SCREWED POLITICS: Thrill-kills fill public life with noise but no light

What do Labor MP Craig Thomson, former Labor Senator Graham Richardson, Liberal Victorian Legislative Council government leader David Davis, Liberal newbie MP Michael Gidley and Liberal Senator Mary-Jo Fisher have in common?

All of these politicians have been accused of serious wrongdoing.

In Thomson’s case, he’s been caught up in a bizarre and hysterical campaign of vilification about his supposed improprieties while serving as national secretary of the occasionally toxic Health Services Union.

The alleged improprieties relate to events as long as six years ago.

They arose as a result of claims made by the current national secretary of the union, Kathy Jackson, against her predecessor. Jackson didn’t like him very much, and is notoriously vigorous in her loves and hates, even declining to speak with Thomson when occasionally sharing a union elevator, according to well-placed sources.

Jackson was motivated to make her claims by a genuine dislike of the bloke and perhaps an equal dislike of her own foes within the HSU accusing her own allies (including her then husband) of similar things.

She was not to know that years later the accusation would come to haunt Thomson and potentially destroy the Labor government she strongly supports.

It is widely assumed that when Thomson refers to someone paying back monies to the union in relation to those improprieties that he is referring to Kathy’s then husband.

There’s certainly a puzzling aspect to the whole affair which is that even though Thomson and Jackson’s then husband were not really mates at all they were both accused of using the services of Keywed Pty Ltd, which presented as a restaurant on the receipt but was later discovered to be used by sex workers.

We presume there is not one big company employing the ho’s of Melbourne and Sydney. It appears to be a highly competitive market, with low barriers to entry, if you’ll forgive the expression.

So it’s certainly puzzling that they happened to use the same company. Or appear to have. Perhaps a coincidence but a weird one. Quite possibly an exculpatory one for Thomson. But in the raucous killing-spree atmosphere that our politics can easily become, innocent explanations often fall on deaf ears.

Our next target of slagging is Graham Richardson. We must concede we grew up admiring Richo in the same way we grew up revering Essendon legend Tim Watson. Our view is a little more nuanced these days. Playing footsie with the Greens as he advocated was probably not the smartest thing Labor ever did. Chopping down elected Premiers was not exactly brilliance personified either.

Richo has now become a political commentator and is always interesting and well-grounded in his views.

A victim of quite spectacular scandal sagas himself, one of them relating to the provision of sex workers at the Sea World Nara Resort back in the days when he was a federal minister. It was never suggested he’d paid for them though. It was – as we say in Vegas – “comped” in circumstances later deemed unrelated to the exercise of his public duties.

So when he called Craig Thomson stupid for using credit cards (union-paid ones at that), his criticism might have been more limited and specific than it appeared.

He did point out one obvious truth though which is that failing Police charges against Thomson, he’s not going anywhere.

Coalition hysteria about it, that they can seize office in a smash-and-grab operation without an election, seems to be a constant refrain from some of them who should know better.

I don’t get it.

They are likely to win the next election, far more likely than not.

They lost the last election, to be fair, mostly due to some shrewd local campaigning from Sussex Street in NSW marginals that Labor probably should have lost. And, of course, the occasionally fragmented NSW Liberals ought to have been better organised to win.

The desperate desire to get into government can start to look a bit unseemly. The Coalition has a history of near own-goals in this territory. They nearly made the unelectable Whitlam government into martyrs for democracy with Senate antics in 1975 and in Victoria in 1992 got Labor its first good press in years when then Opposition Leader Jeff Kennett threatened to confiscate Labor MP’s superannuation if they didn’t have an early election.

Questioning the legitimacy of one’s opponent’s election belongs in Banana Republics and among the once chad-obsessed far-left of American politics, it usually backfires here.

The doctrine to which we subscribe is that the voters are always right. It’s very risky politics implying otherwise. It’s also something of an insult to the democratic system practically every Australian says they support.

The Coalition must know what we know which is if the HSU has internally resolved the matter of monies being taken from it improperly and they are not willing to make complaints to the authorities then the matter will go nowhere. There is no theft – in practical terms – if there’s no victim complaining of it.

