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Minority government on the edge?

By Legal Eagle

If I’d been asked to predict how Julia Gillard’s minority government might be pushed to the precipice, I would not have said that it would be over the issue of brothels, of all things. My prediction would have been that one of the independents or the Greens decided not to support a particular proposition on principle. Although all parties (Labor, independents and Greens) all want to stay where they are, so there’s an incentive to come to an agreement on what must be done!

Instead, it looks like a Labor MP, Craig Thomson, is potentially in big trouble. And if he has to stand down from his seat, it’s unlikely Labor will be returned in that electorate. Veteran political commentator Michelle Grattan explains:

Craig Thomson, the former national secretary of the Health Services Union who won the NSW seat of Dobell in 2007, looks physically hail and hearty – he’s only 47. But the opposition is homing in on Thomson as the potential weak link.

The central issue is the alleged misuse of union funds. Thomson’s union credit card (which was in his name) was used to pay for Sydney escort agency services. Vouchers were signed with his name, with his driver’s licence number as verification. In addition, calls were made from his mobile number to the agency. Allegations (of which there are now several) against Thomson surfaced in 2009. He denied he used the escort agency services and any wrongdoing with union funds. He subsequently sued Fairfax in a civil action over its reports, but dropped the action in April this year.

Despite the controversy swirling around him, Thomson easily beat off a challenge for preselection before the 2010 election. The issue went quiet, until revived by his August 1 interview with Michael Smith on 2UE, in which he admitted he authorised the credit card bills.

Smith put to him: ”Your signature is on that voucher. Your driver’s licence has been transcribed on to the back of it. How did all that get there?” Thomson replied: ”I’m not saying that’s my signature.” Asked whether someone forged his signature he said: ”Well, it certainly wasn’t me.”

So did he report the improper use of the card to the police? ”The union reached a settlement with another gentleman who paid back $15,000 in relation to use of credit cards at an escort agency . . . I don’t know whether he forged my signature or who forged my signature.”

Then this week News Ltd reported that the NSW ALP had provided Thomson with more than $90,000 as well as a loan for his legal bills in the Fairfax case. Reportedly, it feared he could go bankrupt – which would have put him out of Parliament. Thomson only declared the assistance on the pecuniary interests register when approached by the media.

On Tuesday, Gillard told Parliament that Thomson was doing a ”fine job representing the people of his constituency . . . I look forward to him continuing to do that job for a very long, long, long time to come”. On Wednesday, she affirmed her ”complete confidence”; she added, about the late declaration of the NSW donation, that all MPs were obliged to abide by the declaration rules, but noted that others had declared things late. Yesterday she again expressed ”full confidence” in him; she wouldn’t be drawn on when she’d first been consulted about the NSW ALP payment.

Gillard is no doubt keeping fully up to date, but propriety will come a bad second to survival in relation to Thomson. Given the government is hanging on by its fingernails – or his fingernails – Labor will overlook a lot. So long as Thomson doesn’t face any charges, it will hold its nose and defend him.

While the Coalition is stoking the fire under the Labor MP, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is being very careful. He is refusing to say Thomson should be sacked. In these cases, best to personally stay on the high ground and leave the messier work to some of your troops. But the opposition knows the affair has caught media attention; it also looks to a Fair Work Australia investigation under way into the union’s affairs.

The government (to say nothing of Thomson himself) will remain on tenterhooks. In these sorts of situations, especially where other people are involved, anything can happen at any time. Assuming, however, Thomson survives, what is Labor going to do about his preselection? An exquisite dilemma. If Labor dumps him for the next election, it would be, in effect, conceding he was not a fit candidate. But how could it run him again? That would be extraordinarily disdainful of the people of Dobell, who might have something very sharp to say about it.

Thomson should not be re-endorsed. And the Labor Party, as it weeps for the $90,000 plus it has had to shell out, should reflect on the very important lesson. The scandals that plagued the former NSW Labor government and the Thomson affair show the ALP in that state needs much better vetting procedures for its candidates. That is the least it owes to the voters.

