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Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Page: 800


Mr JOYCE (New EnglandMinister for Agriculture and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (16:38): I commend the leader of the Labor Party, the Leader of the Opposition, for his speech. It was great. Every article of it was great. It was perfect. It missed just one thing: it was two years late. To think we were thought to be somehow naive, to believe a story that was so incredible, a story which had people pulling their hair out and people outside the parliament denying it. I said on the record and I went outside the parliament and said, 'I think this is a load of rubbish.'

In this game, there is a range of things. We are not saints in here, but we are not naive either. You would have to have had the height of naivety to believe the story Mr Thomson gave that someone was impersonating him. He said that somehow, on a remarkable day, someone had broken into his house, found the keys and found his mobile phone, and they were a genius because they had the code to his mobile phone. Then they took his keys and drove his car. They must have been lonely as they drove his car because they wanted to call all his friends. So they called all his friends and then found their way to an establishment in Surry Hills where, after a certain event occurred, they had to pay the bill. The person they paid the bill to said, 'I'd better see your drivers licence.' And guess who was on the drivers licence? A person who looked exactly like Craig Thomson. But they had the art of a calligrapher. Not only did they have the face of Craig Thomson but also they could sign his name. Then this person was full of remorse, full of guilt. So do you know what they did? They drove back to the Central Coast, broke back into the house and put everything back where they found it. That was the story you had to believe.

Do you know what the Labor Party believed this person should be? They believed he should be on the Privileges Committee. You would think a person worth their salt, the Prime Minister at the time, would have said, 'Mr Thomson, I have to have a fireside chat with you—I really do—because you are supposed to represent the people who work in hospitals, who scrub the tiles, who clean up the defecation on sheets, who clean the urinals, who do the jobs nobody else wants to do.'

These people have other things to do with their money. They have children they wish to spend their money on. They have things they would like to do to their house. They might like to go on a holiday but because they believed in the purpose of the union movement they paid their union fees. They paid their fees because they trusted the Labor Party to do the right thing. They trusted this individual to do the right thing.

I am sure there is a whole range of people, predominantly women, who would like to say, 'I want my money back, because I could use that money to fix my children's teeth. I could use that money to go on the holiday I never went on. I could use that money to do so many things in my life because I'm on $660 a week.' They are not on much. But, no, the Labor Party did not stand by those ladies; they stood by Craig Thomson, as incredible as that might seem. Then we had this incredible line: that he had crossed the line. He crossed more lines than a ballroom dancer on a parquetry floor! There was a continual retinue of incredible stories.

After that, we had the miraculous position that Craig Thomson became an Independent and, miraculously, except for maybe on one occasion, he always voted for the Labor Party. Incredible! And now we find out that hundreds of thousands of dollars of bills have been paid by the New South Wales Division of the Labor Party and we find that the person who was on the Privileges Committee for the Labor Party forgot, when he was up for $200,000, to declare them. We can all forget about $200,000. You drop that on the floor of the parliament every Friday night! It is also fascinating that the New South Wales police fraud squad detective superintendent John Watson, sent an email to then General Manager Lee of Fair Work Australia. He said:

I've left messages throughout the day requesting that you contact me.

Mr Watson wanted to discuss Craig Thomson but Fair Work Australia did not want to call him back. They did not want to talk to him. Then we find out that Lee responded:

Neither I nor Fair Work Australia has the power to neither inquire or investigate, nor reach any conclusions about whether a reporting unit or anybody have been contravened by New South Wales criminal law. Accordingly, I regret to advise that I do not consider it would be appropriate for me or for any of my staff to meet with you to discuss Fair Work Australia's investigation into the HSU.

Mr Watson, the policeman, was trying to investigate a crime. On 12 June 2012, it was revealed under freedom of information that Fair Work Australia had also refused to cooperate with the Victorian Fraud and Extortion Squad. The story goes on and it just does not stack up. I was in the Senate when we moved a motion to try to get some transparency on this and the Labor Party and the Greens got together and defeated it. So we could not get transparency. Either you believe that they believed Craig Thomson or you believe that there was something else afoot. I am just not that naive. I think that the time had come. The evidence was there and any person with a gut instinct had it and understood what was going on.

Now we have the final conclusion to this. It was a great speech by the Leader of the Opposition. It was incredible. I agree with every word of it, except it would have been handy to hear it back in 2012. The members of the HSU would have liked to have heard it then. What happens about their money? Instead of paying for Mr Thomson's legal fees, maybe you would like to pay back the fees of the members of the HSU. Of course they will not get your money, because you are not out to protect them; you are out to look after Mr Thomson. Now Mr Thomson has been convicted and I imagine he will go for a plea deal. If anybody thinks that this story has finished then I feel that they are as naive as Craig.