Craig Thomson saga spurs politician review calls
Prime Minister Julia Gillard agrees clearer guidelines for politicians may be in order as former Labor MP Craig Thomson’s situation casts a shadow over the current code of conduct.
PRIME MINISTER Julia Gillard agrees clearer guidelines for politicians may be in order as former Labor MP Craig Thomson’s situation casts a shadow over the current code of conduct.
Independent MP Tony Windsor has called for a review of the code of conduct for politicians, following damning civil allegations against Mr Thomson and Speaker Peter Slipper.
Ms Gillard said she was open to debating the issue in parliament.
“There are various rules now for members of parliament but I’m obviously open to suggestions for a code of conduct and clearer set of rules,” she told reporters in Queensland on Sunday.
Mr Thomson, who is accused – in Fair Work Australia (FWA) findings – of misusing union funds on prostitutes and personal expenses, as well his election campaign, was entitled to a presumption of innocence, she said.
He claims he has been set up by members of the union’s executive, who threatened to ruin his future political career before he entered parliament by setting him up with hookers.
“I understand many Australians would have seen Mr Thomson’s interview yesterday and they will have drawn their own conclusions but ultimately the only way this matter can be resolved is properly before the courts,” Ms Gillard said.
Mr Windsor said the public wanted a higher standard from parliamentarians and politicians would face a test in the next few weeks as to how they would grapple with both civil and criminal offences of their contemporaries.
“Under current rules within the parliament, there’s not a lot that can be done in terms of those (FWA) findings,” Mr Windsor told Sky News.
“If those findings become a criminal matter, if there’s fraud or other issues involved in terms of the union or even in my view some civil matters, there may well be need to change the rules in the parliament so that those issues can be dealt with in the parliament.
“We can give someone a slap on the wrist but I don’t think the general public is too interested in a slap on the wrist.”
Mr Windsor has flagged a referendum to deal with the issue.
Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey said Mr Thomson’s explanation was unbelievable.
FWA’s 1100-page report into activities at the HSU were a “damning indictment” of Mr Thomson and other people at the union, he told the Nine Network.
“They were findings, not allegations, and it is a very serious issue.
“He has a lot of explaining to do.”
Mr Thomson has promised to provide a more detailed explanation, including naming names, when parliament resumes on 21 May.
Mr Hockey said he was unaware of claims by the previous member for Dobell, Alan Ticehurst, that the then Howard government had a file of allegations against Mr Thomson.
Mr Ticehurst said he could sue Mr Thomson for lost earnings after losing the seat of Dobell to him in the 2007 election, Fairfax Media reported.
Senior Labor minister Anthony Albanese said it was important to maintain a separation of powers between political and legal systems.
“I don’t know the facts of these matters. I’m not a lawyer, let alone a judge,” he told the Ten Network.
The idea that union funds had been abused by anyone was abhorrent to him and to the union movement, Mr Albanese said. - AAP