Katharine Murphy May 21, 2012
Welcome to our live coverage of politics from the national capital. All times in AEDST. You can also follow me on Twitter @murpharoo
6.00pm: It was a fierce old storm while it lasted, but the furies of federal politics seem calm enough, for now.
Thank you to the Pulse community for your massive support and engagement throughout the day.
Thanks as always to the photographers, most particularly Andrew Meares, for capturing today's big moments so perfectly.
We'll do it all again tomorrow.
Have a terrific evening.
5.50pm: As someone used to say on a gardening show on TV, Pulsers, that is your lot for today.
Let's do the evening summary before we bid each other farewell:
5.35pm: Apart from Mr Thomson's statement, the day's events in politics have fallen by the way side.
Sorry about that!
One Pulse spy has, however, sent a nice snippet from Senate Estimates earlier today.
It involves the case of the missing Obama mugs, and Labor Senator John Faulkner.
When the US President visited - about 200 mugs had to be thrown out because Obama's name was misspelled.
I'll let my informant take up the tale:
John Faulkner asked the Department of Parliamentary Services about the destruction of mugs that got President Obama’s name wrong.
All but two of the mugs were apparently crushed and used in a concrete pour within the building.
Senator Faulkner talked about the "mafia style execution of the mugs" and put this rather chilling question to the DPS Deputy Secretary.
You haven’t buried any other mistakes have you, Mr Kenny?
5.15pm: Thanks for joining in.
Some of you are a bit rude to share.
The Pulse is a family show.
@murpharoo I thought he looked sincere.I felt very sorry for him.Guilty or innocent, how he's been treated is a disgrace.— Mrs Rockoyster (@mrsrockoyster) May 21, 2012
@murpharoo An abuse of parliamentary privilege.— Lyndsay Farlow (@LyndsayFarlow) May 21, 2012
@murpharoo a desparate man with nothing to lose— Frank Wimpy (@FrankWimpy) May 21, 2012
5.10pm: I've asked for thoughts about the day's events on Twitter.
You have mixed views.
Sympathy for Mr Thomson.
Frustration with the media.
Potential lines of new inquiry for enterprising reporters.
Many of you not buying Mr Thomson's version of events.
Keep them coming.
It's good to hear what you make of things.
5.05pm: The verdict from shadow attorney-general, George Brandis.
In summary, Mr Thomson’s version of events:
4.48pm: Hang on.
What about my right of reply?
(Yes, sorry. Joking. Will stop now.)
4.47pm: Woo hoo, says Mr Pyne.
Give that lady a right of reply!
That was a joke.
4.46pm: Kathy Jackson says she will be seeking a right of reply in the parliament.
4.45pm: Ms Jackson continues:
I have not set up Craig Thomson.
Whatever has happened to Craig Thomson has happened because of Craig Thomson.
4.35pm: Mr Thomson's former HSU colleague, Kathy Jackson, has now found the cameras.
Mr Thomson's account of events today was a complete fantasy she says.
Today was another delusional performance by Craig Thomson.
Mr Thomson is desperate and he will say anything.
I think the pressure is getting to him.
Ms Jackson suggests the Victorian Police won't have a hope of accessing workable security footage from the brothels Mr Thomson has alleged to have visited.
They aren't banks, they don't keep things for seven years.
4.30pm: And here is Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie.
A declaration of peace.
His statement in full.
I think the Craig Thomson saga stinks. But my personal view is largely irrelevant. According to the principles of natural justice he’s innocent until proven guilty and entitled to a fair hearing. So unless the findings against him have been tested in a properly constituted court, where he has the opportunity to defend himself, we must accord him the presumption of innocence no matter how much that grates.
Moreover according to the Constitution Craig Thomson is eligible to remain in the Parliament until and unless he’s found guilty of a criminal offence punishable by a year or more imprisonment.
If his circumstances or any other issue highlights shortfalls in that provision then the Parliament needs to consider seeking to change it. In fact it could reasonably be argued Craig Thomson has the right to remain in the Parliament free of intimidation, if only by virtue of the Crimes Act 1914 Section 28 which imposes a penalty of three year’s imprisonment for interfering with political liberty.
