Did an Australian lawmaker use his work credit card to rent hookers? This time, it really matters

Australia's Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard tries to turn her attention to slightly bigger concerns than a scandal at home that could topple her government, speaking at the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul on March 27, 2012.

It's slow-mo, car wreck watching material.

An Australian lawmaker accused of using an official credit card to make cash advances and pay for prostitutes and Indian takeout, among other things, has the political classes chattering and many Aussies wondering how much they can really ever know about those they elect.

It wasn't like Craig Thomson was stealing from the public purse to fund his apparently very spicy lifestyle.

He was head of a major union before entering Parliament in 2007, and it was there that he allegedly developed a spending habit that only unlimited access to someone else's funds could satisfy.

If he were to be investigated for criminal offenses involving the misuse of Health Services Union funds — a very real possibility after a three-year investigation into his activities was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions — and found guilty, the only person he was really hurting was himself right?

That is, other than a few hardworking nurses, ambulance drivers, radiographers and the like who pay union fees in the honest belief their representatives will spend them on the members' behalf.

Get fired, perhaps go to jail for a while and that would be the end of it, right?

Well, no, things are sadly a little more complicated.

Thomson was elected as a representative of the ruling Labor Party in the seat of Dobell in News South Wales, and it turns out that while he was more popular than the other bloke, it wasn't by much.

The seat is considered "marginal" — meaning that if an election were held tomorrow, it would probably fall to the opposition Liberal Party.

And if Dobell were to fall to the opposition Liberal Party, then the whole government — like a Norwegian tow truck attached to a Ukranian sliding off a snowy mountain pass —  would probably tumble into the abyss with him. 

More from GlobalPost: Trucker cheats death in 200ft cliff plunge posted on YouTube 

Labor holds government in Australia only with the help of one independent, and that independent has already said he's not going to side with Julia Gillard in the next election — owing to the small matter of a broken promise.  

More from Down Under: Australia's Julia Gillard and Labor Party lose ground in polls

The allegations against Thomson — who for the record maintains his innocence in the matter and, perhaps unsurprisingly, has the full support of the abyss-watching Labor heirarchy — were first carried by the Fairfax Press.

But it's worth looking at this handy timeline of "events" in the Thomson case done up by "The Power Index," to familiarize yourself with just how much hot vindaloo he could be in.

And Australians might want to take a good look at public officialdom 

It may not generate the same moral outrage as sex scandals involving public officials in societies where those public officials swear on a Bible to fulfill their public duties honestly, but still — for Australians, this time it really matters.

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