I concur with Grattan. What fools NSW Labor are allowing this guy to be preselected! I don’t care that this guy visited brothels (he can do whatever he wants in his own time, as long as it’s legal and on his own dime). I do care if it turns out that he (a) misused union funds and (b) was dishonest about the allegations. As a union member myself, I’d be damned unhappy if I found out that someone from my union used my dues to pay for prostitutes for himself rather than to help members. And it links into our recent conversations on this blog about the ethics of public officials who represent us. If those who govern us and purportedly represent us are dishonest and get away with it, what message does this send to the community? All very disappointing.

I’m not particularly happy with the Gillard government for a variety of reasons — but I’m certainly not keen about the alternative either. A plague on all their houses, as I often seem to say these days. If the government goes down on this one…what a silly, mucky reason!

71 Comments

  1. Posted August 19, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    It used to be a principle of British politics: the Tories had sex scandals and Labour had money scandals (i.e. whatever you were the more repressed about).

    It is a sign of political convergence that we can get this sex AND money scandal :)

    If the unions want to know why they are in long term decline, this sort of thing is a reason (not the biggest reason, but a reason). That their numbers have picked up in Oz recently by greatly improving their service delivery points to a larger reason.

  2. Posted August 19, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Why has my comment become so much longer, so to speak?

  3. Posted August 19, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Agree with you absolutely LE. I think Tony Abbott is being careful because once you let loose the muckrakers you can’t control who they rake up, and if if is someone on your side of the divide then you are in trouble too. The same reason why Labor were careful during the Peter Reith phonecard ‘scandal’.

  4. HeathG
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    So he has Julia’s “complete confidence” eh.. is that like having her “full support” http://grogsgamut.blogspot.com/2009/02/my-full-support.html

    :-)

  5. Posted August 19, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I don’t care if he used union funds to pay hookers, that is an issue for that particular union to deal with.

    It seems that both Graham Richardson & John Della Bosca (neither of them fools) were opposed to Thomson’s pre-selection, on character grounds.

    The party should have taken notice of Richo & JDB.

  6. kvd
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    LE – a tech note for Jacques perhaps? Your and Steve’s comments are not wrapping.

    Much like Lorenzo’s earlier one.

  7. Nick Ferrett
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I think part of Abbott’s caution is that they don’t want to prejudice a trial. The guy has to get convicted definitely to be liable to expulsion. There’s every reason to suspect that short of a conviction, the ALP will hold on to him for dear life.

  8. Posted August 19, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    My unease is not about the mis-use of union funds which seems to be a clear criminal matter – regardless of whether he did misuse the funds for personal recreation or his details were fraudulently obtained by someone else. It’s the union ‘bail out’ for the legal fees that prevented him being made bankrupt. What would be the position for any other member that was at risk of bankruptcy and was only saved by a similar third-party loan? Wouldn’t that normally be considered queering their independence?

  9. Posted August 20, 2011 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Tony Abbott is being careful because once you let loose the muckrakers you can’t control who they rake up, and if if is someone on your side of the divide then you are in trouble too.

    Abbott has to be careful because a South Aus. Liberal pollie has been charged with shop lifting.

  10. Posted August 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    DEM@10 Good question. But it is up there with shares being held to be inherently compromising but owing your preselection to a particular union isn’t.

  11. Posted August 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if Abbott’s caution is wily. Where did this information come from? I doubt this sort of thing so far from election would result in a spill for the government. Australians typically don’t care as long as it isn’t criminal.

    We probably should care more. But there’s a lot of this sort of graft in large organizations. And we expect it from politicians. Think of Peter Reith’s son’s phone bill.

    Maybe it was released by the ALP in a bid to provoke Abbott’s archaic sexual mores. And Abbott didn’t bite.

    Just a speculation.

