Sunday 21 August 2011

Graham Richardson | the best is yet to come

Influential Labor figure hints at more Thomson revelations

Misha Schubert | August 21, 2011

Craig Thomson. MORE revelations are to come about the Labor MP accused of hiring callgirls with a union credit card, former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson has warned.

As the Gillard government - with its single-seat grip on power - hopes to ride out the controversy, Mr Richardson suggested there was more to emerge.

''Not everything has [come out] - there's still more drama to come,'' he told The Sunday Age.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

Pressed to elaborate, he became coy. ''I believe there is. It's all about the same issue. All I will say is that the 2UE interview will continue to haunt him.''

The allegations about Craig Thomson's union credit card being used to pay for prostitutes and to withdraw $100,000 in cash when he led the health services union had lain dormant for almost 18 months until he gave an interview to the radio station's Mike Smith this month.

In it, Mr Thomson (pictured) admitted he authorised the payment of credit card bills that included charges for escort services, but denied he knew what they were for.

He also made two other claims that have landed him in hot water. One was that someone else had forged his signature on credit card receipts at a Sydney brothel, a claim that has led the federal opposition to demand a police investigation to probe if a crime had been committed.

The other was his suggestion that a mystery man repaid $15,000 to the union for escort agency bills.

Former Victorian Health Services Union secretary Jeff Jackson on Friday said Mr Thomson had made a ''risky'' implication in claiming a $15,000 repayment was linked to escort service bills.

Mr Jackson said he was the person who repaid that sum to the union, but said the payment had nothing to do with escort services. Union sources said it was part of a dispute over an unauthorised pay rise.

Liberal Senator Michael Ronaldson, who has pursued the Thomson case in Senate estimates, yesterday demanded that Fair Work Australia investigate both claims by Mr Thomson in its investigation.

If Mr Thomson is found to have lied to that official probe, he risks a fine of $3300.

Treasurer Wayne Swan yesterday argued that people should not jump to conclusions. ''Allegations have been made and they have been denied by Mr Thomson,'' he said.

But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said ''obviously something untoward has gone on here'' and ''every day there is more and more unsavoury information coming out''.

After a week of attack on his character in parliament, Mr Thomson has been confronted by another chapter in his past calling his honesty into question. Court documents reveal that an industrial court blasted a campaign he ran to woo members from another union as ''deceitful'' and ''reprehensible''.

The judge in the case before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission in 1996 accused him of providing misleading evidence. ''Regrettably, I am unable to accept Mr Thomson's evidence in a number of respects,'' Justice Monika Schmidt said in her judgment.

Shadow attorney-general George Brandis has urged police to investigate claims by Mr Thomson that his credit card had been misused by others.

The Age reported that phone calls to brothels were made from Melbourne hotel rooms hired by Mr Thomson and paid for by his union credit card.

It happened twice, in 2006 and 2007. Mr Thomson said this was ''completely untrue''. He said other people had access to his Card.

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