Frankly the Parliament isn’t a court and for it to think it’s judge and jury when dealing with Craig Thomson would be entirely improper.
What the Parliament should now focus on is restoring the trust and respect of the Australian community.
Yes, there is widespread and understandable concern with the controversy surrounding Craig Thomson. But there’s much more concern with all the grand political game-playing going on right now. And there’s much greater interest in the Government getting on and running the country well, and in the Opposition showing it’s a credible alternative.
4.25pm: Independent Tony Windsor is on television now.
Mr Windsor says Mr Thomson told him most of what he said in parliament when he met him ten days or so ago. So no shocks today.
Any recourse on this has to take place through the judicial system.
I think due process should take place.
Mr Windsor won't be using his vote in other words to take action against Mr Thomson.
Mr Windsor is suggesting however, perhaps we need to broaden the criteria for when MPs have to exit politics.
Maybe we have to draw some more lines.
4.20pm: One that deserves recording in full.
Independent Bob Katter, on the Thomson statement, via his media spokeswoman.
In response to media inquiries regarding Bob’s reaction to Mr Thomson’s speech, please see the following statement:
“We think everyone will tread more carefully as a result of the disclosures on the internecine warfare of the HSU and the allegations raised concerning his opponents in the HSU”.
Please note than Bob will not be commenting, at present, in more detail on this matter.
4.10pm: Marco Bolano - the HSU man Mr Thomson alleges once threatened to destroy his career - is now addressing reporters.
Mr Bolano says Mr Thomson is:
Drowning in a river of delusion.
Mr Bolano says he had a confrontation with Mr Thomson's half brother several years ago about a demarcation dispute.
But there were no threats, Mr Bolano says.
There was some colourful language. The essence was (Mr Thomson) was dishonourable and dishonest.
But nothing about "hookers" or "setting him up with hookers".
He says Mr Thomson should face whatever consequences apply for misleading the parliament.
3.55pm: I think it's fair to conclude that Mr Thomson is glad all that is over.
3.50pm: Now just quickly, some translation, for those who don't normally follow parliamentary procedure politics closely.
What on earth was that last couple of hours about?
Here's Liberal Steve Ciobo, boiling it down too:
Labor has gagged discussion of the Craig Thomson statement twice today.— steveciobo (@steveciobo) May 21, 2012
3.31pm: Silly me, Question Time and the aftermath is NOT over.
The Liberal MP Craig Kelly stands up to refute allegations from Mr Albanese raised earlier, in the procedural skirmish a couple of hours ago, concerning matters to be considered by the privileges committee.
Mr Kelly no sooner sits back down, when Mr Pyne stands up, and claims a moral majority.
Mr Pyne is trying to suspend standing orders again. (Yes we didn't get the absolute majority, but what about the will of the parliament? Lots of folks voted for the debate.)
No, says Acting Speaker Burke.
Nice try Christopher, but no banana.
3.30pm: Acting Speaker Anna Burke rises in her chair.
The question was not carried by an absolute majority of members.
So that's it for the political debate about the Thomson statement.
Question Time is over.
Defending him to the last, Joe Hockey shouts.
Careful, suggests Acting Speaker Burke.
Best you respect the standing orders.
3.20pm: The results of the division are:
The question is therefore negated and lost.
Ms Bishop seconded Mr Pyne's motion and reserved her right to speak.
Mr Albanese is on his feet trying to talk this back, and talk down the clock.
MPs wearing out shoe leather, back and forth across the chamber.
3.15pm: The gag arrives in any case.
Mr Albanese moves Mr Pyne be no longer heard.
The House is dividing now.
3.05pm: Just as well we got that photo published!
Here's Mr Pyne moving the suspension of the standing orders.
The House must have the opportunity to consider Mr Thomson's statement.
Gag, or no gag.
3.01pm: Regulars to the live blog know Pulse eyes Andrew Meares never misses a trick.
Here is Liberal Sophie Mirabella, after she was told to exit the chamber.