  12. Nick Ferrett
    Posted August 20, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Adrien, this thing is criminal. It involves misuse of several thousand dollars of union money. If Thomson is telling the truth, it’s fraud by someone else. If he is not telling the truth, he has committed fraud himself.

    One could be forgiven for inferring from the compromise with Fairfax that he was worried about the defamation trial resulting in proof of fraud by him.

    The plot seems to have thickened a little today. Thomson has been saying that an unnamed person was required to refund some $15,000 to the union (the implication being that that sum included recompense for the money spent on hookers), however it now appears that the $15K refund was totally unrelated. It was a refund of salary payments made to someone acting as an elected official when there is a question over the validity of his election.

    I think this could kill the government before Christmas.

  13. Posted August 20, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Thomson has been saying that an unnamed person was required to refund some $15,000 to the union (the implication being that that sum included recompense for the money spent on hookers), however it now appears that the $15K refund was totally unrelated.

    Mark Twain : It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

  14. Posted August 20, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    One thing that’s niggling me: alibis are either very simple and true or very complicated and true (as a general rule), with the ones in the middle tending to make up the bulk of the falsehoods. This seems to fall into the latter category, but even so there’s a part of me thinking, ‘mate, you’re really trying hard to drop yourself in it here if the whole thing unravels’.

  15. Patrick
    Posted August 22, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I can barely contain my excitement…but as for Abbott’s prudence, you guys need to just think about it for a second. Abbott is in the business of bashing Labor and Gillard. By ratcheting up the pressure twice-weekly press comment by twice-weekly press comment, he gets a golden opportunity to keep driving Gillard and Labor down in the polls…if he doesn’t get Thomson in Court (and I think he will) he will get that much closer to getting Gillard in caucus (and he can’t be all that far off that)…win-win as it were!

  16. Nick Ferrett
    Posted August 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    A lot of commentators seem to be taking the view that it is unlikely that anything will come to a head soon enough to make a difference politically, but I don’t they’re correct.

    It seems to me that there is enough evidence to launch a prosecution. There is evidence of misappropriation of funds by someone. Thomson’s implausible explanation to the effect that someone else used the card and forged the signature tends to incriminate him. That explanation is all the more suspicious for the fact that it was only belatedly offered after Fairfax obtained the signed credit card receipts by subpoenas in the course of defending the abandoned defamation action.

    The alleged conduct fits the definition of larceny by clerks or servants: Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), s156. The maximum sentence is ten years. That tends to suggest that there is a real prospect of time on the inside if he is convicted.

    For that reason, if a prosecution is launched, he may well receive advice to make an early plea as a means of mitigation. I bet if he thought it meant the difference between time inside and a suspended sentence, he would resign in an instant.

  17. kvd
    Posted August 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    I agree totally with Nick Ferrett

    there is enough evidence to launch a prosecution. There is evidence of misappropriation of funds by someone

    In fact I’d go even further and say bugger due process; never mind investigating, and charging him – let’s just get on wirh it; he’s guilty by his own words, Or as NF puts it more succinctly, his

    explanation is all the more suspicious for the fact that it was only belatedly offered after Fairfax obtained the signed credit card receipts

    – I mean, obviously, this miscreant should have offered his explanation before being asked for it. This alone is absolute proof of guilt. Totally, totally guilty; burn him at the nearest stake. Political? No – we only seek justice.

    Also, I agree with LE@21

  18. Nick Ferrett
    Posted August 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    kvd, I don’t think that anything I said can be read as suggesting abandonment of due process. I merely said there is enough to launch a prosecution. That means that there is enough evidence for a jury to convict. Maybe he has a plausible defence, but (in my opinion at least) we’re yet to hear it.

    The fact that someone doesn’t make a clean breast of things at the first opportunity provides a legitimate basis for doubting that person’s credit.

    Thomson was confronted with the question over his expenditure. He said nothing about use of his card by some other person. Having launched a defamation suit, court processes led Fairfax to discover the fact that someone signed using his name, his credit card, and supplying his driver’s licence number. It was only then that he raised the prospect of forgery, but won’t say anything about why no action was taken.

