Friday 19 August 2011

Gillard in a cleft stick predicament

Labor MP Craig Thomson denies new escort allegations
BELEAGUERED federal Labor MP Craig Thomson is digging in, rejecting allegations against him as "completely untrue".

Mr Thomson arrived today at a hearing in federal parliament of the house economics committee, which he chairs, amid fresh allegations that calls to escort services agencies were made from hotel rooms booked in his name.

Fairfax reports details of the alleged calls - on April 5 and June 6, 2006 - as the industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia, continues its investigation into alleged irregularities in the finances of his former union.

Mr Thomson told reporters today: “There were reports yesterday and in the papers last night that are completely untrue.

“I have denied these allegations before, there is nothing there that is new at all. I am about to go in and continue to do my work representing the people of Dobell in this parliament.”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Ms Gillard had a duty to get to the bottom of the allegations facing Mr Thomson, who holds the marginal NSW Central Coast seat of Dobell.

Should the MP be forced out of parliament, a subsequent by-election would almost certainly see the fall of Labor's minority government.

“I just think it's appalling that the Prime Minister doesn't appear to have investigated the matter, is not straight it seems in answering questions about this in parliament and I think what we need to have is a full explanation from Mr Thomson but in particular from the Prime Minister (of) exactly what she knew, when she knew it,” Mr Abbott told the Nine Network.

It's been alleged Mr Thomson, a former Health Services Union secretary, withdrew $100,000 from his union credit card, which was also used to procure the services of prostitutes.

Mr Thomson has denied allegations of irregular spending, claiming he authorised credit card payments made by others.

Fairfax alleges it has bills and credit card records showing calls were made from Melbourne hotel rooms booked by Mr Thomson to Young Blondes, Confidential Models and Bad Girls escort agencies.

Mr Thomson recently dropped a defamation case against the Fairfax media company, which first reported allegations against him.

The NSW backbencher quietly updated parliamentary records this week declaring he received a “sum of money” from the ALP's NSW branch to settle his legal bills.

It's reported that sum could be up to $150,000.

Labor intervened to ensure Mr Thomson did not become bankrupt, which would disqualify him from sitting in the parliament, where the Gillard government retains power by one vote.
Ms Gillard has continued to stand by Mr Thomson, expressing her “full confidence” in him.

In The Daily Telegraph today, former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson said Mr Thomson could bring down the government, but he might hang on.

“He may survive, however, because stupidity is not a bar to holding public office. His situation is illustrative of the awful truth that scandal can rear its ugly head at any time,” he wrote.

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