2.55pm: Liberal Julie Bishop asks Workplace Minister Bill Shorten what action he will take to ensure HSU members will be looked after.
Mr Shorten says the allegations still have to be tested in court.
This parliament should not be judge and jury.
2.50pm: While the Opposition persists with Mr Thomson in Question Time, the Seven Network has denied that any of its reporters hovered under a window at Craig Thomson's house while his wife was having a shower (as per the MPs statement to parliament this morning).
Here's a network spokesman:
2.46pm: Now the Opposition has reached Mr Thomson.
Mr Swan is recounting past problems with Liberal MPs.
(Looks like those right left hook combinations will continue.)
Mr Swan says at a time when the global economy wobbles, the Leader of the Opposition has got the mud-bucket out.
His model of leadership is bring back the biff, Mr Swan says.
Problem is when you bring back the biff, people get hurt.
2.45pm: While Question Time winds down the path, here are the first thoughts of our commentators on the Thomson statement.
Lenore Taylor, national affairs correspondent at The Sydney Morning Herald.
Pretty unseemly day, all in all:
We saw little judgment on judgment day.
We are no closer to the proper authorities casting judgment on Mr Thomson.
And while not casting final judgment upon him, the parliament did not pause to think about the human consequences of ''witch hunts'', even as Mr Thomson broke down before them while talking about the impact of the whole affair on his wife, who was watching his hour-long speech from the gallery.
Instead they proceeded to cast as much mud as possible against each other.
2.40pm: The Opposition has swerved away from the carbon tax and debt to boat people.
Why do all these boats keep coming, asks Liberal Scott Morrison.
They go up, they go down, Mr Swan says of boat arrivals.
Don't talk about trends until we have one, Mr Swan says.
Liberal Sophie Mirabella has been shown the door.
2.35pm: I am Acting Prime Minister.
Hear me roar.
2.28pm: Kevin Rudd.
It is that kind of day.
We love families.
Tony Abbott in Question Time a minute ago.
2.20pm: Whipping through now.
A Dorothy Dixer on Greece and global financial turmoil.
Opposition question on the victims of Cyclone Yasi being slugged by the carbon tax.
Now a Dorothy Dixer to Families Minister Jenny Macklin on spreading the benefits of the mining boom.
A supplementary question from Labor's most marginal seat holder, Darren Cheeseman, on the theme of when will my constituents get all that nice money from the Budget. Minister Macklin is suggesting in her answer that Liberals don't like families.
Now here's the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, on global financial turmoil. Isn't now the worst possible time to be imposing the world's biggest carbon tax?
Mr Swan says the Opposition is talking the economy down, and taking a stick to confidence.
2.08pm: Opposition leader Tony Abbott opens the batting on the carbon tax.
Why don't your ads on the clean energy package actually mention the carbon tax, Mr Abbott asks?
Mr Swan declines to answer the question.
He swerves to the family assistance package.
Mr Swan says he understands Mr Abbott is uncomfortable that the government is giving help to pensioners and families.
But what is the compensation for, Mr Abbott persists.
Price rises, Mr Swan says, declining to utter the words carbon tax.
That which cannot speak it's name, Mr Abbott observes.
The carbon price will have an impact on prices in the economy, Mr Swan says.
2.00pm: Here's Question Time.
No Prime Minister. No Minister for Defence. They are at NATO in Chicago.
Treasurer Wayne Swan in the hot seat.
1.55pm: Thanks to the ABC's Sam Hawley for these Tweets.
Mr Bolano, the HSU colleague Mr Thomson alleged made threats against him, says this:
Marco Bolano "I do not intend to dignify Mr Thomson’s fantastic and dishonest claims with a detailed response. "— samantha hawley (@samanthahawley) May 21, 2012
Marco Bolano" Any suggestion that I conspired to set up Mr. Thomson... is utterly false and an abuse of his parliamentary privileges. "— samantha hawley (@samanthahawley) May 21, 2012
1.50pm: I suspect this chap will feature for much of the afternoon.
In the meantime, here's Jessie Wright's breaking news report from the Thomson statement.