    Nothing I said suggests he shouldn’t be allowed due process. Of course he should. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to offer a view about the case against him and I don’t think offering that view is inconsistent with Thomson enjoying due process.

    If you have an actual argument in Thomson’s favour, why don’t you offer it?

  19. Patrick
    Posted August 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    NF I completely agree, I think there is a very high chance of the government falling before it even votes on the carbon tax.

    Although, just maybe, Abbott wants the bill passed so he can actually get a double-dissolution on its repeal – on current numbers and trends, that’d be a really tasty morsel.

  20. Tim Quilty
    Posted August 22, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    If the scandal continues, and Labor doesn’t push the guy (they won’t) and investigation and court proceedings are dragged out (they will be), Wilkie is going to be under massive pressure to ditch the government.

    The other independents have firmly nailed their arms to the government’s cross, but Wilkie, as the only one who stands a chance of keeping his seat if he can protect his reputation, will almost certainly be compelled to kick the chair out from under the ALP and let them swing.

  21. kvd
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Nick@24 you are absolutely right and I apologise. My thinking is coloured by the old fashioned idea that my government (of whichever flavour) should be held to account for its policies, not undone by some minor sleazy scandal – the running of which has been left mostly to our newspapers. I did not vote them in, and don’t agree with their policy agenda – but I also agree with LE that at the moment the other side (traditionally my side) is less than an inspiring alternative government in waiting.

    As far as I can see one of the few in parliament deserving of the title “Honourable’ is M. Turnbull – and look what his own party did to him.

  22. Nick Ferrett
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    kvd, I totally sympathise with the yearning for politics on a higher plane, but the way politics is practised reflects what the electorate rewards.

    I have no sympathy for Turnbull. Politically, I am quite close to him, but the couple of occasions on which I’ve met him have left me with the impression that he is pretty shallow and not very nice. Also, at least he was assassinated quickly. The way he undermined Nelson was disgraceful. The difference between the way he deposed Nelson and the way he was deposed is stark: he undermined Nelson purely to sate ambition. He was deposed because the party did not support a key policy stance he had taken.

    He was also a disaster as leader leaving aside the climate change issue. He totally stuffed up the Grech affair. The only thing which saved the Liberal Party at that stage was the fact that Rudd was too gutless to call an election.

    Sorry for the rant, but I’m a little sick of the mythologisation(?) of Turnbull.

  23. Nick Ferrett
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    I don’t mean by the “politically, I’m quite close to him” remark to suggest that I know Turnbull or am personally/factionally close to him. I just mean that I share his views on most things.

  24. Posted August 23, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    My thinking is coloured by the old fashioned idea that my government (of whichever flavour) should be held to account for its policies, not undone by some minor sleazy scandal – the running of which has been left mostly to our newspapers.

    I suppose this gets back to LE’s ‘silly, mucky reason’ for a government to fall (in the main post).

  25. Nick Ferrett
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    If the government can fall because of it, maybe it’s not such a silly reason.

  26. Patrick
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I think the independents are political history. Slipper would never take it as Abbott would kill him, literally, and it isn’t like there is anyone left in Canberra who thinks Oakeshott will ever again in his life be in a position to affect any of their futures, so hard to see why anyone would even care what he thinks.

    The Wilkie point is a good one, too. Either way they just look f***ed.

  27. Nick Ferrett
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I think that, in the end, there is no honour in any of this (perhaps with the exception of Wilkie). There is only will to power.

    I have to say that I wouldn’t be certain that Slipper would knock back an approach, but I think that he would already have been approached about the possibility of something after the next election, so he can probably be shored up.

    I hadn’t thought about Wilkie until I read the comments here, but it does seem to raise some interesting points. How would he vote on a no confidence motion?

    Come to that, slippery Pete having gathered that nickname for a reason, how would he vote on any such motion.

