PM hits back at Coalition as Labor struggles to manage Craig Thomson affair
- From: The Australian
- August 25, 2011
With the fallout for the government escalating by the day, Labor insiders said they were unable to effectively manage the issue and were at the mercy of unfolding events."There are so many things outside your control, so many possible scenarios, you can't chase them all," one senior source said. "You've just got to stay focused on delivering what you need to deliver."
An under-pressure Prime Minister attacked Tony Abbott personally in parliament today, accusing him of wrecking the health system, rejoicing at workers' job losses and running “political protection” for a former minister who used his position to try and get his son off a speeding fine.
Mr Thomson, the Member for Dobell and former HSU secretary, is accused of using his union credit card to make personal withdrawals and purchases worth more than $100,000, and to procure the services of prostitutes.
In the final question time before parliament takes a two-week break, the Opposition Leader asked Ms Gillard how she could justify expressing her “full confidence” in Mr Thomson.
Ms Gillard responded with a withering attack, accusing Mr Abbott of applying different standards to one of his own MPs, Senator Mary Jo Fisher, who is facing assault and shoplifting charges.
“Another day and he digs himself deeper into the mud of hypocrisy on this question,” she said. “Can I remind the leader of the opposition there is only one member of the federal parliament who has been charged with a criminal offence? That is a Liberal Party senator who has been charged with an offence against a person and an offence against property.”
Going back almost a decade, Ms Gillard also raised Mr Abbott's support for former Liberal minister Wilson Tuckey, who was caught using his ministerial letterhead to try and have a speeding fine overturned for his 45-year-old son.
“When we look at the modern Liberal Party, what do they believe in? Well, saying no to everything, they believe in that,” she said. “Rejoicing when workers lose their jobs, they believe in that. Creating a $70 billion black hole, they obviously believe in that. “And from past conduct, they're not above putting pressure on police officers, because it's happened before.”
NSW police are assessing whether to launch a full scale investigation into the allegations against Mr Thomson. But Labor is desperate to protect him, with the loss of just one seat enough to topple Ms Gillard's fragile minority government. Earlier, Mr Abbott said the government had an integrity problem that permeated everything it did.
“Whether it be the Prime Minister's promises on the carbon tax, her promises on border protection, her promises on the surplus, this government has an integrity problem that hovers over everything this government does: its failure to be trustworthy, its failure to deliver.” he told ABC 24.
Trade Minister Craig Emerson admitted the scandal had become a distraction for the government, eclipsing all other issues.
“Of course this is a distraction in terms of the media coverage of these events,” he said.
“It means those policy achievements of this government ... while deserving of media coverage, aren't getting the media coverage because of this other matter.”