Today the Court has found Thomson guilty of obtaining financial advantage by using his Health Services Union (HSU) credit card to pay for sexual services and making cash withdrawals.
On 21 May 2012, Thomson gave a tearful speech to the House of Representatives in which he emphatically denied the charges and, furthermore, made accusations against the then Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.
That applies in this country, and you have trashed that. What you have done is not just damage to an individual or their family. You have damaged democracy and you continue to damage democracy, and you should hang your head in shame for that. What it shows of the Leader of the Opposition, that man, is that not only is he unfit to be a prime minister; in my view, he is unfit to be an MP.
Thomson has committed high contempt against the House of Representatives and should be sanctioned by the House.
The House has powers to imprison or fine persons that it has inherited from the House of Commons and which are now enshrined in the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987.
The House of Commons Practice (May) states
The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt. In 1963 the House resolved that in making a personal statement which contained words which he later admitted not to be true, a former Member had been guilty of a grave contempt.
As noted in House of Representatives Practice
By section 49 of the Constitution the House of Representatives acquired the powers, privileges and immunities of the House of Commons as at 1 January 1901, until the Parliament otherwise declared. In the absence of such a declaration of those powers, privileges and immunities until 1987 with the enactment of the Parliamentary Privileges Act, they remained those of the House of Commons as at 1 January 1901.
The House may sentence a person to up to six months imprisonment
Section 7 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act provides that the House may impose a penalty of imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months for an offence against it. Such a penalty is not affected by prorogation or dissolution. Before the enactment of this provision, the House, under section 49 of the Constitution, possessed the same power in this area as the House of Commons in 1901; the Commons was considered to be without the power to imprison for a period beyond the session, although apart from this constraint there were no other limits in terms of the length of committal.171
On the only occasion when the House of Representatives has exercised its power of commitment (see p. 731), Messrs Browne and Fitzpatrick, in 1955, were committed for three months. No prorogation or dissolution of the Parliament intervened during the period of their imprisonment and they served the full period of their commitment.
In the present case, the House should summon Thomson, charge him with grave contempt, and if it finds him guilty, sentence him to a month or so in prison. Thomson’s offence against the House is extremely grave. Not only did he deliberately lie and deceive the House, but he did so to procure personal advantage and personal financial advantage. His lies enabled him to keep him position until the 2013 election and continue to support his friends to remain in government until that election. In effect, Thomson staged a coup d’etat against the Australian people. It enabled him to recontest the seat of Dobell, thus increasing his parliamentary pension for the rest of his life.