    The other thing is, in the event that the Oakeshott strategy is invoked, how do things get better for Labor? With Slipper in the chair everything will be about how long the govt has left.

  28. Posted August 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I have no sympathy for Turnbull. Politically, I am quite close to him, but the couple of occasions on which I’ve met him have left me with the impression that he is pretty shallow and not very nice.

    Yes but at least he’s up front and honest about being a jerk. I find that quite refreshing.

    In his book Power Bertrand Russell points out that one of the problems of democracy or any system that allows anyone to acquire power is that those who want power above all are the very ones likely to get it. Perhaps a system can be devised whereby the cleaners of toilets are selected from the ranks of those who’re hungry for power.

  29. Posted August 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    A@38 The pining for the Liberals to go back having a Turnbull in the China shop says more about fashionable opinion than political realities.

    I took the same view about a Turnbull Leadership as Bob Carr is supposed to have taken to a Latham Leadership — it would be an exciting six months. For similar dysfunctional personality reasons.

    Turnbull is the only Federal Liberal Leader brought down by the ordinary membership, who used “social media” to let their MPs know in no uncertain terms that Turnbull was not acceptable. That the Party room vote was so close was more surprising than that Tony won: a rematch would be a wipeout, which is why it is mere subtext speculation by frustrated journos. Given it is it is blindingly obvious that, with the normal caveats about something extraordinary happening, Tony will lead the Coalition to victory whenever the election occurs.

    Also, it should be a rule: no member for Wentworth is allowed to be Liberal Leader–the electorate is too peculiarly unrepresentative.

    On the wider issue of “why governments fall”: preselecting someone who turns out to be massively unsuitable to be a Member of Parliament is something worthy of being punished for. One wonders if a good hard look will result at modern union culture and its interactions with the Labor Party.

  30. Posted August 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    The pining for the Liberals to go back having a Turnbull in the China shop says more about fashionable opinion than political realities.

    There is no pining. Apart from Turnbull’s egotism which need not be reiterated there’s the overwhelmingly reactionary conservatism of his party which is, if anything, more hardline than it was in ’96. Turnbull’s a VISIONARY SAUSAGE WITHOUT A BUN [SOONED BY ADMIN DEM,] no doubt, but, possibly for that reason, he’s also a true individual. I can’t remember a political leader in this country who spoke his mind contrary to the views of his allies.

    That’s to be commended.

    It’s just a shame that such commendation falls on only one and that that one thus far falls short of other aspects of leadership deemed essential in public life.

    If you lean to the libertarian methinks Abbott will prove to be the worst of both worlds. He’ll make Howard look like Jefferson.

  31. Posted August 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    One wonders if a good hard look will result at modern union culture and its interactions with the Labor Party.

    The ALP and the union hegemony are simply to two facets of the Alternative Ruling Class. Technocrats who believe in nothing and know even less. I fear for democracy in this country considering.

  32. Posted August 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Adrien@38: “Perhaps a system can be devised whereby the cleaners of toilets are selected from the ranks of those who’re hungry for power.”

    More – “Utopia”. Lobbying for office disqualifies from office.

    Adrien@41: Hear hear. We have a laboral coalition – nothing much to argue about really than the fights between Libs and Nats.

  33. Posted August 25, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    DB@43 It is Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis writ small: policy converges on acceptable levels of dysfunction by selecting against unacceptable levels of dysfunction.

  34. Henry2
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    LE @ 42

    Judging by its history, the ALP will now treat HSU secretary Kathy Jackson as a ‘rat’, particularly if the decision of the HSU national executive brings down Thomson and with him an ALP federal government. This is a pity as she exhibits an honesty and integrity that is going to be absolutely needed if the ALP is to rebuild itself in the near future.

    It remains to be seen if the party can prove me wrong.

    Frank

  35. Posted August 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    TQ@26 Wilkie is making noises in the direction you indicated:

    Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said last night he was ”uncomfortable with the Prime Minister’s strong public show of support” for Mr Thomson.

