her ongoing support for Craig Thomson. Thomson’s position as one of the 76 (together with the monkeys aka independents) no doubt is the bigger dimension here but the bottom line is her judgment.

Julia Gillard has as the sort of baggage Najib Razak is probably familiar with. Scorpenes submarine and Altantuya Shaaribuu are of much darker varieties to taint Najib Razak but Bruce Wilson and Craig Thomson, with their union rubbish, smell almost as bad.

Certainly, calling newspaper editors to control what the public reads, is a stench no Australian Prime Minister should share with a Malaysian regime.

Glenn Milne’s Piece The Australian Withdrew

This was the piece The Australian withdrew, because it was apparently untrue:

THE real import of the alleged brothel creeping scandal surrounding Craig Thomson has been missed. And it is this: key factions and unions within the Labor movement are now openly indifferent to the fate of either Julia Gillard or the federal government. They simply don’t care any more.

Gillard has now lost all authority within the broader Labor movement. By their actions in the Thomson saga they have signalled a judgment that she cannot win the next election. Settling internal scores and power struggles is therefore now more important than whatever happens to a lame-duck PM who can’t haul her primary voting numbers out of the pathetically fatal mid 20s.

The Mafia-style dirt-covered shovel — code for digging your own grave — dumped on Friday at 3.30am on the doorstop of Kathy Jackson, the union official who had the courage to refer Thomson’s activities to the police, may as well have been delivered to the Lodge. For Gillard it is now that bad. She is simply regarded as collateral damage and large sections in the Labor movement are uninterested about whether she’s terminally wounded or not as they go about their internal bloodletting. It is about to get worse as elements of the Australian Workers’ Union seek to settle up with Thomson’s accusers by demonstrating that Gillard herself was implicated, albeit unknowingly, in a major union fraud of her own before she entered parliament.

On Friday, Michael Smith of 2UE contacted me to check the veracity of material in a statutory declaration drawn up by Bob Kernohan, the former president of the AWU, and dealing with the relationship between Gillard and Bruce Wilson, which I outline below.

On Saturday, Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph columnist Andrew Bolt wrote on his blog: “On Monday, I’m tipping, a witness with a statutory declaration will come forward and implicate Julia Gillard directly in another scandal involving the misuse of union funds. Gillard herself is not accused of any misbehaviour at all. I do not make that claim, and do not hold that belief. But her judgment — and that of at least one of her ministers — will come under severe question. She will seem compromised. It could be the last straw for Gillard’s leadership.”

Big call. But I do have a good deal of knowledge regarding Bolt’s claims. On Sunday November 11, 2007, just days before the November 24 election I interviewed Gillard, then deputy leader of the opposition, in my capacity as political editor for News Limited‘s Sunday newspapers. The interview concerned the embezzlement of union funds — not disputed — and later the subject of a court conviction by a former boyfriend of Gillard, Bruce Wilson. I had researched the piece for months. It was the most heavily lawyered article I have ever been involved in writing. The story said that as a solicitor acting on instructions, she set up an association later used by her lover to defraud the AWU. But she has strenuously denied ever knowing what the association’s bank accounts were used for.

Gillard, then in her early 30s, was a lawyer with Melbourne-based Labor firm Slater & Gordon. At the time of the fraud she acted for the AWU. She met Wilson, then the West Australian AWU secretary, while representing the union in the Industrial Relations Commission. Wilson later moved to Melbourne to become Victorian secretary of the union.

“These matters happened between 12 and 15 years ago,” Gillard told me. “I was young and naive. I was in a relationship, which I ended, and obviously it was all very distressing. I am by no means the first person to find out that someone close turns out to be different to what you had believed them to be. It’s an ordinary human error.

“I was obviously hurt, when I was later falsely accused publicly of wrongdoing. I didn’t do anything wrong and to have false allegations in the media was distressing.”

What the lawyers would not allow to be reported was the fact that Gillard shared a home in Fitzroy bought by Wilson using the embezzled funds. There is or was no suggestion Gillard knew about the origin of the money. We now await the issue to which Bolt refers.

If it comes, and if it is powerful as Bolt suggests, it will be further evidence that the Victorian Right represented by the AWU is involved in a life and death struggle with the Right as represented by the Hospital Services Union. Thomson was a senior official of the HSU for 20 years before entering parliament via the seat of Dobell.

