Kelvin Thomson Resigns From Shadow Ministry Over Mokbel Reference

The ALP’s Shadow Attorney-General, Kelvin Thomson, has resigned after admitting he wrote a reference in 2000 for the fugitive crime figure, Tony Mokbel.

Kelvin Thomson, ALP Member for WillsAt a press conference today, the Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd, said: “On Tuesday my office received anonymous information that the Member for Wills and Shadow Attorney–General, Mr Kelvin Thomson, had provided a letter of support of some sort to Tony Mokbel. On Wednesday after my office spoke with Mr Thomson, I was briefed that the matter concerned a letter of support for a Victorian liquor licence application in 2000 for Mr Mokbel. Mr Thomson has since stated that a request was made for a letter of support for Mr Mokbel from Mr Thomson, as Mokbel’s local Member of Parliament in 2000 in support of a liquor licence application. Mr Thomson subsequently provided that letter of support.”

Rudd said: “It is unacceptable for a person to be Shadow Attorney-General and the first law officer of the Commonwealth to have provided a letter of support of this nature. That is also Mr Thomson’s view.”

Of Mokbel, Rudd said: “Mokbel has been described as a senior crime figure, a fugitive, and also someone who is wanted for murder. I’m advised that by 2000 Mokbel had a range of convictions including unlawful assault, including assault occasioning bodily harm, firearms offences and handling stolen goods.”

Thomson has been the Labor member for the Melbourne electorate of Wills, based on Coburg, since 1996. Previously, he served nearly two terms in the Victorian Legislative Assembly as the member for Pascoe Vale.

He has held a variety of shadow portfolios since 1997. He was the shadow minister for Human Services during 2005-06 and was appointed shadow Attorney-General when Rudd became leader in December 2006.

Thomson’s resignation comes at the end of a week which began with allegations about Rudd’s meetings with Brian Burke. This was followed by the resignation of the Minister for Human Services, Senator Ian Campbell. Then three Queensland Liberal backbenchers came under police investigation over possible abuses of their electorate allowances.

  • Mar 09: Listen to Kelvin Thomson Comment on his Tony Mokbel Reference.

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  • Mar 09: Listen to Kevin Rudd Comment On Kelvin Thomson’s Resignation.

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  • Mar 09: Listen to Attorney-General Philip Ruddock Comment On Kelvin Thomson.

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  • Mar 11: Listen to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer Sledge Thomson And Rudd.

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  • Mar 11: Listen to Treasurer Peter Costello Sledge Rudd And Thomson.

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This is the reference Kelvin Thomson wrote for Tony Mokbel.

 

*

This is the text of a media statement released by the Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd.

On Tuesday my office received anonymous information that the Member for Wills and Shadow Attorney-General, Mr Kelvin Thomson may have provided a letter of support of some sort to Tony Mokbel.

On Wednesday after my office spoke with Mr Thomson, I was briefed that the matter concerned a letter of support for a Victorian Liquor Licence application in 2000 for Mokbel.

Mr Thomson has since stated that:

  • A request was made for a letter of support for Mokbel from Mr Thomson (as Mokbel’s local Member of Parliament) in 2000 in support of a liquor licence application.
  • Mr Thomson subsequently provided that letter of support.

Mokbel has been described as a fugitive senior crime figure, who is wanted for murder. I am advised that by 2000, Mokbel had a range of convictions, including unlawful assault, assault occasioning bodily harm, firearms offences and handling stolen goods.

Mr Thomson has stated to me that he had no recollection of the provision of this letter of support.

Mr Thomson has resigned today from the Shadow Ministry – effective today.

It is unacceptable for a person to be Shadow Attorney-General and the first law officer of the Commonwealth to have provided a letter of support of this nature. That is also Mr Thomson’s view.

I have asked incoming ALP National President Senator John Faulkner and senior Victorian Senator Robert Ray to examine this matter with a view to making recommendations on the future provision by MPs of letters and references.

I have appointed Senator Joe Ludwig as Shadow Attorney-General. Arch Bevis will be given the added responsibilities of Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs. Deputy Manager of Opposition Business will be Bob McMullan.

*

This is the transcript of a press conference held by the Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd.

Rudd: Kelvin Thomson has resigned today as a Member of the Shadow Ministry and as Shadow Attorney-General. That resignation is accepted as of today.