George Brandis SC is a highly experienced lawyer and would know this.

That’s why the faux excitement about Thomson resigning out of shame or being forced out (by some unexplained mechanism) or being prosecuted and then convicted and then punted all prior to 2013 does seem silly.

It’s not going to happen.

The worst thing Thomson has fessed up to is failing to disclose that the ALP gave/lent him some money to compensate them for some of the expenses incurred in suing Fairfax for making the lurid claims against him in the first place. It was a good get by the Daily Telegraph which has taken what was a Fairfax yarn and made it their own.

This is a lapse but hardly warranting his removal as an MP.

Which brings us to Victorian cabinet minister David Davis. Davis is regarded by both sides of politics as a bit of an ass and that came into stark relief when former Labor state secretary and campaign mastermind Stephen Newnham wrote him a niggling letter, winding him up about something everything has now forgotten about. Davis’s response was a nasty sh*t-sheet in press release form accusing Newnham of various imagined high crimes and misdemeanours. None of it was true.

None of it was said under parliamentary privilege.

Newnham, almost as if he’d planned it all along, then sued him in the lead-up to the last state election. Davis was caught dead to rights and, after much expensive legal manoeuvring, settled.

It was a confidential settlement but it is understand that it cost over $100K and that much of the money was provided by the Liberal Party.

Davis didn’t disclose it.

There was a mild kerfuffle about his failure to do so but he stayed on as a minister and as an MP, somewhat easier work than his previous gig of chiropractor where he was forever rubbing the tennis elbows of the ladies of Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.

To use Tony Abbott’s description of Craig Thomson, he is most certainly a “protected species” of the Baillieu government.

His omission – like Thomson’s – was unfortunate but nowhere near enough to justify his sacking.

And then there’s Michael Gidley MP, the newly elected Victorian Liberal MP accused of intimidating a couple of ALP staffers, one a young woman, at Parliament station.

It’s the cover-up that can kill you with Gidley’s denial in Parliament causing him considerable hassle now.

Fiona Richardson, the shadow transport minister, who employs the staffers, was at her most lethal and chilling in the chamber this week, calling for Gidley to be referred to the Privileges committee for deceiving the house.

The motion succeeded and is apparently the first time in twenty years such a thing has happened.

Gidley will ultimately get off pretty lightly in terms of the Privileges committee although what looked particularly unusual was the occasionally partisan Liberal Speaker Ken Smith seeming to cheer on Richardson’s remarks and give the impression he didn’t like the talented Mr Gidley one bit.

It’s well worth having a look at the Hansard.

VEXNEWS hears on the grapevine that Gidley might have another potential storm-cloud on the horizon with a QC already interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence for a potential civil suit against the MP. The tort of assault is being considered. Gidley is also thought to be concerned about the prospect of closed-circuit vision of his excitable antics becoming publicly available as a result of the judicial process too.

Gidley has a fair bit of sweating to do and has already paid a high price for losing his cool and – unthinkingy perhaps – throwing his weight around with a young lady considerably smaller than he.

Last of all is Senator Mary-Jo Fisher.

Unlike those chaps, she’s actually been charged with criminal offences relating to alleged shoplifting and assault.

However, the word is that she’s suffered from depressive illness and has had many personal challenges to deal with. These will come out in court and she’ll get off pretty lightly as many others would in a similar situation.

So what do Fisher, Gidley, Davis, Richardson and Thomson all have in common?

They are all a powerful reminder of the high price those in public life pay for the privilege of serving.

They are judged by harsh standards.

Their right to privacy is checked in at the front door of the Parliament.

None of them are villains of the most perfidious kind while all have done things they might regret.

With very rare exceptions that prove the rule, we’re generally very lucky to be as well represented as we are in this country.

VEXNEWS – in pursuit of a yarn – is not known for its subtlety or caution. But our years of reporting on politics and its practitioners persuades me that mostly we are blessed by honest, decent, committed and hard-working people who’ve bravely put up their hands, motivated by a mix of a desire to do good, maybe a desire also to be noticed and to change the world while doing so.

