Monday, February 4, 2013

Craig Thomson case threatens balance of power in parliament


Craig Thomson
Craig (The Crook) Thomson

CRAIG Thomson will front his accusers in a Melbourne court this week even though the Government wants him and his vote to stay in Canberra.
And it is almost certain the Opposition will not allow a “pair” by dropping one of its MPs to account for Mr Thomson’s absence.

Mr Thomson’s office confirmed today the independent MP will not be in Parliament on Wednesday but will attend the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court for the start of hearings into 150 fraud charges related to his time as secretary of the Health Services Union.

Mr Thomson's absence could have an effect on votes in the House of Representatives.

The Government has 70 MPs in the 150-member House, excluding Labor Speaker Anna Burke. The Coalition has 71.

Votes are decided by the large cross bench of eight MPs: Greens Adam Bandt; independents Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, Andrew Wilkie and former Speaker Peter Slipper; Katter Australia Party's Bob Katter; and West Australian National Tony Crook.

Mr Windsor, Mr Oakeshott and Mr Bandt are likely to support the Government in a confidence motion but they and the other cross bench members are able to vote against Government legislation.

Support from Mr Katter and Mr Crook effectively gives the Opposition 73 votes, which means the Government needs four votes for its Bills to survive.

The absence of Mr Thomson on Wednesday could make it harder for the Government to protect its Bills.

Mr Thomson had a rare victory today when the NSW Police confirmed he had not been given the option of surrendering to them on a Victorian warrant last week. Instead, on Thursday he was dramatically arrested by five officers and taken to a watchhouse where he was strip searched.

After the arrest Detective Superintendent Col Dyson said Mr Thomson had been invited to surrender himself before Christmas but had declined.

In fact, he had been asked to come to Melbourne to be interviewed by police and had rejected that request.

Today Mr Dyson said in a statement, "The arrest warrant indicated that Mr Thomson was invited to Victoria to be interviewed.

"It additionally indicated that the arrest warrant was issued on the grounds that he was avoiding the service of the summons. I concede the word 'summons' and not 'arrest' should have been used when I referred to the wording on the warrant.''

Mr Thomson's lawyer, Chris McArdle, said his client's case might have been injured by the original police comments.

"There's this great steamroller of opinion in the public mind that this fellow must have done something - 'You wouldn't charge him with 150 things if he hadn't done anything, would you?' seems to be the rhetorical comeback," Mr McArdle told the ABC.

"Well, it's simply cemented the fact that this fellow's some sort of fugitive, which he is not. He's the most available human being in the country.''

Craig Thomson case threatens balance of power in parliament

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