Embattled MP Craig Thomson caused a stir in Parliament on Wednesday by sitting with Liberals and voting against the Gillard government. Mr Thomson's move made Opposition leader Tony Abbott - who has been pushing for Mr Thomson's resignation - uncomfortable and scurry for the parliament door.
Mr Abbott dismissed the MP from Dobell's act as a Labor stunt. Mr Thomson was booted by the Australian Labor Party after he was charged in a Fair Work Australia (FWA) report of misusing $500,000 Health Services Union (HSU) funds when he was its national secretary.
Mr Thomson, who has denied the charges, became a crossbencher and with his votes helped defeat gag motions against Liberal MPs on suspension of standing orders to debate the debt issue. The Coalition has vowed never to accept Mr Thomson's vote but Mr Abbott was not allowed to leave the chamber since the doors were locked for the formal ballot.
Christopher Pyne, the manager of opposition business, managed to leave but Mr Abbott was ordered back by Speaker Anna Burke. The move had Mr Abbott's vote counted but because Ms Burke failed to notice Mr Pyne leave, his vote was withdrawn, which in effect negated Mr Thomson's vote.
Prior to the HSU charges, Mr Thomson always voted with Labor.
When the motion to debate the debate came for another round of voting, Mr Thomson again sided with the Coalition while Mr Pyne sat in the adviser's box and did not cast his vote and Mr Abbott protested by staying in his office.
Mr Thomson then teased Mr Abbott to cross the floor and sit with Labor MPs to negate his vote. The embattled MP voted two more times with the Coalition on the gag order. The Opposition leader had previously called on Labor not to accept Mr Thomson's vote which he claimed is tainted.
With Mr Thomson's apparent change of allegiance, Mr Abbott said the Coalition would have one of its MPs absent to negate the former HSU official's vote. A similar situation happened during the Howard government when former Labor Senator Mal Colston's vote was rejected by the Labor Party.
Besides the voting brouhaha, another Opposition strategy to pin down Mr Thomson appears headed for defeat following the admission by an FWA staff that the 2009 internal memo about referring the HSU probe to the police that evidence was insufficient.
Alisa Carruthers of FWA, who was one of those who received the memo, told Liberal Senator Eric Abetz that there was not enough evidence at that time to refer the HSU investigation to the police.
Recently, the police tried to find more evidence to prove the FWA charges against Mr Thomson by asking sex trade workers in Surry Hills brothels if the MP was a client. The search, however, yielded negative results.
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