  36. Posted August 25, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Then there is the “numbers uber alles” theory of politics:

    Mate, if he f—ing murdered someone, we’d try to keep him in until 2013,” a Labor MP said.

  37. Nick Ferrett
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    An interesting thought has occurred to me. Reports suggest that the auditors will not sign off on the HSU’s books. The union may be insolvent.

    If the union is insolvent or is staring down the barrel of insolvency, the obligation to pursue outstanding debtors will become an imperative. It seems strongly arguable that Thomson misused funds. Certainly, there seems enough to succeed on the civil standard.

    His liability to the union would be in restitution and thus in debt. Plausibly, the union could simply serve a bankruptcy notice. Unless Thomson could get another loan he would either have to go on oath as to why the debt is in dispute or go bankrupt.

  38. Pedro
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    It’s remarkable how many journos still want to shift the focus from the salient fact, a MP appears to be a hopeless thief who regarded union funds as a personal bank account and is now being defended by his party. In fact, Gillard should resign over it and call an election.

  39. Posted August 25, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Will the Libs move to cause a spill… is it a thrill? No it ain’t. It seem to me I’ve had to vote every single year since I was thirty. Enough a’ready. Just one year with seven crates worth of crap in the mail featuring smiling sharks in suits who say they care about me.

    And I reckon we should make Barnaby Joyce the PM. At least it’d be good for a laugh.

  40. Posted August 25, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    That’s without seven crates…

  41. Nick Ferrett
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    LE, that’s why I mentioned the insolvency point.

  42. Nick Ferrett
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Henry2@45, I don’t think there’ll be much cachet associated with good standing in the ALP for the foreseeable future.

  43. Posted August 25, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    In fact, Gillard should resign over it and call an election.

    I thought that was how Australia got IN this mess in the first place, Pedro? Didn’t you just HAVE one?

  44. Henry2
    Posted August 26, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Adrien and LE:
    I would so much rather go to the polls in a peaceful democracy like Australia than have to change government like they are in Libya or Syria or Zimbabwe or …

    I really don’t mind the boxes of crap in my garage.

  45. Henry2
    Posted August 26, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    LE@57

    It gets worse

  46. Posted August 26, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I would so much rather go to the polls in a peaceful democracy like Australia than have to change government like they are in Libya or Syria or Zimbabwe

    Well I don’t know. Maybe a people’s army crashing Canberra might be a good thing for Oz politics. :)

  47. Posted August 26, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    But Howard had to force secret ballots on them? Back in the 30s Bertrand Russell commented somewhere that the Left pay inadequate attention to the checks and balances part of power. That they don’t ensure sufficiently that people get promoted from merit not nepotism.

    My experience of the ALP inclines me to assume that everyone with power in it got their because they knew the right people. They understand the value of merit, sure. But they don’t respect checks and balances as a core value.

  48. Posted August 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Adrien and LE:
    I would so much rather go to the polls in a peaceful democracy like Australia than have to change government like they are in Libya or Syria or Zimbabwe or …

    … Queensland?!

    We are still talking about a crisis in the LABOUR party, aren’t we? The ones with a ‘heavy mob’ permanently on subcontract and ready to riot? Costigan, “bottom of the harbour” – two regular phrases lodged firmly in my earliest memory. Sorry to come across as partisan but having escaped the clutches of Paul Bearer only to flee straight into the neolab embrace of Tony Blair in the UK I am really low on sympathy with the workers reps (even though they were very nice and ferried me down to london for a protest march).

    [Don't worry, in the interests of fairness the mad monk makes me go ewww too.]

  49. Posted September 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    A great animated Taiwanese presentation of the Thompson affair is here: they seem to get all the highlights nicely.

  50. Posted September 3, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    LE@67 Glad you liked it :)

    I admit to have a great deal of sympathy for Julia: some of that is local patriotism. Being a resident of the Western suburbs of Melbourne, I like having a local PM ;)

  51. Henry2
    Posted September 4, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    From #62;
    And again!

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