1.45pm: The Thomson debate has settled for now.
Question Time looms.
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey is thundering about Labor raising the debt ceiling.
Don't wander off.
We'll be reporting Question Time live shortly.
1.40pm: Mr Albanese is alleging that Mr Kelly has an association with a company that may have been trading while insolvent.
He says Mr Kelly may have been practising as a solicitor while an MP.
Mr Pyne is trying to object, but Acting Speaker Anna Burke is letting it go.
But she asks Mr Albanese to write to the committee, in accordance with normal prodecure.
1.35pm: The result of the vote on Mr Albanese's second attempt to gag political debate on Mr Thomson's statement was:
The no's had it.
But Mr Albanese has managed to run down the clock.
The time for the debate has now expired.
Now Mr Pyne says he has written to the Privileges Committee about Mr Thomson's failure to declare his legal expenses.
But Labor's not letting it lie.
Mr Albanese now wants to refer Liberal Craig Kelly to the Privileges Committee.
Mr Albanese says Mr Kelly has failed to declare directorships of companies.
Mr Pyne is trying to shut this down.
Tit for tat.
They are slugging this out point by point.
1.25pm: While we wait for the count, here is Mr Thomson.
Overcome by emotion at the end of his hour long statement.
1.18pm: Mr Albanese's effort to gag the parliamentary debate on Mr Thomson's statement failed 66 to 71.
Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop is now ploughing on with the political debate.
Ms Bishop says Mr Thomson's speech was more like a valedictory than a rebuttal of the serious allegations against him.
Mr Albanese is now moving that Ms Bishop be no longer heard.
1.06pm: Labor's Anthony Albanese argues this motion should not proceed because Mr Thomson's speech is not documented.
He moves that Mr Pyne be no longer heard.
The House is dividing on this point now.
1.05pm: Liberal Christopher Pyne is now moving a motion to suspend the standing orders so parliament can consider Mr Thomson's statement.
There is a substantial procedural argument going on now.
12.58pm: Mr Thomson says commentators need to disclose when they are players, not simply reporters.
He says the allegations have impacted his mental health.
We should never be in this situation again.
A situation where a person is not entitled to the presumption of innocence.
This is damaging for democracy.
He says Tony Abbott is unfit to be a Prime Minister, unfit to be an MP.
Are we having parliament ruled by the mob?
Mr Thomson winds up now, wiping away tears.
A small smattering of applause.
12.55pm: Mr Thomson is now turning to the press.
There are many good people in the media.
Senior journalists Phillip Coorey, Simon Benson, Laurie Oakes, Latika Bourke, some others.
He says what you don't expect from journalists is the twelve stories written in the Fairfax press without coming to me for comment.
You don't expect Seven Network reporters hovering under your window while your pregnant wife is having a shower.
Mr Thomson breaks up in tears at this point.
He's struggling to get control of his emotions.
Mr Thomson makes this observation:
There is a great responsibility in reporting.
You need to take that seriously.
12.50pm: Reports from the chamber suggest Independent Bob Katter is ... asleep.
12.46pm: Mr Thomson says the union has not asked him to repay allegedly mis-spent money.
He suggests Ms Jackson has been more interested in talking to the media than anyone else, odd for a whistleblower.
This exercise is about getting someone, not about anything else.
12.45pm: Mr Thomson seems to be arguing that he might be a victim of identity theft.
This is about his phone.
Phone records that suggest he was in proximity to the escort agencies.
If you are looking to set someone up, it's a very easy process.
12.40pm: Mr Thomson says he's today contacted the Victorian Police.
He says he's urged them to look at the footage from the escort agencies.
Mr Thomson says he told FWA to examine the footage, but they didn't, because it didn't fit their story.
12.35pm: Mr Thomson says a recent investigation by the Australian Electoral Commission has blown a hole in the FWA investigation.
(The AEC found his expenditure was within the disclosure guidelines)
He's now defending the cash withdrawals he is alleged to have made at the HSU.
He says the cash withdrawals were accounted for in the unions records.
Mr Thomson says if those records have disappeared, he can't be held responsible for that.
