Yesterday Anthony Albanese made the following comment in the HoR in relation to Craig Thomson:
Madam Deputy Speaker, I do not think it can be let go that the Manager of Opposition Business just spoke about the member for Dobell not having called witnesses. That is the point. This is not a court. This is not somewhere where witnesses are called and come forward and a case is presented. That is the entire point.
The Federal Parliament is a court for its own members. The House can pass a motion recommending that an MP be sentenced to gaol for no longer than 6 months under the Parliamentary Privileges Act and section 49 of the Constitution for breaches of parliamentary privilege. The Speaker can either issue warrants of arrest or fines or both to the affected member.
The legality of the abuse of Parliamentary Privilege is complicated. What is clear is that Parliament can act like a court under the Constitution, and punish a member based – by custom – on the findings of the Privileges Committee.
Thomson therefore can be freely judged by his own peers. MP’s do not have to wait for a court judgement. They are the judge and jury.
Thomson must now survive the ALP dominated Privileges Committee, the NSW and Victorian Police Strike Force Carnarvon and the next election. If he does all – which seems highly unlikely – then he will still face the prospect of a prison sentence being handed down by the HoR when the Coalition assumes power in 2013. Thomson and any other MP that is found to have conspired with him to deceive Parliament will be going to gaol.
There is nothing ridiculous about it. An Act of Parliament and the Constitution permit the HoR to send an MP to gaol. It happened in 1955 to a pair of MPs. No reason it cannot happen again. Covering up fraud in Parliament is no small matter.
Apparently A Current Affair has tracked down one of Thomson’s hookers and a further transaction made by Thomson. The ex-Hooker has also signed a statutory declaration, the contents of which are still unknown.