LIFE’S mysteries come large and small, some mere curiosities (Does Tim* Mathieson iron our PM’s underpants or vice versa? If the former, is the taxpayer being billed for the rental of a sailmaker’s loft?) while others prompt far deeper furrows in the brow. The matter of Craig Thomson, his alleged use of carnal consultants and the union credit card which purportedly paid for those encounters is very much in the latter category.
As keen followers of current events would be aware, the ALP member for the seat of Dobell was accused of underwriting amorous encounters with funds provided by members of the Health Services Union, of which he served until his ascension to Parliament as national secretary. The Fairfax press reported on Monday that Thomson had “dropped” his defamation suit, a term normally taken to mean a plaintiff has abandoned all hope of prevailing in court.
At the ABC, however, and in Thomson’s local rag (see page 16), the case is said to have been resolved with “a settlement”, which strongly implies money changing hands or, at the very least, a public apology.
“The terms of the settlement are confidential, and I will not be commenting further on the matter. I always denied the claims made against me and I am pleased that confidential settlements of my matters have occurred,” he told the Central Coast Express.
So which is it? Has Thomson thrown in the towel, which might be taken as a recognition his case was doomed, or has Fairfax come up with the cash?
There has certainly been no public apology, so this is quite the riddle – a riddle quite a few of Thomson’s constituents might like to see resolved before next casting their ballots.
CURIOUS AND CURIOUSER: In his statement to the local paper, Thomson is quoted as saying, “These settlements along with the clearing of allegations against me in the Australian Electoral Commission investigation should be the end of the matter.”
Now a reasonable person might read that sentence and conclude the AEC had examined and rejected allegations of Thomson’s enthusiasm for commercial groin bumping, but such is not the case. The matter to which he refers actually concerns a complaint, filed by a Liberal MP, that a local publication, the Coastal Voice, was a Thomson-controlled front for spruiking his and the ALP's good works on behalf of the electorate and its citizens. The AEC rejected the complaint, noting
The document provided entitled "Coastal Voice – Your Central Coast Community Group" contains no material or other information that would indicate that its aims and resultant activities are directly linked to benefit any political party. The fact that the then President of Coastal Voice in 2006 was Mr Craig Thomson does not change this position. The December 2006 newsletter that was also provided refers to a range of health and dental care issues being pursued by Coastal Voice and the then union campaign against WorkChoices. This publication does not show any direct linkage or support of the ALP by Coastal Voice.
There is only one reference on the AEC site to the matter of hot and cold running girls and it is this, also from the above finding:
The media reports from the Sydney Morning Herald do not contain any facts or admissible evidence that could be considered by the AEC. This is particularly the case given the legal proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW in the matter of Craig Thomson v Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd (Matter No. 2010/00056481) which the AEC understands to involve defamation proceedings in relation to the various media reports published by this company.
Anything involving, or having been alleged to involve, hookers and politicians is going to excite a good deal of interest, but in this case prurience is the lesser fascination. Of greater import is the margin by which Thomson holds Dobell. The Silly asserts the seat is “marginal”, which isn’t true, because last year-s two-party-preferred result gave Thomson vctory by a 10% margin.
But consider the Gillard government’s paper-thin control of the House and its abysmal poll ratings. Ponder also what might happen if, say, Thomson were to resign in order to spend more time with his family (or whoever). Given that by-elections are notorious for damning governments and the distinct possibility that Dobell’s voters would honour that norm, could that be the reason why the defamation action has been, ahem, “settled” just three weeks before the case was set to go before a judge?
(*originally published as "Craig Mathieson" but changed to "Tim" after the error was spotted by an anonymous reader.)