Now of prostitutes.
He says he didn't do it.
He had enemies in the HSU.
There were threats.
Mr Thomson says a particular threat was made by Marco Bolano (the deputy secretary of the HSU).
He says Mr Bolano's threat started in Kathy Jackson's office.
He says many people witnessed the threat.
Mr Thomson said a record was made of the threat.
Mr Thomson says he could not have made the visits to escort agencies because he was elsewhere.
He says journalists have made assumptions, not reported facts.
12.30pm: Here's Mr Thomson a moment ago captured by Andrew Meares, ranging widely, naming names.
12.20pm: Mr Thomson is unloading on Ms Jackson.
A range of allegations. Car and childcare allegedly paid for by the union. Overseas travel.
She doesn't come to this issue with clean hands, he says.
Now Fair Work Australia.
Of the report.
I've seen in many articles the word forensic.
Mr Thomson says the definition of forensic speaks of science and law. In their own words FWA says it is not bound by the rules of evidence.
The Director of Public Prosecutions said the report it produced wasn't a brief of evidence.
He says the FWA report was selective and biased.
Mr Thomson says he sought the removal of Terry Nassios, the author of the report.
He says they only interviewed him once, two years ago.
He says Kathy Jackon's partner is second in charge at FWA.
12.15pm: Mr Thomson defends his record as a parliamentarian, delivering for his electorate of Dobell.
He is now recounting his time at the HSU.
It was a union dominated by factional in-fighting.
There weren't clear rules.
Mr Thomson says he tightened and clarified the rules.
He says he cleaned up the union's finances. He says he created a finance committee to approve budgets.
Mr Thomson says the HSU gave broad powers to the person who was secretary.
If your modus operandi was about ripping off, you wouldn't do that, he says.
You wouldn't do that if you were seeking to avoid scrutiny.
We came from a position of absolute zero.
The HSU was a work in progress.
You have to ask who was not happy with this?
The NSW Branch and the Victorian Branch.
He says he was approached by colleagues Kathy Jackson and Michael Williamson.
Why don't you collect your salary and do nothing, they said to him.
12.10pm: Here's what pressure looks like.
Mr Thomson begins his statement.
12.05pm: Mr Thomson says the public may have concluded he is guilty.
He says he's not guilty.
Mr Thomson attacks the media, now dominated by self-important commentators.
He says the reporting has not been fair.
Noon: Go cut your wrists or better still, hang yourself.
Craig Thomson opens with his statement.
You are dead, a bullet between the eyes will save taxpayers money.
These are the types of emails letters and phone calls to my staff, he says.
Mr Thomson says:
11.58am: Mr Thomson has entered the chamber.
11.45am: Eyes of The Pulse, Andrew Meares, is positioned now in the House of Representatives chamber ready to go.
Here is Mr Thomson's seat in parliament, waiting for his entrance.
Very soon now folks.
Grab some provisions.
We'll be reporting this live.
11.35am: Now a quick herogram to a couple of young press gallery colleagues.
My Age colleague Richard Willingham has been along this morning to the awarding of the Wallace Brown Young Achiever Award.
Anna Caldwell from The Courier Mail.
AAP’s Lisa Martin was highly commended.
This award honours the memory of Wallace Brown, also from the Courier-Mail, who was one of the Press Gallery’s longest-serving and most respected journalists, and a great mentor to young reporters.
Ms Caldwell receives a $1000 cheque and a specially commissioned handcrafted work of art by international glass artist Kirstie Rea.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr presented the award and before handing out the prize said that he was worried about the decline in newspapers, which he says is the most important form of journalism.
Senator Carr said hoped that newspaper circulation would rise again and become profitable.
11.30am: For Pulsers who want a recap of the Fair Work Australia investigation and findings against Mr Thomson, you can find the full report and all the relevant correspondence here.
11.10am: Of course the normal business of parliament goes on today.
Labor's Andrew Leigh.
Speaking in about 15min in the House of Reps about the strength of the Australian economy, and importance of ongoing reform.— Andrew Leigh (@ALeighMP) May 21, 2012
Senate estimates has also sprung into life.