The HSU split several years ago into two factions. Thomson was supported by Jeff Jackson, Kathy Jackson’s former husband. This so-called old guard was the support base for Victorian right-wing power boss, David Feeney. Feeney is now looking for a parliamentary seat because Gillard’s abysmal numbers have made his third Senate spot vulnerable.

A defeat for the old guard by way of a successful prosecution of Thomson by police, would leave Feeney powerless and without a base or a seat.

Jackson himself has been accused of using union money on escorts with enemies of the Victorian HSU boss releasing bank statements showing payments to the same Sydney brothel where federal MP Thomson’s credit card was allegedly used. Jackson has denied the claims. Ultimately at issue here could be the succession to Gillard, and I’ll explain why.

When Kathy Jackson called in the wallopers, the stakes were high. Because a federal defeat for Thomson and his allies would enhance the power base of Victoria’s two other factional king makers, Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy who are both aligned with the new guard in the HSU. And we all know what Shorten’s ultimate ambition is.

What a tangled web we weave especially when you consider Thomson is married to Zoe Arnold, a former Transport Workers Union official and adviser to former NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher. Alex Williamson, daughter of HSU national president Mike Williamson, is an adviser to Gillard. And, of course, as mentioned, Kathy Jackson, who blew the whistle on Thomson, was married to former Victorian state HSU secretary Jeff Jackson.

Truly the NSW Disease has arrived in Canberra.

Meanwhile amid all this interbred internecine manoeuvring Gillard attempts to adopt the high ground, attacking shadow attorney-general George Brandis for intervening in the course of justice. On Thursday morning Gillard attacked Brandis for speaking to NSW Police Minister Michael Gallacher at a time when the allegations against Thomson were being assessed by NSW Police. Unfortunately she got her facts wrong because the NSW police only announced they were conducting an assessment four days after Brandis spoke to Gallacher and in fact only got Brandis’s dossier three days after he spoke to Gallacher.

A small point but one that indicates the pressure is beginning to show on Gillard as she desperately searches for points of deflection. During the same press conference she also vainly tried to defend Thomson’s decision not to make a statement to the parliament on the facts. We all know why; if he lies he’s finished as an MP and Gillard is washed up as Prime Minister. Gillard and Thomson are shackled together just as surely as two First Fleet convicts.

Oh, and here’s a small postscript on which to end. On September 7 at the Wyong Christian School at 2pm there will be the opening of a new hall built with funds from Gillard’s time overseeing the Building the Education Revolution. Thomson is scheduled to attend as the local member. My gut instinct is that both he and the Prime Minister will be otherwise engaged.

Faith in union official repaired

I was just listening to Neil Mitchell on 3AW and Kathy Jackson, the Health Services Union Secretary, was responding to his questions in a refreshingly straight and honest manner. What a change – a breath of fresh air. She was also on ABC’s “Lateline” last night and here’s the transcript.

Kathy Jackson said she and the union formed a view that there was misuse and misappropriation of funds, and she and the union formed a view as to who the perpetrator was. She said however that as the matter was being investigated, she would not name the person. Neil Mitchell concluded the interview by telling his listeners that the person was obviously Craig Thomson.

Kathy Jackson also urged (in the Lateline interview) Fairwork Australia or the police to provide feedback quickly. It is disgraceful for Fairwork Australia – stacked by Labor Party appointees, according to Michael Smith of 2UE in the Paul Murray Live program on Sky News last night – to have taken ages (a couple of years now) to investigate this allegation when a first year police officer would have concluded it in weeks, if not days.

My mistrust and dislike for union people has been abated by the likes of Kathy Jackson. Those workers of menial jobs in hospitals and related services appear to have someone genuinely concerned with protecting their interests.

Lucky Country, Mr Thomson?

The Health Services Union and the NSW Police, have at long last, decided to act and take the next step to formally investigate Craig Thomson for possible criminal breaches. Madame Prime Minister is unlikely to sleep well now. Who knows, Craig Thomson may well be the one to bring an end to the carbon tax stupidity. Talk about serendipity and Australia being the lucky country.

Taking after a recent tendency amongst some of my dearest beloved to romanise the Hokkien dialect – “Gong Gong Chia Ti Kong”. Translated loosely, it means (I think) that the heavens show mercy on the simple-minded, or the perhaps literally, “fools are fed by the heavens”.

Craig Thomson could well turn out to be the saviour of Australia.