The Thomson verdict and common sense

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Kate McClymont and Craig Thomson: no love lost.

As we wait to hear whether Craig Thomson will appeal the verdict handed down in Magistrates Court last Tuesday, I thought it may be timely to clear a couple of things up.

THE ARTICLES I HAVE WRITTEN regarding the HSU saga, which is ongoing, have been grouped under the title Jacksonville for a reason. It’s because the investigation primarily relates to the evidence against Kathy Jackson and her factional support network.

Those who claim that the articles published here have been primarily about Craig Thomson are either flat-out lying or are perhaps supporters of Kathy Jackson, for whatever reason, be it politically or financially motivated.

Clearly Craig Thomson and his ongoing legal issues are a part of the HSU story and as such I have written many articles on his continuing legal battle.

However, my position on Thomson’s case has never been that he is innocent, my position has always been, and continues to be that he deserves a fair trial and that should not involve a trial by media.

On the other hand, I believe we have reported fairly and accurately at all times. Where we have made mistakes, as we have on a very small number of occasions, we have corrected these immediately and made prominent notes to that effect.

The magistrate has made his decision, which surprised us somewhat given the many legal opinions we had heard on the case, but we have no gripe with it. If Thomson feels he has been hard unjustly convicted, he is able to appeal, as is fair and proper.

As a part of my coverage, I have endeavoured to show the aspects of the case that the mainstream media have decided you are not worthy of hearing and much of that would involve Thomson’s defence and reporting on some of the issues of the case against him.

However, what I could not ignore was what appeared to be a campaign of completely false claims, selective reporting of facts and blatant lies in the mainstream coverage of his case. I thought that the public should be aware of the fiction that was being published as fact and started reporting on the media.

For this, I have been called a Thomson cheerleader and flag waver by imbeciles that appear to like being misled and lied to by elements of the mainstream press. Then again, perhaps they are just Jackson cronies, hangers-on or right-wing nutjobs.

However, I was not alone in my condemnation of the mainstream, some of you may recall the opening statement of Magistrate Rozencwajg during the trial regarding the shameful coverage by ‒ surprise, surprise ‒ The Australian.

“Before we commence. At the outset I feel it is necessary to state that the article on the front page of The Australian last Tuesday reporting on the mention held on the 2nd September was factually incorrect in several significant respects. The court certainly made no determination as declared in the blaring headline, in fact I made no determination whatsoever. I have requested the Court Strategic Communications Advisor to take this issue up with the editor of The Australian newspaper and if necessary the Australian Press Council.”

I didn’t hear cries about the magistrate being a Thomson cheerleader however.

Another example misleading and deliberately incorrect coverage would be how long it took for the media to stop reporting that Thomson was facing charges totalling over $500,000 — despite that number having dropped to less than $30,000.

And the continued reporting of Thomson facing 173 charges — despite scores of them already being dropped by the magistrate.

The reporting as admission of facts by Thomson, when in fact Thomson had merely allowed facts to be admitted into evidence which were still disputed by him.

One of those in the mainstream quick to blow her own trumpet after Magistrate Rozencwajg gave his verdict was Fairfax reporter Kate McClymont, who came out patting herself on the back and condemning what she referred to as the so-called “blogosphere” — interestingly, the exact same term Kathy Jackson used in court against Thomson counsel Greg James, QC.

McClymont came out in an interview describing the blogosphere as

“… a fascinating beast which doesn’t seem accountable as we are in the mainstream. They think it’s alright to defame Kathy Jackson and her husband … all in blind support of Craig Thomson.”

For starters Kate, Kathy Jackson does not have a husband, but let’s not let facts get in the way.

Anyway, McClymont is right — we lowly souls in the blogosphere are definitely not accountable in the same way you are in the MSM.

We don’t have a watchdog like you do — one that is primarily funded by the media itself and enjoys a reputation as a toothless tiger.

I can only speak for myself and my accountability on this matter.

I have fought off two defamation actions so far and one threatened defamation action regarding my HSU coverage. Unlike those in the mainstream, I have had to do this on my own and at my own expense without the benefit of a highly paid legal team in my office and another in my insurance companies offices as those in the MSM enjoy.

I’d actually say that makes us more accountable.

Reporting facts on Kathy Jackson’s spending habits with union funds and Michael Lawler’s direct links to the case is not defamation, but merely allowing the public to be aware of a more complete suite of pertinent facts than was being permitted by the mainstream media gatekeepers, such as McClymont.

I would also point out that none of the defamation actions have related to any of the documentation involving Jackson’s alleged misuse of union member’s funds, or been anything to do with anything I have written about Craig Thomson.

She went on in the interview to say that she had to threaten a member of the blogosphere legally because it:

“... can be frightening, but you can’t let these people get to you.”

Well, I know a quite a bit about the legal threat that McClymont speaks of as Independent Australia and I were the target of these threats — but I didn’t let it get to me.

