The view from Canberra today

Craig Thomson

It’s really very fortunate Craig Thomson has “stomach pain”.

With Parliaments captivation over the particulars of his gut, he’s awfully blessed, not to have explosive diarrhoea. Or an impacted testicle. Or contagious halitosis.

Labor MP Craig Thomson – aka. that bloke accused of using a union credit card to entertain ladies of the night – has a sore tummy and can’t come to work. He has a medical certificate and everything.

But the Opposition’s accusing him of chucking a national-news-worthy sickie.

Senator Joyce kicked off the Sitting week with his take;

“There’s a suggestion that the illness that Mr. Thompson is currently suffering, has a lot to do with his previous experience with a credit card,” he shook his head with great concern. Whatever could one catch from a credit card Senator?

Perhaps Mr Thomson is running from the Fair Work Australia investigation or maybe he really does have a busted gut.  Either way, even politicians are allowed a sick day now and then, aren’t they?

Not if you’re working in a Hung Parliament – where every single vote counts. Just about the only people that have been allowed to take the day off work, have been giving birth. It’s nigh impossible to fake the medical certificate on that one.

The House of Reps has been the ball and chain to all Members since the 2010 election. With the numbers so tight, every possible member needs to be available for every single vote. Day or night. Trying to gulp some fresh air after 14 hours locked in your office is a perilous task. If one person doesn’t show when the bells ring throughout the House, the government could lose a vote on the floor of Parliament.

If, for example, you are pushing a child out of your body, the opposing side will relent, and offer you a “pair”, promising that one of their own won’t vote either, making all fair in love and Parliament.

The Coalition is becoming far less charitable with their Pairs. They know they’re not obliged. There’s no rule. So when a really important vote comes up, they have the power to make it a tough day for the Government.

Last week, Craig Thomson admitted himself to hospital in Canberra. He got a medical certificate saying he had abdominal pain and needed the following week off work

The Opposition gave him one day.

Chief Opposition Whip Warren Entsch assumed the role of Chief Opposition Physician and queried why Craig Thomson was still so… undiagnosed.

“If in fact the pain continues then I would expect him to get a second opinion,” he said, because, in his Warren Entsch’s opinion, a medical certificate from the week before does not apply.


“I mean tummy aches can come and go. We don’t know.” Mr Entsch decided it was probably just constipation. Well, that’s sorted then. Thank you for the diagnosis Dr Entsch

It started a day of headache inducing arguments.

The enraged AMA leapt to Craig Thomson’s defence saying a medical certificate is a legal document and shouldn’t be questioned.

An Emeritus Professor of General Practice, Max Kamien, argued that doctors are sick of being used as administrators for workplace payrolls.

Senator Bob Brown warned the Opposition, “As a former medical practitioner I would say question medical certificates at your peril.”

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon wondered if we were prepared for what lay at the end of this…. bumpy, path.

“Do we really want to know if an honorable member has a bad case of haemorrhoids for instance?” he said.

Christopher Pyne defended the Opposition’s actions.

“I simply note that Mr Thomson had appendicitis last August. Apparently he had appendicitis last Tuesday,” he said.

“And we’d like to know before we grant a pair that he has a genuine medical ongoing condition.”

Labor MP Nick Champion called the Opposition “extraordinarily petty”.

Anthony Albanese used his favourite quote to describe Tony Abbott “In your guts you know he’s nuts.”

So, is that what’s troubling Craig’s tum?

As it turns out, the Opposition was willing to accept a medical certificate that’s turned out to be more vague than the first.

Late on Monday, Craig Thomson handed in a new certificate that says he is; “Unwell from a medical condition and not fit for work duties for at least 5 days.”

And now the Opposition has agreed to give Mr Thomson the rest of this week off.

What!?? All that…??? Forget it.

Never fear, there was some work being done in parliament yesterday.At 10.32pm the Senate voted 38-32 to pass the Minerals Resource Rent Tax into law. The Opposition is already threatening to challenge it in the High Court.

Ahh politics.

Lauren Dubois is Mamamia’s Canberra-based political contributor. You can follow her on Twitter here.

00:00 / ???