Australia avoids scandal over lawmaker

2011-09-08 13:23
Canberra - A scandal that threatened to bring down the Australian government eased on Thursday when police announced they would not charge a lawmaker accused of misusing an official credit card to pay prostitutes.

A conviction for theft or fraud against lawmaker Craig Thomson would have forced him to quit Parliament and cost Prime Minister Julia Gillard's year-old government its single-seat majority. With opinion polls showing the government has become deeply unpopular, observers agree that the ruling Labour Party would have little hope of retaining Thomson's seat in an ensuing by-election.

The New South Wales Police Force said in a statement on Thursday that there was no basis for a criminal investigation.

Thomson released a statement after the decision saying he had "always rejected claims of wrongdoing in these matters".

The allegations, first raised by a Sydney newspaper in 2009, date back to when Thomson was national secretary of the Health Services Union. He allegedly used his union credit card to pay a Sydney brothel thousands of dollars of union money in two transactions in 2005 and 2007.

Denied allegation

Thomson has denied the allegation and claimed that an unnamed man had taken his credit card and forged his signature. Thomson also said that that man had repaid the money.

Thomson sued the newspaper's owner, Fairfax Media Publications, but dropped that court action in May.

Police had never investigated the allegations because the Health Services Union, which is affiliated with Labour, had never made a complaint.

But an opposition senator, George Brandis, wrote to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione on August 22 with new evidence he said showed Thomson had committed a range of crimes, including fraud, which is punishable by 10 years in prison.

The new evidence included a statement from a forensic handwriting expert who said Thomson had probably signed one of the brothel credit card dockets in question. It also included a bundle of recently released court documents that Fairfax would have used in the defamation trial as proof of many more instances in which Thomson allegedly paid prostitutes with the same credit card.

With the police investigation under way, the union decided to hand over its own 120-page audit that found Thomson may have misused more than $106 000 in union funds while he was boss from 2002 until 2007.

No evidence

Police said in the statement that "based on the accounting practices of the union relating to the use of corporate credit cards, there was no evidence to warrant a formal investigation".

Some legal experts had anticipated the decision, arguing that the allegations amounted to a breach of union rules rather than criminal fraud.

Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio that the police decision not to investigate revealed the opposition tactic was to "throw as much mud as possible, regardless of the facts".

But Brandis said the opposition would continue to pursue Thomson over his use of the union credit card.

"The broader issue is the use by Mr Thomson and others of members' money as their own," Brandis told ABC.

A government-appointed union regulator has been investigating the allegations against Thomson for more than two years. But that probe doesn't threaten his Parliamentary seat because it cannot lead to a criminal prosecution.
- AP
Read more on:    julia gillard  |  australia
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!
13 things you might not know about Disneyland
The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is so much going on around you and inside your head. You may want to take your ideas to the next level. Romance may be...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.