Craig Thomson’s quit the ALP, and as this Joker flutters to the floor, it’s any wonder Julia’s House of Cards is still standing.
For months, Julia Gillard has been telling us: “I have complete confidence in the Member for Dobell. I look forward to him continuing to do that job for a very long, long time to come,” … very carefully placing her cards, holding her breath, trying not to slip.
She’s slipped. Slipper-ed even. (I promise no more puns).
Slipper, with his Cabcharge fraud allegations and sexual harassment case, was a headache the Prime Minister didn’t need. She even admitted, last week, that she “didn’t really know” Mr Slipper personally (sub-text: but he saved us a vote. I would’ve installed Beelzebub himself if I had to). She was desperate and he was dodgy. Recipe for disaster.
As that card tumbled, the PM had to concede her foundation was perilous. So she’s finally folded and admitted that Craig Thomson and his prostitute-hiring credit card brings an air of odium to the Labor Party.
Thomson’s been told to skedaddle and to give the PM some breathing space. He’s quit the ALP to become an independent MP, but he’ll still vote with the Government.
“I do believe a line has been crossed here and because a line has been crossed, I have acted,” Julia Gillard said in a press conference today.
Just exactly what this line is, and why it’s been crossed now (and not in the past few years that Thomson has been the subject of this investigation) wasn’t up for discussion.
What did appear to spur the PM into action was the public outrage. It seems, dear readers, your anger can’t be ignored anymore.
“I have felt very sharply the judgments and concerns of the Australian people,” she said.
Julia Gillard says the whole debacle has cast a shadow over Parliament House.
“I feel keenly that Australians are looking at this Parliament and at the moment they see a dark cloud over it. I want to ensure that Australians can look at this building, look at this institution, and feel respect for this institution.”
Thomson told the media it was a joint decision…. And he’ll be back.
“I spoke with the Prime Minister last night and we agreed … that it was the appropriate thing to do,” he said.
“I then rang (NSW Labor Party general secretary) Sam Dastyari and I asked that he suspend my membership of the Labor Party while these matters are dealt with.
“I’m very confident that at some stage in the near future I will be ringing Sam and saying these matters have now been resolved and I’m coming back to the Labor caucus.”
So will this shuffle from the Labor backbench to the crossbench – a good 20 metres or so – put enough distance between the Government Frontbench and the Thomson stink? Especially when it’s not permanent and he’ll still be voting the way he always has?
Perhaps not, so the Prime Minister’s distanced herself from Peter Slipper as well, telling him not to come back to the Speaker’s Chair until all his legal issues are sorted.
Slipper had been told he could come back to work if the criminal charges, related to the Cabcharge dockets, were sorted. But the PM now says he needs to be cleared of the sexual harassment charges too.
So Slipper’s in the naughty corner for a little bit longer. A fully paid up naughty corner – continuing to earn his full salary of $323,750 p.a. to do exactly nothing. Boo hoo.
Meanwhile, Tony Abbott’s sounding as confident as ever. The more grievous the ALP situation, the less negative Tony Abbott sounds – mostly because he sounds completely reasonable when saying things like: “If Mr Slipper isn’t voting until the allegations against him are fully resolved, Mr Thomson shouldn’t vote until the allegations against him are fully and completely resolved.”
It’s at the point where even the staunchest ALP supporter has to acknowledge the Government is sickly. So when Tony Abbott says something like this:
“In the end, this is not, as the Prime Minister claimed, about the integrity of the parliament. What she did today was not to secure the integrity and the repute of the parliament, this is basically to shore up her numbers. What we saw today is a Prime Minister who has no vision for Australia. Her only vision is for her own survival.
I know there are lots of Australians at the moment who are feeling embarrassed about our political situation, who, frankly, are feeling ashamed of the spectacle that this Prime Minister and this government are making of itself.
I want to reassure every Australian in that situation that we are a great country and a great people being badly let down by a truly awful government. There is a better way. The Coalition stands ready to give the Australian people the hope, reward and opportunity that they yearn for and deserve, but really, the only way right now to restore integrity to our parliament, to restore the reputation of our polity, is for this sad and sorry parliament to be dissolved and for there to be a new election.”
Well, that sounds like an alternate leader of this country.
And with our current leader frantically stacking her cards and counting her numbers … just one little puff from the Opposition, and the whole house could collapse.
As the PM said during her presser in response to a journalist: “Nice try, but sooner or later you’ve got to hit the facts of things rather than just come and make things up, I didn’t realise we were operating a pack of fiction writers in the press gallery, I thought we had journalists interested in the facts, so let’s go through the facts”
- Craig Thomson is being investigated by Fair Work Australia for misusing union funds.
- It’s claimed he spent more than $100,000 (money taken from the union dues paid by hospital workers) on “personal” purchases including prostitutes and escorts.
- The charges were made while he was the National Secretary of the Health Services Union.
- The investigation has been running for four years – Craig Thomson said today: “This is a matter that has gone on for about four years and it’s gone on too long. I’ve had two baby girls in the time this investigation has gone ahead.”
- Craig Thomson is maintaining his innocence.
- Peter Slipper is accused of handing out blank cabcharge dockets to a driver in Sydney, along with several other travel related rorts.
- Peter Slipper is also accused of sexually harassing his Media Adviser James Ashby.
- Labor now has 70 MPs in the House of Reps
- The Coalition has 71 MPs
- There are 8 Independents
- 4 Independents support Labor, 2 support the Coalition and 1 (Wilkie) is currently swinging. Peter Slipper cannot currently vote at all.
- Deputy Speaker Anna Burke is a Labor MP and will be able to cast a deciding vote if the house is divided 74-74.
So, do you think the PM has done enough? How do you think these cases have been handled by the Government?
Lauren Dubois is Mamamia’s Canberra-based political contributor. You can follow her on Twitter here.