It is unacceptable for any person who would be the alternative Attorney-General and the alternative first law officer of the Commonwealth to have provided a letter of support of this nature. Mr Thomson also accepts that position. The circumstances surrounding this matter are canvassed in a written statement which I’ve just distributed and there are as follows:

On Tuesday my office received anonymous information that the Member for Wills and Shadow Attorney–General, Mr Kelvin Thomson, had provided a letter of support of some sort to Tony Mokbel. On Wednesday after my office spoke with Mr Thomson, I was briefed that the matter concerned a letter of support for a Victorian liquor licence application in 2000 for Mr Mokbel. Mr Thomson has since stated that a request was made for a letter of support for Mr Mokbel from Mr Thomson, as Mokbel’s local Member of Parliament in 2000 in support of a liquor licence application. Mr Thomson subsequently provided that letter of support.

Mokbel has been described as a senior crime figure, a fugitive, and also someone who is wanted for murder. I’m advised that by 2000 Mokbel had a range of convictions including unlawful assault, including assault occasioning bodily harm, firearms offences and handling stolen goods.

Mr Thomson has stated to me that he had no recollection of the provision of the letter of support. In addition to the action I’ve taken in relation to this matter I have also asked incoming ALP National President, Senator John Faulkner, and senior Victorian Senator, Robert Ray, to examine this matter with the view to making recommendations on the future provision by MP’s of letters and references. On machinery arrangements, they are as follows:

I’ve appointed Senator Ludwig as Shadow Attorney-General. Arch Bevis will be given the added responsibility as Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs in addition to his existing responsibilities of Homeland Security and Territories. Deputy Manager of Opposition Business will be Bob McMullan. I’m happy to take questions.

Journalist: Are you going to ask all your MP’s to confirm to you now that they have not provided letters of reference to underworld figures?

Rudd: It would be appropriate now for there to be an audit of references provided in support of liquor licence applications and any other relevant application by individuals for support from any agency of Government and that audit will occur in the days ahead.

Journalist: Have you provided any such letters?

Rudd: To the best of my knowledge, no.

Journalist: Shouldn’t these matters be a simple a matter of commonsense?

Rudd: Well, the question here is this: that when it comes to having, as the alternative Attorney-General and alternative first law officer of the Commonwealth having provided a letter of this nature, it is not acceptable. It is unacceptable and that’s why Mr Thomson has resigned.

Journalist: (inaudible) any Ministers or any Members of Parliament should be writing references at all?

Rudd: When it comes to references in support of community organisations, I would assume that Members of Parliament, both Labor and Liberal across the country, may have done so from time to time, particularly when it comes in support of local charitable and community activities. When it comes to individual recommendations or letters of support for regulators concerning particular matters, that’s a different matter and that’s why we’ll be conducting an audit in the days ahead.

Journalist: Will he be able to return to the frontbench, Mr Thomson?

Rudd: I would need to be presented with a very strong argument indeed for that to occur, a very strong argument indeed for that to occur.

Journalist: Will he be remaining as a member of the Labor Party?

Rudd: On the basis of the information that I have available to me at present, Mr Thomson will remain as a member of the ALP and will remain of course as the Member for Wills.

Journalist: Have you sacked Mr Thomson?

Rudd: Mr Thomson tendered his resignation. It was accepted. The reason for that was that it is unacceptable to have Mr Thomson as the alternative Attorney-General and the alternative first law officer of Australia having provided a letter of support of this nature, even though it was provided some six or seven years ago.

Journalist: If he faces such a (inaudible) task to regain a place on the frontbench, isn’t he, in effect, a lame duck Member for Wills and does that call into question his position for a candidate then?

Rudd: On the basis of the information available to me, it would not be inappropriate for Mr Thomson to recontest, as I said, that’s on the basis of the information at present available to me.

Journalist: (inaudible)

Rudd: Well, politics is full of ups and downs and we’ve had a few challenges in recent times, this is one of them I accept that. The important thing is that once these matters have been put to us and we have investigated them internally and established the facts, as best we know them and to act and to act decisively, we’ve done that.

Journalist: But it is a very bad look in the light of the recent Brian Burke problems, is it not?

