Poetic licence: The Bolano family and Craig Thomson

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Peter Wicks discusses an article by blogger Michael Smith on the Bolano family's response to the parliament's handling of Craig Thomson and so-called "slanderous" allegations.

SOME PEOPLE don’t know when to hang their heads in shame and slowly back away.

On 18 March, Michael Smith, a former long-term lodger at the home of Kathy Jackson and Michael Lawler published an article on his site entitled, ‘Marco Bolano’s family responds to the Parliament’s failure to punish Thomson’.

The piece was in response to my article on the Privileges Committee findings against Craig Thomson.

Once again, it was full of inaccuracies and outright lies — something we have come to expect whenever one of Kathy Jackson’s friends is given some form of platform upon which to speak.

At the start of the article is a photograph of Craig Thomson and myself enjoying a beer. Smith’s caption beneath that photo states, ‘Peter Wicks consoling Craig Thomson after his “reprimand” from Parliament’.

That is not when the photo was taken at all. In fact, the photo was taken on 3 March — the day Michael Lawler resigned/got shoved from the Fair Work Commission, as was mentioned in my articles and on social media.

Alas, I am not in possession of a time machine and my tealeaf reading capabilities have been letting me down lately, so I was unaware of what was to come from parliament, a few weeks later, in terms of the findings against Thomson.

Smith’s post also included an email allegedly sent to the Privileges Committee by Kylee Brehaut, Marco Bolano’s partner.

Below is the email in full:

To the Members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests,

Re: Inquiry whether the former Member for Dobell deliberately misled the House

I am the partner of former Health Services Union official Marco Bolano. I am writing to the Committee to formally communicate and register my deep concern and distress regarding the apparent leaking of the Report into this Inquiry. Further, I wish to convey to the Committee the enormous impact Mr Thomson's deliberate and malicious misleading statement to Parliament on 21 May 2012 has had on my family. 

Yesterday, 15th March 2016, a blogger had an article published on his own and the Independent Australia website titled: 'Federal Parliament finally passes judgement on Craig Thomson's speech'. In the article, it claimed the following is an excerpt from the report:

"The committee acknowledges and endorses the consistently held view that the privilege and contempt powers of the House should be exercised sparingly. In this case, the committee acknowledges Mr Thomson’s difficult personal situation in all the circumstances since the allegations about him first arose in the context of the HSU exit audit in 2007-8. These difficulties continued over a sustained period of pressure through various official investigations, reports and legal matters. In recommending punishment, the committee considers these difficulties to be a mitigating factor in what it now recommends. A finding of contempt by the House, and the condemnation that this would embody, in itself would be a very serious sanction. The committee considers that an appropriate penalty would be for the House to reprimand Mr Thomson for his conduct."

In addition, the blogger continues to write false and slanderous comments about Marco, particularly in relation to his ongoing serious workplace injury. I would hope in this day and age, every member of this committee may be able to turn their minds to what our lives are like now, and how every aspect of our physical and psychological well-being continues to be affected. We have a young family, and have suffered enormous pain and suffering as a result of Craig Thomson's lies. To add insult to injury, the article is accompanied by a photo of the blogger and Craig Thomson seemingly enjoying a beer and gloating about the apparent outcome of this committee's inquiry.

I would like to refer you to my submission to the Trade Union Royal Commission in September 2014:

[Click here for submission]

Apart from what Craig Thomson said about Marco in Parliament, there has never been any allegation of corruption or other criminal matters in relation to Marco. He has always fully cooperated with the relevant authorities, and provided any evidence or information he has, in relation to HSU matters. And yet, here we find ourselves. The little people. We have spent our working lives advocating for others in the disability and health sectors, and I know how well respected we are with those around us because of our work. Our family, friends and colleagues, both past and present, have watched this tragedy unfold for our family. That is the word people use to describe Marco's very public destruction: tragedy.

I request three things of this committee:

  • That my communications today, the the matters I have raised, be discussed in the Committee's meeting tonight - as advised by the Committee Secretariat during a phone call earlier today.
  • That there is an investigation into whether the report was leaked, and if it is found to be so, that the matter is viewed as contempt of the Parliament.
  • That Marco Bolano and his family have the opportunity to respond to the tabled report formally via Parliament, and that this is recorded on Hansard.

The speech Craig Thomson gave in our Parliament not only severely undermined the confidence the Australian people can have in this institution and its members, it had real and totally unjustified consequences for a completely innocent man and his family. 

I implore the Committee to give serious consideration to my email, submission and requests. These parliamentary processes should not be abused and undermined.

Yours sincerely,

Let’s start with the “slanderous comments” regarding Bolano and his “ongoing serious workplace injury” — a reference to my claim of Bolano being under police investigation for worker’s compensation fraud.

If this is a slanderous or defamatory statement, I would welcome – actually scrap that – I would relish the opportunity to explore this before a court. But Bolano’s team have taken the matter so seriously that I have not even received a legal letter in all the times I have spoken of it. In fact, I am reliably informed that when Brehaut contacted The Australian on the same matter, she about-faced mighty quick when told the information regarding the investigation had originated from the police.

So what of the “ongoing serious workplace injury”? The injury in question is a stress related injury that came about when a federal court judge removed Bolano from his position as union secretary. The blow from this apparently left him “completely incapacitated”. Blows to one’s ego can do that sometimes.

Despite the “incapacitation”, Bolano was still able to summon enough capacity to attempt to intimidate witnesses and members of the press at the Royal Commission into union behaviour. His attempts to intimidate me failed and his attempts to physically intimidate females present also failed — although these failures were not in any way related to any kind of incapacity.

Brehaut goes on to say:

'Apart from what Craig Thomson said about Marco in Parliament there has never been any allegation of corruption or other criminal matters in relation to Marco.'

Now, I don’t seek to cast any aspersions on Brehaut’s mental capacity but if I could ask her to cast her mind all the way back to, well, let’s say her previous paragraph where she complains about one such allegation — which was not made by Thomson.

She also included a link in her submission to the Royal Commission, where she complains about other such allegations. I don’t mean to make this sound comical but there is no other way to put it.

Her insinuation that Craig Thomson has somehow escaped punishment because parliament has only handed down a reprimand is utterly ridiculous. Anybody who thinks Thomson has not incurred any sort of punishment over the last five years must have been living under a rock.

Brehaut makes mention of the pain and suffering caused to her young family as a result of Craig Thomson’s lies.

It is tragic that a young family could be so seriously traumatised by the few words of one man all those years ago. Particularly when you consider their father’s sacking by a federal court judge, a factional war that saw his intimidation tactics splashed all throughout the media and an ongoing police investigation into allegations of their father’s alleged workers compensation fraud.

Despite all of this Thomson’s words, “Marco Bolano threatened to set me up”, alone, are the cause of such pain and suffering.

I’m sure every criminal languishing in jail begrudges the pain and suffering caused to their family by investigation and evidence and I guess we’ll see if this is the case with Marco when the investigations are finished.

Brehaut finally requests of the Parliamentary Committee that Bolano and his family have a chance to respond in Parliament. I mean, really?

Kylee, I will make this clear for you, I do not have any contempt for Parliament. I do, however, have copious amounts of contempt for corruption and criminality.

I hope that clears things up for you.

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and former NSW State Labor candidate. You can follow Peter on Twitter @madwixxy.

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