I was not going to write about the lawyer’s threats from McClymont and her husband Graeme Brosnan threats as it was requested that the action not be referred to publicly. However, I’m glad McClymont has opened it up for discussion.

In her interview, McClymont told ABC's Fran Kelly that a picture of her house with her address had been published online and insinuated that she had needed to make legal threats to have it removed. The way that McClymont told it was as if it had been done in some kind of threatening or intimidating fashion.

In fact, what had been posted online in an article was a link to another website, not a picture as McClymont portrayed it.

The pertinence of the linked document was that is was from a real estate website, which showed a property jointly owned by McClymont and Brosnan, which I posted as evidence of their relationship as this was not widely known at the time. Their lawyer sought the removal of the address, and as a gesture of goodwill, I actually removed the entire document immediately — although McClymont neglected to mention that in her interview.

As it turned out, their chief concern seemed to be that I had pointed out that McClymont was married to Brosnan — a private investigator and author.

The lawyer was also insistent that the private investigator and investigative reporter didn’t compare notes and worked completely separately, or as their lawyer put it:

'.. each conduct their professional endeavours completely professionally and appropriately, and independently of one another.'

Independently of one another? Even when they edited a book together?

 Or perhaps Ms Alice Kate McClymont is simply a relative?

Still, I am a frightening figure as McClymont tells it, although I’m not exactly sure why.

She didn’t seem to think so when she shouted me morning tea at Fairfax’s offices and we sat down and discussed the HSU case together.

Could it be because she feels threatened by the “blogosphere”, as she calls it?

It could be, as we do enjoy a growing audience, whilst that of print media is declining. I won’t go so far as to call the printed media the Dead Zone, but maybe it’d be fair to say it’s the Dying Zone.

Or maybe it is because Jackson's work colleagues chose to trust me and send me documentation about her alleged activities and not send it to McClymont?

Kate certainly has been loathe to report anything negative about Jackson, Lawler, or Bolono. One must wonder why.

However, what made me really question the motives of McClymont was when a couple of blokes from downtown Bathurst decided to raise money for Thomson’s legal battle in order that he be able to afford a half-decent defence.

McClymont came out swinging, seemingly adamant that Thomson should not be allowed to afford to defend himself. 

McClymont was so fired up, in fact, she showed no regard for facts in stating Thomson should get Legal Aid to defend himself, despite knowing full well that on his salary this would not be possible. She then went on to lie and state that those raising the funds were ALP members when neither had ever been members of the ALP.

No other journalist took such a stand against this innocent public support for Thomson, which made me wonder why McClymont seemed to have such a vendetta against Thomson; surely a fair trial is in everyone’s best interests including the media?

It seemed to me that McClymont, who was supposed to be an unbiased journalist, was acting and talking more like a right-wing shock columnist, such as Andrew Bolt or Piers Ackerman (whose daughter Pia was the court reporter for The Australian in most cases).

I decided to look back at some of McClymont’s articles on the HSU saga and was shocked to find some major inaccuracies. Such as claims of secret commissions that turned out to be invoiced services and talk of overcharging for what McClymont refers to as a newsletter, which turned out to be a 48 page colour magazine. Not only do her claims regarding this magazine, that was direct mailed to roughly 60,000 members, not make sense mathematically — her claim of 10 editions conflicts with the Temby Report’s mention of 11 editions.

Michael Williamson (Image via

Despite this, I have praised McClymont in the past for some of her coverage and investigations into Michael Williamson. Her relentless pursuit of Williamson is understandable and her persistent coverage of Thomson, although seeming sometimes to be personally motivated, are also understandable.

What is not understandable, however, is how someone who has seen the documentation on Kathy Jackson and writes for a paper that boldly claims ‘Independent Always’ has chosen to ignore the allegations against her which dwarf all claims against Thomson.

But enough about Kate.

What never ceases to amaze me is the scale of the public crucifixion of Craig Thomson when compared with others involved in the case.

Bear in mind, Craig Thomson is due to be sentenced in just under a month for charges that now total less than $20,000, which includes the cash withdrawals from Union funds.

His accuser, Kathy Jackson, is praised by right-wing press as some sort of hero despite questions being raised over her unaccounted cash withdrawals of hundreds of thousands of dollars of union funds each year — amongst a mountain of other allegations.

And in the Michael Williamson case, Williamson's ex-lover Cheryl McMillan has not been spoken of lately.

Sources report that McMillan has been given immunity from criminal prosecution despite being a hostile witness and allegedly personally collecting $1.2 million in cash payments in paper bags in a car park, apparently allegedly pocketing $600,000 herself for her troubles. She is, however, open to civil claims, which the Union is apparently soon to be initiating.

Is it just me or do the scales of justice seem a little unbalanced?

To me this is the real "affront to common sense".

More on this soon.

You can read more by Peter Wicks on his blog Wixxyleaks or follow him on Twitter @madwixxy.

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