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FWA has acknowledged that “it is possible” that legal action could be taken against Thomson but no decision has been made “at this time” (see below). One might be excused for asking why not! Will businesses that are judged by FWA to have offended under the legislation be able to excuse themselves by using this as a precedent?

Note also that, as when Jac Nasser strongly protested about the workplace relations arrangements, the ABC morning news (Radio) did not report at all the fact that Health Unionists have been charged by FWA, albeit for possible miniscule penalties. Which union controls the ABC?

Des Moore

Self-interest has been put ahead of principles
Extract from letters published in The Australian, 24 May 2012

THE Craig Thomson saga will go down in the annals of Australian political history as one of the sorriest to grace the parliament. It will be remembered for the time when the government of the day put self-interest ahead of principles.

It is a sad indictment of Fair Work Australia's report that the party that established that body now has little interest in taking action in relation to the report. This represents a vote of no confidence in the report and in FWA.

Peter D. Surkitt, Hampton, Vic

ON Monday, Fair Work Australia, the body created by Julia Gillard, was subjected to accusations of bias and selectivity by Labor MP Craig Thomson in whom Gillard had, until recently, expressed confidence.

Thomson also accused fellow union officials of various wrongs designed to undermine him. Separately, a vice-president of FWA told the NSW Industrial Relations Society that the system needs changes.

Ministers say that no opinion can be given on Thomson's statements until accusations of corrupt use of union money have been decided in court. Nor, it seems, can FWA respond to its accuser even though one of its officials wrote an 1100 word report on the matter.

Yet the absence from parliament of many government MPs during Thomson's speech suggests they had already reached a verdict and the subsequent rejection of Thomson's assertions by accused unionists, along with widespread disbelief elsewhere, suggests Thomson delivered a verdict on himself.

Des Moore, South Yarra, Vic

FWA may force MP to stump up cash
Ean Higgins, The Australian, 24 May 2012

FAIR Work Australia could take legal action against Craig Thomson, seeking not just fines but compensation and requiring him to pay back up to $500,000 he allegedly rorted from the Health Services Union when he was national secretary.

The development came as FWA launched its case in the Federal Court seeking fines and compensation against three officials of the failed HSU Victoria No 1 branch.

In a statement last night, FWA general manager Bernadette O'Neill identified the three as former secretary Jeff Jackson, former assistant secretary Shaun Hudson, and former president Pauline Fegan.

Although Mr Thomson is not involved in the HSU No 1 branch action, the fact that compensation is being sought means FWA could potentially take the same approach to the Labor-turned-independent MP when it brings actions against him in the Federal Court.

"Yes it is possible, but no decision has been made in this regard at this time," FWA spokeswoman Judy Hughes said.

The NSW Labor Party was, until recently, covering Mr Thomson's substantial legal bills -- said to be of the order of $200,000 -- to prevent him from going bankrupt and thus being disqualified from parliament.

The second implication is that FWA, damaged by the length of time its investigations of the HSU took, is moving relatively fast in bringing the parties to court.

If Ms O'Neill moves as quickly in relation to the investigation into the HSU national office as she did with the Victoria No 1 branch, an action against Mr Thomson could be filed as early as July.

Ms Hughes said solicitors had been engaged and documentation prepared for the action against Mr Thomson, and added: "There is no set timeframe but this is a more substantial exercise than that involving the Victoria No 1 branch."

That branch was declared dysfunctional by the Federal Court in 2009 following a bitter factional battle between supporters of Mr Jackson and those of Ms Fegan, and ultimately merged with the NSW branch to form HSU East.

In March, FWA released a 141-page report which made a scathing assessment of the branch, saying it paid only "lip service" to financial regulations.

Investigator Terry Nassios made the most damaging findings against Mr Jackson, saying he had repeatedly breached union rules on financial management.

"I am seeking the imposition of pecuniary penalties for eight contraventions of civil penalty provisions by the HSU, for two contraventions of civil penalty provisions by Ms Fegan on two occasions, for 10 contraventions of civil penalty provisions by Mr Jackson and for six contraventions of civil penalty provisions by Mr Hudson," Ms O'Neill said in a statement.

"I am also seeking orders requiring Mr Jackson and Mr Hudson to pay compensation for what is alleged to be unauthorised expenditure of HSU funds."

The maximum possible penalties that could be imposed by the court, should it grant all of the orders being sought, are $88,000 against the HSU, $4400 against Ms Fegan, $22,000 against Mr Jackson and $13,200 against Mr Hudson. The Victoria No 1 matter is listed for directions in Melbourne on 25 June.

Just answer the question, Prime Minister
Dennis Shanahan, Political editor, The Australian, 24 May 2012

THERE is a fundamental question Julia Gillard must answer if she is to deal with the political disaster of Craig Thomson.

The Prime Minister says she has answered it, but she hasn't and it is likely she never will . . . because she can't.

To give a complete answer to the question, Gillard has to admit to flawed judgments, base political motivation and an unsustainable political logic. Yet a complete answer on the travails of Thomson is what the public wants, and is probably Labor's only hope of ending the damaging affair.

The question that must be answered is: why is the Prime Minister prepared to expel Craig Thomson from the Labor government caucus in "disgust" and refuse to have him as the Labor candidate for Dobell at the next election, yet claim she's not acting as a "judge and jury"?

Why is it that Thomson is not good enough - based on "crossing a line" that Gillard found unacceptable - to be a Labor MP, and yet he continues to be politically protected and an integral part of Labor's parliamentary control?

The real answer to the question is political survival and holding on to power.

But Gillard's purported answers are full of political righteousness, ambiguity, obfuscation and delusional denial. In parliament, Gillard claims to have answered the question previously. That is simply not true. She never has, and she continues to duck the issue, leaving government leader Anthony Albanese to act the parliamentary thug and gag debate.

Even independent MP Rob Oakeshott wants Gillard to have a "conversation" with the public in the interests of restoring confidence in parliament.

Gillard had a choice early on in the whole sorry saga of allegations of misuse of $500,000 in union fees, some of it after Thomson became the member for Dobell, as to whether the Labor government and party would stick by him, give him the full presumption of innocence and stay the course.

Instead, Gillard fell between two stools. Labor waited too long to distance itself from Thomson's plight, then acted in ill-considered haste, which has trapped the party's leadership. Facing almost unprecedented public anger towards parliament, Gillard dumped Thomson and put her preferred Speaker, Peter Slipper, into suspended animation.

Gillard, who went out of her way to take credit for dumping Thomson as an act of strong leadership, can't take the final step and distance the government completely from him because she needs his vote to ensure it stays afloat. Nor can she bring herself to say she supports her own creation, Fair Work Australia, which delivered the damning findings against Thomson.

As Deputy Speaker Anna Burke does a heroic job every day with diminishing authority to act as a real Speaker in a hung parliament, Gillard's political intransigence just makes it worse for Labor.

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