In some of the reporting around politics, you could easily reach a contrary view.

Wrongdoing ought meet justice but it also should be kept in proportion.

The Lord of the Flies “kill the pig” moments that hurt many in public life eventually don’t do much to improve our democracy or the way we live.

For those in the game who occasionally see a moving red-light target on their shirt, there’s nothing to do but to “stay frosty,” keep focused on what motivated an interest in public life in the first place and follow the sage advice that when going through Hell, just keep going.



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75 responses to “SCREWED POLITICS: Thrill-kills fill public life with noise but no light

  1. The Insider

    I am awaiting for some commentator to have the courage to question the closeness between Tony Abott and a certain feature writer for the Australian!

  2. Guess who

    What Craig should say that UK unionist had a party in his tiny hotel room despite there being a heap of great bars minutes from the hotel. So these UK unionists were dinking and putting on porno. And what those UK unionist did is play a prank on Craig and they were the ones that called the prostitutes (it would have been funnier if they were transsexuals pro’s hey?). a prank just Like the funny jokes Craig used to play on other chaps when he played footy. Karma gets you every time. If he says that everyone will believe him and all this stuff will disappear like it did for me

  3. Adrian Jackson

    Craig Thomson or his mate who used the union credit card is entitled to shag prostitutes but this should be done at a brothel.

    Why run up a huge bill in an expensive 5 stars hotel like the The Hyatt at the expense of the union R&F memberships?

    This incident also begs the question why are prostitute allowed into classy hotels? Perhaps the hotel literature should say services include spa pool, restaurant, hairdresser and whores & pimps etc.

    If hotels allow sluts and their pimps into their building shouldn’t the star rating be lowered? Its hardly very classy isn’t it.

    Andrew – perhaps you and I should stand on a ticket for the Senate at the next election as I think you and I could do a better job in federal Parliament than many from all the parties

  4. Curiouser & curiouser

    If the unnamed shagger is Jeff Jackson as you suggest, and what with them being good ALP hacks and all, why doesn’t Jeff or Kathy out him and save the government? I believe Jeff has moved on out of public life and has absolutely nothing to lose by doing so and it would put an end to the whole matter once and for all. I totally agree with George Brandis, with this matter causing such damage to Thomson and the ALP why would you ever agree to such a settlement. If someone has been availing themselves of the high life off the backs of hospital cleaners, orderlies, and admissions clerks then they should have been reported to the cops and let them take their chances, that’s what happens to workers who are caught with their fingers in the till.

  5. evil bastard

    does this mean that vex will take its own advice & back off from the juicier stories? that would make life a little less entertaining

  6. coz

    Vexnews goes for the ‘we are all sinners’ angle, but that entails confession and repentance – readers look forward, understandably, to that part.

    If that doesn’t happen then it’s not a ‘we are all sinners’ scenario. Maybe only some of you are.

  7. Anonymous

    Partisan Speaker Smith? You have to be joking! Check Victorian Assembly Hansard question time on Thursday 18th re Speaker’s unusual and incorrect ruling on Opposition leader’s point of order when Michael O’Briens was answering a question. Also question why Smith made the comments he did – Smith protecting Trades Hall? He has set a dangerous precedent. Smith is so desperate to be liked (especially by Jacinta) He is so afraid of Hull’s threats to get him that his rulings on points of order at question time are a farce!
    Also worth comment is his peculiar decision to change the Lord’s prayer!!!

  8. Usual Suspect

    Gosh, I almost had to take out my hankie at the end of that… I’ve still got a lump in my throat. But quite true Andrew, well said.

  9. Anonymous

    is there a HSU member who didnt use hookers?

  10. Bounca

    Bounca angry no mention. Bounca get very mad. Bounca red in face. Bounca steam come out ears. Bounca hit wall. BOUNCA BASH!!!!

  11. old sparky

    Action Jackson pops up everywhere

  12. Dee

    You forgot to mention Peter Reith & his credit card rort.
    Also used for prostitutes.

  13. Su Leybourn

    Supposedly, Craig Thomson is innocent and someone who looked a lot like Craig Thomson used his Union credit card, his driver’s license AND his mobile phone to organise some sex … and returned same in 24 hours!

