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May 09th 2012 print

Philippa Martyr

Defending Craig Thomson

Spending someone else’s money on dinners and hookers and plane fares is pretty much illegal; that should be fairly obvious. But if he bankrolled his election campaign with union funds, Thomson can argue that he had ample precedent.


I find myself in the unusual situation of wanting to defend Craig Thomson. 


I don’t normally suffer from this level of contrariness (you can stop laughing now), but something has just fallen out of the latest round of allegations from the FWA report which has given me much food for thought. 

Craig Thomson is accused of spending in total around half a million dollars of HSU’s money – a mere trifle of which went on the lavish curry dinners, soliciting of unfortunate prostitutes, and plane fares for his even more unfortunate then-wife.

But a cool quarter of a million is alleged to have gone on his election campaign for the seat of Dobell. Thomson is accused of spending

  • $71,300.23 in HSU funds on his campaign
     
  • $154,713.96 on one staffer
     
  • $41,707.46 on another staffer connected to his campaign

Spending someone else’s money on dinners and hookers and plane fares is pretty much illegal; that should be fairly obvious. But if he bankrolled his election campaign with union funds, Thomson can argue that he had ample precedent. (There’s ample precedent for the hookers and dinners too, but we will leave that for now.) 

After all, it was only in February this year that the NSW parliament outlawed unions and bosses from bankrolling election campaigns. 

How is what Thomson allegedly did any different from unions openly using their members’ money to run lengthy and costly ads in prime time television, criticising sitting governments?

And you don’t need to go any further than Wikipedia, that fount of all knowledge, to discover that “The Australian Labor Party is the main beneficiary of trade union donations in Australia.” 

Our good friends the Greens – I warned you I was feeling a bit cranky today – have a lovely website called www.democracy4sale.org. This is an interesting choice of name for a website, and a concept with which Labor and the Greens, with their shameless porkbarrelling, must be intimately familiar. (Again, on the day after the Budget, we will pass over this in silence for now). 

I suggest you visit and try their search engine for the category ‘Unions’. There, lo and behold – the chief beneficiary of union funding in Australia in 2010/11 is the ALP, and more specifically its NSW branch. That’s right, the faceless men of Sussex Street. To the tune of about $4.8 million, actually. 

It’s even more fun to add up all the funding the ALP has received since 2007, the year Thomson ran for Dobell. It’s $5.1 million nationally, and $9.6 million in NSW. 

So in this climate, how could Thomson really have thought that what he was allegedly doing was in the least bit wrong, indefensible or illegal? 

Dunno. Perhaps we should ask the hookers about it. But not the ones who were allegedly paid to have sex with Craig Thomson. Working girls don’t generally have expensive union representation, and so have to accept occupational hazards like that. 

Let’s ask the ones who are currently sitting in the Federal cabinet.