Since I posted my previous thread on this subject four weeks ago, things have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. The rather tawdry scandal involving Craig Thomson, Labor MHR for the seat of Dobell in New South Wales, has plumbed new depths; amid Thomson’s tortured denials, including this memorable grilling on Sydney talkback radio, it has now emerged that, not only was Thomson’s Health Services Union credit card used to procure the services of prostitutes, his signature (verified by handwriting experts) and copies of his photo drivers license recorded on the back of payment vouchers and his business mobile phone records linked to the same, but now also hotel phone calls to several Melbourne escort agencies, placed from rooms booked by Thomson and paid for by the HSU on Thomson’s authorisation.
Further, he has received legal fees and personal loans from the Australian Labor Party totalling in the order of $90,000. This—presumably—is due to the law in this country that a declared bankrupt cannot stand for parliament, and a sitting member who is declared bankrupt must resign.
And still he denies it all. There are only two alternatives here. Either he is the victim of a monstrous character assassination, involving a bewildering, highly-organised, Mission: Impossible style chain of forgeries, thefts and subterfuge. In which case, he must publicly name the mysterious figure who he claims paid $15,000 in compensation to the HSU relating to these incidents. His protests that he is legally restrained from naming this man (presumably, it is a man) ring increasingly hollow with each passing day.
Or else he comes clean. Listen to the radio interview I’ve linked to above, and see if you agree with me that he seems as if he wants to confess all, get it off his chest, but is prevented from doing so by a large-calibre gun pointed at his head, held by hands unseen but whose identity is in little doubt. You can read Melbourne columnist Andrew Bolt’s analysis of the whole thing here.
Why am I boring you all with this petty scandal of a minor Australian politician you’ve never heard of? God knows, you’re not short of much juicier scandals amongst the political classes in your own countries. Simply because, as the thread’s title indicates, the Gillard government is hanging on by its fingernails to a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives; polls in Thomson’s own seat indicate Labor would stand no chance at all in a by-election, and with his seat goes the government. Tony Abbott, as new Prime Minister, will waste no time at all in calling a general election, which even the staunchest members of the leftist commentariat down here concede will result in an electoral bloodbath. And with Gillard will go, not only the Carbon Tax foisted on her by the Australian Greens, which she promised on the very eve of the last election she would never introduce and which the Australian public emphatically rejected at the ballot box, but (although the vagaries of our electoral system will draw this out by three more years) in the end, the Greens themselves.
All of which underline the point I made back here—Labor must reinvent itself, rediscover its raison d’être beyond the mere acquisition of power. Not merely for its own sake, but for the sake of a healthy and functioning Australian democracy. Though she herself would pay the supreme political price, Gillard would be remembered favourably by historians were she to do the honourable thing, and end this nonsense now.
Update 21 August 2011 1930: From the Bolt Report earlier today:
Update 24 August 2011 1600: Well, it’s on now. Labor’s last line of defence till now has been to say, no charges have been laid against Thomson and there hasn’t even been a formal police investigation. The NSW Police Service have been so far unwilling to launch such an investigation, a decision it was afraid could be construed as politically motivated, unless they had received a formal complaint from the Health Services Union themselves, as the immediate victims of the fraudulent spending.
Well, a few hours ago, the HSU, facing allegations of criminal behaviour against officers besides Thomson, finally relented and referred the matter to the police. You can read about it here and here. Come what may now, someone’s going down for this.