    Sheesh … what tree does he think we fall from?

    Personally, I want to trust the folk we elect to government all the way. I want the bastards’ honest!

  14. Billy the Kidder

    You forgot to mention the alleged $100K cash withdrawal from the card. Coupled with a possible AEC investigation it doesn’t look good for him.

    What is it with union bosses and (alleged) pillaging of member’s hard earned dues?

    One reason (of many) as to why I have never joined a union.

  15. You also did not mention Bruce Wilson ripping off over $1 million from AWU in 1995!

  16. Union bosses

    It saddens me greatly that all ‘union bosses’ are tarred with the same brush when most of them do not engage in this crap. You will generally find that the likes of Thomson who did not come from the shop floor, never cleaned up vomit or shit, never hoisted a dead weight patient, never had to find an emergency bed are the ones who think it is ok to use the members money for their own ambitions. The union movement has been infected with these types for a very long time. They do give unions a bad name and bring the labour movement into disrepute. Worse still, they really do not care, a union has just been a river of cash to use along the way to the inevitable preselection and career in politics neery a backwards glance at the workers they used to get there.

  17. Fred

    The author needs to take a good look in a mirror and understand using ones imagination is not the same as the factual truth.

  18. EH

    I really like this site, MANY good and interesting stories, but how much more obvious could you be that you are a front for certain factions?!?!

  19. “And, of course, the occasionally fragmented NSW Liberals ought to have been better organised to win.”

    What this really means is “the fragmented NSW Liberals under President Dick Shambles ought to have been something other than completely utterly shambolic in their preparation.”

    Credit where it’s due.

  20. Cardinal Pell

    Brother Abbott was not with that writer from The Australian, I can vouch for him. He was with me enjoying the feisty boys from St Chesters Choir.

  21. cohenite

    And what a drama queen Keating is!

  22. david2

    I am just waiting for the media generally to have the guts to ask Abbott the hard questions as is their ‘professional’ duty or are they the useless has beens they are so far displaying..spineless comes to mind

  23. david2

    billy the kidder, watch my words…the police are not interested in pressing charges…comprehend bimbo!!!

  24. Billy the Kidder

    David2, watch my words… it ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings, and we haven’t even reached intermission over this one!

  25. Giuseppe De Simone

    I agree with Vexnews on this issue. Decent politicians do pay a high price for public service – that’s because some of their less altruistic colleagues regard the leather chairs as a reward rather than an obligation.

    The presumption of innocence is critical and should never be forgotten in this feeding frenzy. If wrong has been done, it will eventually be prosecuted and a jury will decide.

    Political errors of judgment cause much angst when discovered but ultimately it is the cover up that kills you.

  26. Anonymous

    What is it about Labor Party members called Craig who are accused of paying prostitutes for sex, using other peoples money?

  27. Boofa

    I’ve been screwed in public life too, just because ‘Percy’ entertained a couple of bikes.

  28. SHY

    lucky no one recognises me with my mouth full after a big wednesday night at the Kennedy Room during the parliamentary week. Please don’t tell my husband that I enjoy different flavours of man milk while in Canberra.

  29. megsie

    I remember the Craig Affair. He is now on Banyule Council, they better watch out.

  30. Freddy

    Meet and greet nov 13th to 15th

  31. Anonymous

    Craig and hiv friend?

  32. Anonymous

    Banyule Council: home of the clueless and the sexually deviant.

  33. Anonymous

    So that’s how Wayne poked his eye out?

  34. Anonymous

    Banyule Council: home of the clueless and the deviant.

  35. Mitchell Observer

    Without getting drawn on any other alleged political improprieties, Thompson’s position is parlous, and getting worse, by the minute.
    Thompson reignited the whole affair by participating in an interview on radio 2UE in Sydney, during which he made some startling admissions.
    Richo put it very well when he states that Thompson has had the worst “luck” in the world, if his story is to be believed,
    Someone stole his credit card, forged his signature, knocked off his driver’s licence, and booked hotel rooms in his name, from which requests for prostitues were emanating.
    Plausible? Give me a break!
    Seriously, the guy is a dead political carcass, swinging in the breeze, and as long as the PM desperately refuses to cut him down, the Labor brand will simply go further South, if that’s possible!

