I hold no brief for Thomson. It was always bogus that he should just waltz in from Melbourne and take a seat in a complex and fast-evolving area with which he had no connection, but people voted for him. It was interesting that the committees in which he got involved did not relate at all to the sorts of issues that his former union purports to cover. There is no trace at all of the current Labor government doing anything for health services workers specifically, compared with manufacturing workers or other workers whose union-Labor connections can be demonstrated to have borne fruit. It isn't credible that an organisation should put him through hell and then give him a leg-up into a job where he could exert power over his tormentors. All that stuff about "I don't recall" or signing off expense approvals in his sleep does not indicate innocence but an absence of care and focus that makes him unfit for any purpose at all.
LIBERAL MP Ken Ticehurst, who lost the seat of Dobell in 2007 to Labor's Craig Thomson, plans to sue Mr Thomson for lost earnings, claiming he was robbed of his seat, costing him a lifetime parliamentary pension of $85,000 a year.First of all, it's inaccurate to call Ticehurst a "Liberal MP" when he hasn't been one for some time. Peter Costello was an MP more recently than Ticehurst was, but nobody refers to him as though he were a sitting MP.
Secondly, Ticehurst's assumptions are worth considering here:
- In the 2007 election, many Liberal MPs lost their seats. Had Labor selected another candidate than Thomson it is entirely possible that candidate would have beaten Ticehurst. It's one thing for bloggers, journalists or others to play psephological what-if; but I don't want courts to second-guess how people might or might not have voted. The people are sovereign in Australian politics because they vote on the composition of parliament, which forms legislation that is interpreted by the courts. If the courts start second-guessing the franchise, the whole separation of powers has to be rethought.
- Being a Member of Parliament can be compared to a fixed-term employment contract between elections. It cannot be regarded as other jobs for the purposes of wrongful dismissal, or lack of consideration in not having his contract renewed. Is he entitled to sue anyone who didn't vote for him?
- Is Ken Ticehurst entitled to be a Member of Parliament just because he had been one in the past?
- If Ticehurst had been re-elected in 2007, he would have become eligible for a parliamentary pension in 2008. Should voters - or judges - be expected to vote Ken a pension, regardless of other considerations of people for their representatives?
Mr Ticehurst said then treasurer Peter Costello's office had informed him of allegations about Mr Thomson, including his use of prostitutes, before the 2007 election. "If we knew, Labor must have known," Mr Ticehurst said.If you knew, it was in your interest to do something about it at the time. There is nothing in what Fair Work Australia uncovered that any half-decent journalist could have produced; an injunction could have been procured to disqualify Thomson as a candidate or force a byelection.
He said David Gazard, then a political adviser to Mr Costello, showed him a file containing allegations against Mr Thomson.There are two possibilities here:
- Ticehurst is wrong and Gazard would never have done something like that. If so, what does it benefit Ticehurst to bag Gazard like that?
- Ticehurst is right and Gazard held out to him the information that might have saved his political career. Why didn't the NSW Liberals run the campaign against Thomson? Why wasn't a journalist set up with this information on deep background? If those running the NSW Liberals had the ability to save a seat, and failed to so, does this reflect on the competence and prudence of those charged with winning the seats that will lift the Coalition into office?
Mr Gazard said he did not recall specific allegations from that time.Why on earth people think they're being clever or even adequate with a statement like that is unclear. Abbott and Pyne have rendered "no specific knowledge" a national punchline. Gazard is an experienced and highly-regarded Liberal staffer-consultant in Canberra, despite his disastrous foray into practical politics (he was Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro in 2010, a seat regarded as an indicator of the national result; it swung hard to Labor as very few other seats did. The Liberals have preselected a candidate for 2013 who's very much like Gazard). For all that, Gazard is more highly regarded in politics than two-time winner Ken Ticehurst, and nobody in the media other than a state politics reporter have even questioned Gazard on this (never mind turning up the heat on the guy; what other dirt does Gazard have on Labor figures?).
Mr Ticehurst, who still lives in Dobell, said he would seek legal advice. "There could be a case and I think it's worth pursuing. If he gets charged with anything, which seems inevitable now, I will be taking action."There have been a plethora of threatened lawsuits used to pressure people into silence - Chris Mitchell and Julie Posetti, Melinda Tankard Reist and Jennifer Wilson, George Pell and Catherine Deveny - without taking the financial and reputational risk of testing their claims against the law of the land. It is tempting to lump Ticehurst's proposal in with this same gutless bunch. In any case, a lawsuit is commenced with a writ, not a press release.
Ticehurst could have deep-sixed Thomson himself, but he chose not to. If he is right about then-staffers of the Liberal Party (including Gazard), then they have squibbed the chance to retain a seat that they could ill-afford to lose at any of the last two elections.
Until recently, Abbott's office was accused of managing media too tightly. They may think they're being clever in refracting their message off dead satellites like Ken Ticehurst, but all that's happening is that they're losing control over the narrative. An old chancer having one last pitch for his pension is just another complicating factor in what should be a simple bad-news story for Labor, playing the same role that James Ashby is to Slipper. Factor in Kroger-Costello on top of that and the unravelling is at hand; the Coalition never understood why it lost in 2007 or 2010 and thinks that anything that denied it can only be illegitimate. Any action Ken Ticehurst may take against Thomson will draw publicity and attention away from the Liberal candidate for Dobell. The Coalition isn't ready for government at the next election, and Dobell is just another example why they will botch it between now and election day.