Phillip Coorey, Kate McClymont April 04, 2012
THE Craig Thomson saga bedevilling the Gillard government will drag on for months more after Fair Work Australia concluded its report into alleged misconduct at the helm of the Health Services Union and referred the matter to the federal Director of Public Prosecutions for possible criminal charges.
Fair Work Australia did not identify any breaches which it believes to be of a criminal nature, saying that was up to the DPP to determine.
In a statement yesterday, the general manager of Fair Work Australia, Bernadette O'Neill, said 181 contraventions had been identified, of which 105 were breaches of the Workplace Relations Act that are only civil penalties which attract fines.
The woman who blew the whistle on Mr Thomson, Kathy Jackson, claimed the other 76 contraventions were criminal infringements which ''relate to allegations against Mr Thomson''.
But a spokeswoman for Fair Work Australia said the 76 contraventions were minor administrative and technical breaches which did not warrant even a civil penalty. The DPP was better placed to determine whether any alleged crimes had been committed when it examined the 105 civil breaches.
''I have not sought to satisfy myself that the material considered by [the Fair Work investigator] in his report establishes any particular likelihood of criminal conduct, as that is a matter for the DPP,'' said Ms O'Neill.
''I am satisfied that the report raises many significant matters which may be appropriate for the DPP's consideration.''
Mr Thomson has been accused of misusing a credit card supplied to him when he led the union before entering Parliament in 2007.
If convicted of a criminal offence that carried a sentence of a year or more, he would be disqualified from sitting in Parliament. This would force a byelection and the government would most likely lose its one-seat majority.
Labor insiders believe even if the DPP acted and there were a conviction, it would not be before the election due next year.
The findings are contained in an 1100-page report which it does not plan to release.
The statement did not name any of the three union officials against which the findings have been made but they are believed to be Mr Thomson, who was the national secretary, Ms Jackson, who succeeded him, and Michael Williamson, the union's national president.
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, accused Fair Work Australia of continuing to protect the government by refusing to release the report.
''The Australian people are entitled to know whether a member of the Gillard government has been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions,'' Mr Abbott said.
Mr Thomson maintained his innocence and is understood to be deeply frustrated at the referral to the DPP. His lawyers advised him the DPP process would take months.
Fair Work Australia confirmed it would not help the continuing NSW and Victorian police investigations into the union, saying the Commonwealth Government Solicitor advised it would be more appropriate to refer the matter to the DPP ''for action in relation to criminal offences, including under state laws''.
Detective Inspector Dave Christey from Strike Force Carnarvon said while police had not received any information from Fair Work Australia, ''there has been substantial co-operation between the Victorian and NSW police agencies in regard to their respective inquiries''.
Inquiries were well under way and a number of people had been interviewed about allegations that Mr Thomson and Mr Williamson received secret commissions from a supplier to the HSU. Both have denied the accusation.
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