  36. Fat and failed

    We need to be looking at the role of the grossly over weight scab from Taylors Hill.

  37. anon

    Fat and Failed – we seriously need to look at the obese power couple (ha ha ha) in Reservoir. So stupid they did not know they were being done over

  38. Anon

    Fat and Failed, is this a reference to Melbourne’s idiotic Lord Mayor, Fatty Doyle?

  39. Shambles

    I am a respected political strategist.

    It was my ingenious preselection strategy in 2010 that was responsible for keeping Craig Thomson in Parliament. If not for me, the Liberals would not have been presented with the Thomson scandal.

    It is strategies such as these that have made me so respected.

  40. Boofa

    Or gee I hope the redevelopment of Grren Wedge doesn’t fall over, as I stand to make a fortune and I’ll be able to buy far better girls for ‘Percy’ than Craig did on HSU funds.

  41. Anon

    Boofa, how is Wenchy?

  42. Anonski

    You know you’re farked when CatMan is designated as your defender.

  43. Freddy

    Getup is green wedge, so get out green mold

  44. Fat and Failed

    The biggest loser of all is and will always be the Taylors Hill SCAB

  45. anon

    Fat and Failed, no the biggest losers in all this are the members (you know the ones who do the work nobody else will do and get paid crap wages). They have had their hard earned fees stolen. By the way why did the Committee of Management of the National HSU, pick up the expenses of one Mr Thomson, always thought expenses were approved by them. Oh, it was the untouchable Michael Williamson who was President and the leaker Kathy Jackson who was the Assistant Secretary – sorry I forgot

  46. NSW Right Playbook

    So are Williamson & Jackson going to make a complaint to the cops and defend the HSU members from a rortin’ fraudin’ official or are they going to save the ALP government and their NSW Right mates? Hmm what a dilemma!! Waiting, waiting, waiting. Kathy can you hear me?

  47. Fat and failed

    Sook all you want Taylors Hill loser, Williamson turned you into the laughing stock of progressive politics in Australia!

  48. anon

    Fat and failed, the only one who will be a laughing stock will be Williamson, karma is coming to him and to you fatso

  49. Fat and failed

    Hey Taylors hill loser, still haven’t come to terms with finishing third,Lonely life being a nobody!

  50. what’is it with union officals lately. firstly Bruce wilson stealing members money from the WA AWU now we have Craig Thomson using a union credit card on prostitutes,withdrawing funds that belong to the members.and then we have Dean Mighell state secretary VIC ETU who set up trust funds to protect the union from being sued eg ABCC but in his wisdom with 3 wise men.tony,pat and DEAN decided to defraud the union, still happening to this day.we won’t know what the figure will be for several months but from all reports it’s hundred’s of thousands of dollars.

  51. Wrongs of the NSW Right

    This scandal is like a slow moving car crash. It is reflecting badly on the whole union movement but not one union associated person is saying a word. No one from the ACTU, no one from the HSU, no one from any other union and they won’t. They will protect Thomosn to protect the government, it is disgusting. The ALP will happily see the already tenuous reputation of the union movement further sullied it is appalling. For all the ALP suckholes Gillard, Emerson, Albanese etc; you look like absolute fools everytime you open your mouths to defend this bloke, defending the indefensible. Defend the union movement that delivered you to government in 2007 you losers, a massive win that you squandered with your fatal move on Rudd. Morons, good union members and union officials (the ones without union issued credit cards) should be rising up and calling for you to stop defending this clown.

  52. Where there's a Wills there's a way

    Looks like Fatty Feenster’s HSU are tearing down the place.

  53. Giddyup

    You talkn’ about me? They deserved it!

