Senate debates

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Member for Dobell

7:18 pm

Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak in relation to matters regarding the member for Dobell, and to complete some comments which started for me when I sought documents under FOI and via the Senate in relation to the proposed $2.7 million jobs incubator promised to the people of Dobell at the 2010 election, which was to be established as a partnership between the Wyong Shire Council and Central Coast Group Training. Despite repeated requests to and questioning of former Minister Kim Carr, a failed order for the production of documents when Labor and their Green alliance partners shut down the debate, as well as efforts from the member for Dobell to undermine this project for his own vindictive motives, all failed. On 13 June, the Wyong Shire Council issued a media release which said that the funding for the Skills and Employment Centre to train and support the youth of the Central Coast would finally be provided—and hasn't it been a long and tortuous road for the young people of Dobell.

I would remind the Senate that this was the saga when Mr Thomson sought to pressure Central Coast Group Training to give his former wife a job in March 2011. When this did not happen, and after one of the local councillors had gone on the local radio to criticise the Gillard government for its failure to deliver on its promised GP superclinic, Mr Thomson retaliated in July 2011 with the text message threat of 'bye-bye jobs incubator'. Of course, the Australian Labor Party councillors voted against it when it came up for debate at the local council meeting. With youth unemployment on the Central Coast at 16.4 per cent, which is significantly higher than the New South Wales average of 12.8 per cent, this important and long-overdue investment for the future of young people on the Central Coast is a very, very welcome one.

I find it interesting that Mr Thomson tweeted yesterday details of his Craig Thomson defence fundraiser. In his covering letter describing his achievements for his electorate, of course, the Youth Skills and Employment Centre on the Central Coast is a notable absence. Rightfully, it should be absent, given his constant efforts to undermine the project, as I have said, for his own vindictive motives and for failing to represent the youth and their families on the Central Coast. But what was also interesting about this letter is that he talks about the $80 million for a major pipeline to secure the Central Coast's water supply. He fails to say that it was a project that had its origins under a coalition government. Mr Thomson could not turn up to the opening of it because of his own particular difficulties. As former patron senator for Dobell, I took a keen interest in this and other projects. I was able to attend one of the openings. Mr Thomson, at the time, was noticeably absent from his duties as the local member. Then he claims the GP superclinic. He fails to tell people that the Warnervale GP Super Clinic and the processes that went along with it were an unmitigated disaster. It turned out to be only a quarter of its original size and was plagued by a whole lot of problems.

But let me dwell on another part of the invitation to Mr Thomson's fundraiser. Interestingly enough, it is $150 a head. It is to listen to Bob Ellis and Chris McArdle, who is his principal lawyer. He is telling the people of Dobell that he has been accused of inappropriate activities. I think that is quite an understatement. But he is telling people that he has got considerable legal bills, and—

If I am to commit to serving the people of Dobell for another term …

he wants their support. Why the people of Dobell would want to keep Mr Thomson as their local member is beyond me.

But, anyway, what is really interesting about this—it is on the internet—is that it says:

Please come to my legal defense fundraiser. Speakers Bob Ellis and Chris McArdle.

What is really interesting about this invitation is the little thing in the corner. There it is! It has got ''. It says, 'Date mature women.' So, obviously, the member for Dobell has not quite learnt the lesson! He has not, after all these years. After some of the allegations about his totally offensive and inappropriate conduct, one really wonders whether he has learnt his lesson. I tell the people of Dobell that clearly Mr Thomson, who is seeking re-election in your seat, has not learnt the lessons of the last few years.

I now move to another point. I have previously raised questions on how the member for Dobell was paying his legal fees. I would remind the Senate that we know that at least $250,000 of his legal fees were paid by the Australian Labor Party, but we never actually found out the total amount of costs that the Australian Labor Party has paid to Mr Thomson. I suspect that it will be something that we will never really know. But we know that, in April 2010, Mr Thomson announced that he would sit as an Independent in the federal parliament. One would have thought that being an Independent meant that he would have left the Labor Party. What a surprise when, a month ago, he announced that he was going to resign his party membership. It must be a new definition of 'Independent' to continue to hold your Labor Party ticket but still sit as an Independent in the Parliament of Australia.

Having finally resigned from the Australian Labor Party, Mr Thomson now seeks to run, as I have said, as an Independent. Why would Mr Thomson finally resign from the Australian Labor Party, the party that has paid so much of his mounting legal fees? The only reason why Mr Thomson is standing at the next election is so that he can receive the very generous taxpayer funded six-month severance package which Prime Minister Gillard introduced so that she could stop some of her Labor caucus from jumping ship early and forcing potential by-elections which could potentially bring down her government. Through the generosity of the Prime Minister, Mr Thomson will probably qualify for a redundancy payment of nearly $100,000. The ALP is only now going through its preselection process. One cannot wonder at the unwillingness of people to put up their hands to run for the Labor Party in the seat of Dobell. In the past, I have talked about what I have described as the two-way protection racket for Mr Thomson. I think that we have seen with the Labor Party unwillingness to put up a candidate another classic go slow. I think that part of all of this is—and this is clearly the view of a number of people locally—that it may well help Mr Thomson. It is obviously part of the broader picture, which we are not privy to.

It is like how we are not publicly privy to all of those documents that are still sitting with the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee. There are eight volumes of material which have not been released as part of the Fair Work Australia report. They are documents which, under this government, will never see the light of day. One will hope that, after 14 September, perhaps we will see some transparency in relation to those documents and finally perhaps they may see the light of day. Those documents will be very informative when they do see the light of day. I say to the people of Dobell: you must be sick and tired of everything that you have seen and all the improper comments about your seat. May you, after 14 September— (Time expired)