Rudd: When it comes to a key position such as the alternative Attorney-General of Australia and a key position as the first law officer of Australia, we cannot have a person in that position who has provided a letter of support of this nature. Let’s be clear about this. Mokbel is a fugitive. Mokbel is charged with murder. Mokbel is an individual who is engaged in wide-ranging criminal activities. For those reasons it’s unacceptable for any letter of support to have been provided to such a person. We should be mindful of the fact that there were a range of criminal convictions prior to 2000, that those are also in part of a violent nature.

Journalist: Did Mr Thomson ever meet Tony Mokbel?

Rudd: Mr Thomson has stated that he has no recollection of meeting Mokbel and I refer you to his statement today to that effect.

Journalist: (inaudible) been a suggestion that perhaps one of his staff members may have written this reference without Kelvin’s knowledge and (inaudible)?

Rudd: My understanding is that the reference from – I think, Mr Thomson has made this perfectly clear in his statement – that this reference was completed in his office. In terms of the details surrounding the completion of the actual reference, that question had best be put to him. My concern is this. The letter of reference has been provided and that when it comes to the standards which we are expected to uphold concerning who should be the first law officer of Australia, who should be the Attorney-General of Australia, if a letter of support of this nature exists, then there is no alternative but to act in the way in which we have acted. And we’ve done so decisively.

Journalist: Do you know if Mr Thomson physically signed off on that letter?

Rudd: I’m uncertain as to whether the signature in question is directly Mr Thomson’s or whether it’s been provided by some other electronic device.

Journalist: Did you ask him to stand down?

Rudd: Mr Thomson voluntarily resigned. I accepted his resignation for the reasons I’ve outlined.

Journalist: In general terms, does the airing of dirty laundry (inaudible) on your orders and how did this come out?

Rudd: As stated in the statement which I’ve circulated, on Tuesday this week there was an anonymous source of information which related to this matter. On Wednesday and Thursday and this morning these matters were then discussed in detail with Mr Thomson. We established the facts, as presented to you, and action has been taken concerning Mr Thomson remaining as Shadow Attorney-General.

Journalist: Was this anonymous source a member of the public, a parliamentarian?

Rudd: An anonymous source from the public. And what we do when we receive anonymous sources, and you’ll be surprised to know there’s a few of those both in politics and journalism, is that when information comes in we check things out, and we did so, and after several days of discussions we established these facts.

Journalist: Were you influenced in your thinking by the fact the Prime Minister recently dismissed a Minister for an apparently harmless meeting with Brian Burke?

Rudd: When it comes to Mokbel, we are dealing with a major figure of organised crime in Australia and we’re dealing with Mokbel, we’re dealing with a person who is a fugitive, we’re dealing with a person who is responsible for violent crime. And therefore, the standard I’ve applied to this is that any letter of support for such a person means that the person providing that support could not possibly become the first law officer of the Commonwealth or possibly become the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth.

Journalist: Is it a fair point, though, isn’t it, that in the last few weeks we’ve had a lot of almost all knee-jerk reactions with certain situations and people have been summarily dumped whereas in recent years there hasn’t been any of that. Why do you think in the last few weeks we’ve suddenly seen State and Federal Members going?

Rudd: Well, on this question, my responsibility relates to the suitability for office in the position of the Attorney-General of Australia of a person who has provided a letter of support for an individual such as Mokbel. I think that is self-explanatory, given Mokbel’s background, and given the fact that Mokbel remains a fugitive, and given that Mokbel, as of today, based on my advice, is being charged with murder.

Journalist: Is it embarrassing to the Federal Labor Party?

Rudd: Well, there are certain things you’d rather not happen and this is one of them. I accept that. But when these things present themselves you investigate them and you establish the facts, you take the necessary action. That’s what we’ve done in the last several days and we’ve acted decisively today.

Journalist: (inaudible)

Rudd: Mr Thomson, in my experience of him, has been a first- class Member of Parliament and when it comes to this decision relating to his future in the Shadow Ministry and as the Shadow Attorney-General, of course it’s an outcome which he regrets. But when it comes to us going to the people and presenting an individual as the alternative first law officer of Australia, you cannot, you cannot play around with this. This is a serious position. Mokbel is a serious figure of organised crime in Australia. There can be no compromise on these questions and there is none. Thank you.

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