  54. Heto

    93.7% liberal voters in west aust by count of vote last elect
    13 of 15 seats lib.
    do you think eastern state retards could have just given us one more seat ?
    your full of convict retards from the old land eh! hows about learning from YOUR mistake ya back-woods retards git rid of the AVOCADODS THE FAGOTS the member for Dobell HAVE ANOTHER ELECTION

  55. Heto

    there is NO moderation for RETARDS

  56. JustAThought

    But what happens if Thomson has signed an afadavit in his civil case with The Age and the facts of which are contradicted by evidence?

    Is that nor perjury? Seems what is stated after the act might be more the issue.

  57. Proud of Resevoir

    Willo will chew you up and spit you out Fegan

  58. sober sam

    pete….stay off the red and stay off line…


    Australia has its own titilating variant version of the Profumo affair except its so many years since that! No prizes for guessing who we are referring to! Tired of ALP Sleaze! Sack Gillard pronto ALP, because she wont sack you know who so we voters want a new ALP leader that has some integrity!

  60. heiner

    why would Julia do anything when we have Rudd still strutting his stuff even though he arranged the shredding of vital Govt info about a pack rape of a minor when he was working within the Qld Govt.Anna Bligh and Beattie knew as did Quentin Bryce. Common thread here hey?

  61. heiner

    If anyone has any doubts look up Heiner report and read it.Then tell me I am wrong

  62. Sam C

    Dastyari should show the gumption to sack the preshoolers at NSW head office who thought approving Craig Thomson’s pre-selection was a good idea.

  63. Adrian Jackson

    The Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper today (24 Aug 11) had a page devoted to Craig Thomson and opposite it a page devoted to the soldier KIA in Afghanistan yesterday. What a contrast the grubby politician and the brave dead soldier who was sent to Afghanistan by our Commonwealth Parliament (Lib & ALP MP’s) including Craig Thomson.

    In 2014 the ADF are schedules to withdraw from Afghanistan but if the country falls apart as South Vietnam did within 3 years of the allies withdrawal what will the Liberal and Labour PM’s, current and retired, do to make amends?

    I think politicians that involve Australian in lost causes should do the honourable thing a commit Hara Kiri like the Japanese do. One MP for every officer and soldier KIA seem fair. Howard, Gillard and Thompson should be the first to do the honourable thing.

  64. EH

    Adrian Jackson is a grubby, creepy turd who should be flushed.

    Come on Andrew – two flushes!

  65. Adrian Jackson

    It about time the clapped out EH (old Holden) was taken to the wreckers yard.

  66. Adrian Jackson

    Correction to my comment (24 Aug 11, 19.15 hrs). In the last sentence Thomson was incorrectly spelt. His name does not have a “p” (for penis) in it.

  67. Bounca

    Look what you made me do Sally. Look what you made me do!! This is YOUR FAULT SALLY.

  68. heto

    why don’t the health services union tell the whole story on the member for!labour union “tards” “its time” its time for you to crucify the member , show us in WA that you NSW retards have got the guts to put him to the sword.
    or are you so buggered by the avocados and the homos. come on LETS SEE SOME ACTION NOW!!!!!

  69. heto

    this sham illegitimate govt . employing diseased homosexual people
    has no place in aust.
    what about our freedom in w aust. you don’t represent us with your gay marriage your CARBON TAX your idiot boat people solution etc etc you couldn’t organize a r==t in a brothel although apparently mr thomson is good at that labour has derailed HAVE ANOTHER ELECTION

  70. Anon

    Big sexual appetites go hand in hand with political office – the key issue is not to get caught. The sexual activity of some Victorian State MPs makes Craig Thompson look like a virgin!

  71. heto

    excuse the plagiarism but there is nothing exculpatory about the nsw labour party retards .
    the last state elect proved they are on the ropes. the nsw electorate has spoken they want labour OUT.
    kathy jackson has a duty to lay charges on the member for Dobell.
    richo is correct when he says gillard is wearing a suicide belt if she ties herself to thomson
    We here in the grand duchy want to hear a raucous braying from the libs daily on the hour every hour “KILL THE PIG RUN HIM THROUGH”

  72. Boofa

    Or gee Anon, please leave me out of this or ‘her indoors’ will hit the roof. Why me.

  73. Pingback: Club Troppo » Return of the prodigal Kev?

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