Suspending Thomson an option, says Roxon

Jessica Wright April 17, 2012

Embattled backbencher Craig Thomson.

Political shift ... embattled backbencher Craig Thomson could be moved to the crossbenches, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has admitted that suspending federal Labor MP Craig Thomson from the ALP - which would force him onto to the crossbenches - is "an option" that would give the government political respite from the scandal regarding alleged corruption within the Health Services Union.

Mr Thomson has been facing allegations since 2009 that he misused a union credit card for prostitutes, lavish meals and cash withdrawals when he was the HSU's national secretary between 2002 and 2007.

Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson said on the ABC's Q&A program last night that if the embattled MP was a member of the British parliament, he'd already have been suspended.

He said that if there were "credible allegations" that an MP had committed a serious criminal offence, they are then suspended from their party and would sit in parliament as an independent until the matter is resolved.

"The proper thing for the ALP to do is to suspend him [Mr Thomson] because that, of course, prevents it from being tarnished," Mr Robertson said. "If he's convicted, ultimately you obviously expel him and he goes to jail for several years.

"If he's acquitted, or if indeed on examination of the evidence it's discovered, as he's saying, that he was the victim of a plot, you take him back."

Ms Roxon was asked whether Mr Thomson should be suspended from the ALP until the matter is resolved.

"It's an option in theory, and maybe as things develop," she said.

"But we haven't had actually any content. There's been all this swirling allegation [but] no one actually is aware of what is being alleged in detail."

Ms Roxon said MPs could also stand down of their own accord which, if this occurred in the case of Mr Thomson, "would take the political heat out of it, but I'm not sure that it is fair when the sort of hysteria that's being created by the opposition is then the measure for whether you do it".

Alleged corruption and financial mismanagement within the HSU is the subject of police investigations in NSW and Victoria, an internal inquiry headed by Ian Temby QC and Fair Work Australia investigations.

While Mr Thomson might not have spoken to NSW Police, he has insisted that Fair Work Australia hand its report to the law so a credible and thorough investigation of the allegations against him can be conducted.

Fair Work Australia gave its report to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration and will release the report next month. It is refusing to give the report to the police in the interim.

Mr Thomson told the Herald yesterday that the Fair Work Australia investigation, which took three years, had credibility problems, given the criticisms of how long it took and allegations of political interference.

He believes the Fair Work findings will show he has broken no law and wants this established by a credible authority, the police.

"There are issues that have been raised about Fair Work Australia," he said.

"Whether they are right or wrong, the best thing they can do is give their report to the police. Let the police do their job; they can investigate, they can charge and people can have some confidence in the result."

It was reported at the weekend that Mr Thomson, acting on legal advice, has declined to talk to Strike Force Carnarvon, which is investigating allegations of extensive corruption in the HSU.

Mr Thomson may soon co-operate with the investigation but says it concerns events at the HSU's East branch when he was not there.

With Phillip Coorey

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