Here, for example, is Chloe Munro, chair of the Gillard Government's clean energy regulator, giving evidence to the Senate committee.
11.00am: Mr Thomson has always denied the allegations against him.
Recently he suggested a colleague, or colleagues, in the HSU had threatened to set him up with explosive allegations that could ruin his career in federal politics.
Simon Benson, The Daily Telegraph's National Political Editor, predicts Mr Thomson will use his speech today to name Marco Bolano, deputy secretary of the HSU, as being the person who threatened seven years ago to bring him down.
Mr Thomson told Benson:
He is the guy who threatened to ruin my political career by setting me up with prostitutes.
Mr Bolano has described this allegation from Mr Thomson as nonsense.
10.45am: Mr Thomson faces not only the pressure of making his statement to parliament this morning.
Fairfax Media, publisher of this live politics blog, is also asking the MP to correct false evidence he gave to Fair Work Australia during their investigation of his alleged activity at the Health Services Union.
This morning's news report from The Sydney Morning Herald's Kate McClymont and Phillip Coorey takes up the story.
In 2009 Mr Thomson sued Fairfax over articles alleging that Mr Thomson had used Health Services Union money on prostitutes and cash withdrawals.
When those allegations were investigated by FWA, Mr Thomson indicated to FWA he had settled the defamation case by accepting a settlement offer from Fairfax as ''winning would not have been great publicity either''.
He also told the workplace regulator that Fairfax had settled because he had been able to prove he wasn't at the brothels on the dates his credit cards were used and that Fairfax had hired a handwriting expert who concluded Mr Thomson's signature had been forged.
The statements … made by you to FWA were false, the publisher said in a legal letter to Mr Thomson.
Fairfax is extremely concerned that you have deliberately misled FWA in relation to the statements made by you … and the circumstances leading to the settlement of the proceedings brought by you.
10.30am: Craig ... who, the sequel.
Julia Gillard has some advice to the reporters with her in the United States.
Talk to the hand.
Here is the Prime Minister, talking to reporters in Chicago:
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on a matter back home, Craig Thomson’s speech to Parliament today, do you think he’s going to convince (inaudible) will you invite Craig Thomson back to the Labor Party (inaudible)
PRIME MINISTER: Look, I’ve dealt with all of these questions in almost every iteration imaginable before I left Australia and so I'll leave it at that. My focus here is on the summit and associated meetings.
PRIME MINISTER: Look, I dealt with that question very directly when I was back in Australia so my focus here is on the work associated with the summit.
JOURNALIST: What about once he’s spoken, will you be speaking to us them about your response?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, my focus is on the work I need to do here. Obviously I'll be returning to Australia for the second half of the parliamentary week.
JOURNALIST: Do you urge him not to name names in this statement, because that could open the prospect of giving people the right of reply?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, I’m not engaging with these matters half a world away and Mr Thomson's statement is a matter for Mr Thomson.
PRIME MINISTER: Look, my focus is on the very important work I've got to do here on Afghanistan, the work of the summit.
10.15am: Craig ... who?
Prime Minister Julia Gillard is out of town for today's statement.
She's in Chicago.
10.00am: Let's kick off with Tim Lester's Breaking Politics video.
Tim will take you through the papers and preview the events of today. He suggests, correctly, Mr Thomson's statement is unlikely to end the controversy.
PLEASE TURN OFF THE AUTO-REFRESH BEFORE PLAYING THIS VIDEO
I hear Majorca is good this time of the year.— timwattsau (@timwattsau) May 20, 2012
9.50am: No, we are sure Mr Thomson is down in his parliamentary office, polishing.
if i were craig thomson, right now i'd be wearing a fake moustache and drinking scotch on a flight to cuba— Chris Berg (@chrisberg) May 20, 2012
9.45am: CHECK THE BROTHEL TAPES.
Yes, that's the front page headline of Sydney's Daily Telegraph.
Hope you are all strapped in for a colourful day in federal politics.
Welcome back Pulsers.
Labor backbencher Craig Thomson will make his statement to Parliament around noon.