The ABC's 730 show with Craig Thomson last night - the best and worst of us
Welcome to "World's most awkward shopping centre walks".
Craig Thomson appeared last night on the ABCs 7.30 program. It was a horrible reminder of how poor now are the minimum standards of character and behaviour that have become acceptable for serving Federal Parliamentarians.
But for all the display of the Gillard/Thomson/Labor malaise on 7.30 last night - the show was also a shining example that decency and normal Australian social standards live on in the community. That much was crystal clear in the shopping mall, particularly in the cold disdain for Thomson and what he represents.
Ever since mid 2011 I've been troubled by the continued support for Craig Thomson from the Labor Party - and more importantly from our media. At a minimum, he used HSU's members money to pay bills for prostitute services. He's given various versions of events, used the parliament's time to spin a story that it was another man - and has done nothing to bring that "other man" to justice or to get money back. You can have all the codes of conduct and the like you can print out and laminate - but they mean nothing when Thomson's behaviour was not met with real consequences.
Even after his admissions about approving the hooker payments back at the office, Ms Gillard was effusive in her support for him. "He's doing a great job", "has total support and my confidence", "hope he'll be around in the job for a long, long, long time", and it was a similar attitude from much of the media.
Thomson said in yesterday's ABC interview that he thinks lots of people just want to forget about the things he's alleged to have done. That's precisely what Gillard, the Labor Party, Michael Williamson and many others wanted to happen. They certainly acted like they thought the fix was in and the circus would just move on.
To add insult to the injury the workers in the HSU suffered, the perverted Labor Party paid out a further $360,000 in members money to cover Thomson's legal bills so he could keep his parliamentary career. Let that sink in. It paid to keep him there as a daily reminder of his history.
Among many political types that sort of stuff is the new normal. It doesn't raise an eyebrow at the ABC or Fairfax. I heard Barrie Cassidy say on the ABC's Insiders that "it's not whether Thomson was allowed to use the credit card for the escort services - it's whether there was a specific rule saying he couldn't".
And there - I think - is the lesson from last night's ABC 7.30 program. It's the huge gulf between the attitudes of insiders and the attitudes of the bulk of the nation. In our heart, we're still a moral lot.
Thomson was a pariah in that shopping mall. With one uncomfortable exception, no one wanted to be associated with Craig Thomson. Even his own attempts at "how's it goin'?" sounded contrived, the work of an outsider.
But in "whatever it takes" contemporary Labor there was nothing Thomson could do that was sufficiently odious to render him unwelcome. He was never asked to give a proper account of himself, never held to his story and made to wear negative consequences for lying or doing nothing to help get the members money back.
So on the one hand there's Labor and its attitude to Craig with $360,000 love-money and other comforting gestures. Labor endorsed him. The PM praised him.
And on the other hand - normal Aussies shook their heads in disgust and wondered what sort of person could endorse what Thomson did. And if that Party could compromise itself, its morality - to do that, how could I ever vote for them?
Thomson is heartland Labor in the Obeid/Williamson/Gillard mould. And he looked like a fish out of water as he walked among people with conventional ideas about morality.
Labor has a big job if it's to leave the Gillard and other corrupt influences behind it. But it must jettison that baggage if it's to survive. Labor's got to be able to do the shopping mall walk without feeling like an outsider. The Party has to have at least the same standards of morality as the rest of us - and you'd hope that for our leaders the standards would be even higher.
As Thomson's embarrassing presence showed yesterday, there's currently a huge gap between what Labor says is acceptable behaviour and what we say is OK.
The Party could start to bridge it by apologising for its support of Thomson and his ilk.