It is almost the end of the road for Craig Thomson, says Peter Wicks, who reports on the fourth day of the latest instalment of his trial in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.
Those who were waiting for some kind of grand finale or fireworks display in Magistrates Court on Thursday after lunch in the Craig Thomson trial, were not unlike those yelling for an encore at a Justin Bieber concert.
They were setting themselves up for disappointment.
Despite a line up of Kathy Jackson and the head of the Victorian Police investigation, John Tyquin, the afternoon session was a bit of a fizzer by all accounts.
Kathy Jackson was the key prosecution witness for the day and, despite saying that she thought there were things that seemed odd in Thomson’s financial records, she really was not a good witness for the prosecution — quite the opposite in fact.
She seemed to be a far better witness for the defence.
As I wrote about on Thursday, Jackson confirmed in court that she made hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash withdrawals from union members funds whilst Secretary for BBQ’s and the like — all apparently with the blessing of her ever faithful BCOM and trustees.
If I was one of the BCOM or trustees responsible for approving Jacksons spending, I'd be bracing to blow the whistle or grab my passport and run.
The sheer amount and volume of cash withdrawals from Jackson make the charges Craig Thomson is facing look like milk money.
Jackson was also kind enough to explain the $22,000 trip to Mt Hotham that the union members footed the bill for whilst on the witness stand. The amounts involved are shown on the GST reporting statement to the Tax Office below.
Apparently it was not a private holiday, it was a Union staff event. Something that was to benefit the staff of her branch, Marco Bolano’s branch, as well as another branch. Some kind of bonding or training type event, I gather.
If this was indeed the case, I wonder if those from her BCOM who approved all the spending also attended the trip. I am also left wondering — if it was for training purposes ,what the point of being at a snow field? Was she just looking for the most expensive location possible?
Anyway, those members wondering about their funds being squandered on a ski trip junket need not fear, the staff all benefitted greatly, I’m sure.
So immense was the staff benefit, in fact, that the event was not even given the tiniest of mentions in the Unions Health Professional magazine/newsletter for the entire year of 2005, when the event occurred — or, for that matter, 2006.
Jackson also brought a friend along with her for her court appearance.
It was a sight many in the court found quite amusing; Kathy Jackson was leading David Rofe, QC, around by the hand as if he was some kind of blind invalid — something he most certainly is not.
Although Rofe, QC, told the court he was there as a friend, I don’t think he is someone Jackson usually goes to the pub with, or holidays, or even has regular chats with on the phone, although I could be wrong. However I’d go so far as to hazard a guess that perhaps he was there to ensure Jackson did not incriminate herself on the stand, or perhaps even to ensure that the Lawler family name was not brought into the matter, but again that is just a guess.
Either way, proceedings had to be stopped twice when his mobile phone rang. That’s right, twice.
He didn't turn it off after the first time.
Still, what was probably the most important thing was that Jackson swore under oath that a credit card was a part of Thomson’s salary package.
This is odd indeed, as it completely supports Thomson’s entire defence — how can anybody require authorisation as to how they spend their salary?
Some have suggested that this is a complete backflip from her earlier statements involving claims of improper spending and this may indeed may be the case, however I am of the opinion that this admission is a tactic to set up a defence for her own spending, which is coming under increased scrutiny and that she will, perhaps, soon find herself in court explaining.
So where to now for the trial?
This is the end of the witnesses, so any smoking gun that was to have existed has been presented by now in either a written statement or on the witness stand. On Tuesday, final submissions will be made by both the prosecution and the defence teams and after that we will wait for the Magistrate to come back with a decision of guilty or not guilty.
No matter which way Magistrate Rozencwajg decides, there will still be questions in the minds of most. These are the questions as to whether Thomson visited brothels or used escort services.
On this matter, the opinions seem to differ just as much as the evidence.
However, what this case comes down to and will eventually be decided upon is authorisation and whether Thomson did, indeed, have the authority to use his credit cards as he wished.
As much as the media may like to portray that the case is all about brothels and hookers, that is just not the case.
Of course, the media and the prosecution seem to have decided to have an each-way bet, if they can’t destroy Thomson in court then they will ruin his life via the headlines.
Going by the sworn testimony of the witnesses, the question of authority seems to be shady to say the least, with the prosecution’s star witness even going so far as to say it was part of his salary package.
The case against Craig Thomson, as much as the shock-jocks might like to portray it, is nothing at all like the case against Michael Williamson, not even remotely despite them often being referred to together. His case is also minor in comparison to the investigation into Kathy Jackson
Thomson’s entire case equates to less than $6,000 of questioned spending per year during the five years he was Union Secretary.
By comparison, the total figure in the case against Michael Williamson exceeds $20 million.
The investigation into Kathy Jackson’s time running Thomson’s former branch are looking at allegations of improper spending that are measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Michael Williamson had other companies set up such as CANME that invoiced the union for services that were questionable.
Kathy Jackson you may recall also had a similar setup with companies such as Neranto #10 Pty Ltd and Koukouvaos Pty Ltd.
Craig Thomson had nothing of the sort.
Michael Williamson had the advice of expensive legal teams and I’m sure many contacts within the political and legal world to rely on for support.
Kathy Jackson had the support of Michael Lawler, Vice President of the organisation that investigated Thomson, the now Fair Work Commission, to lean on. She also had the support of all of her new-found friends within the Liberal Party, such as Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz and, of course, Peter Reith.
As mentioned earlier, she even took a QC along while she appeared as a witness.
By contrast, Thomson has been almost bankrupted and has even been forced to partially rely on the financial support of the public to mount a decent defence — something the media clearly didn’t want to see him have given their reaction.
What has also become apparent during the Thomson trial is that the partnership between Jackson and Williamson was closer than Jackson would like us all to believe. In fact, the measures that were put in place by Thomson to increase the levels of financial accountability of union secretaries made him the enemy of both Williamson and Jackson.
Despite what many have mistakenly assumed, what I have attempted to do in my reporting of the Jacksonville issue is not to prove Thomson innocent,. I have always felt my role is to serve those who seek to know all of the facts involved in the case, not just the ones that suit the mainstream media’s agenda.
Call me naive, but I am just one of those nostalgic old souls that still believes in a fair trial.
Along the way, I have highlighted misreporting, half-truths and blatant lies from the mainstream media. I have also highlighted evidence that has been ignored and reported on witness statements and testimony the mainstream don’t want us to hear about.
Overall, I suppose, I have done my best to provide a little balance to what has become a trial by media.
If, indeed, Thomson has defrauded HSU members, I will be the first to say he should be held to account and the members should retrieve their money.
I also strongly believe that allegations against Kathy Jackson need to be scrutinised as intently as those against Williamson and Thomson and I will continue to pursue this matter, as the long-suffering Union members deserve nothing less.
So there you have it, it’s almost over for Thomson.
Let’s hope that once this is over, our mainstream journalists can lift their game and start reporting from the street, not the gutter.
It would make a pleasant change.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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