Thomson fronts court on 154 fraud charges

With his wife Zoe by his side, former federal Labor MP Craig Thomson has this morning faced a Melbourne court to be formally charged with 154 fraud offences, including allegations he used his union credit card to pay for prostitutes.

Mr Thomson, 48, who is now sitting as an independent in Parliament, appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court for a brief filing hearing on the charges.

He was arrested last Thursday at his NSW Central Coast office and charged with fraud and theft offences relating to the alleged misuse of entitlements when he was national secretary of the Health Services Union.

Part of his bail conditions included not contacting any prostitutes he is alleged to have engaged for sexual services.

Mr Thomson arrived at the Melbourne courthouse just before 9am and told the waiting media his priority was to "get this issue on and over with as quickly as possible to clear my name".

His case was called before magistrate Donna Bakos in courtroom 1 at 10.24am.

Defence lawyer Bill Dwyer told the court Mr Thomson was concerned at the way he had been brought to the court.

Mr Dwyer said Mr Thomson had been ordered to appear in Melbourne at short notice and "he's anxious to get these matters resolved".

Ms Bakos ordered Mr Thomson to appear again on May 22 for a committal mention.

A 20-volume police brief of evidence was expected to be sent to Mr Thomson's legal team by April 17.

The magistrate varied Thomson's bail to include a provision that he not contact any employees of a number of businesses, including one which operated the Touch of Class brothel in Sydney.

The charges against Mr Thomson followed an 18-month Victoria Police fraud investigation into the finances of the Health Services Union.

Mr Thomson, the member for Dobell who was suspended from the Labor Party early last year over the allegations, married Zoe Arnold, a radio newsreader and media advisor, in January 2011.

The couple live in Bateau Bay and has two children, Matilda, 3, and Adelaide, 17 months.

They met when Mr Thomson was a union boss and Zoe was working as a media advisor to former NSW health minister Reba Meagher.

Mr Thomson is accused of improperly using Health Services Union funds to spend on prostitutes, air travel, entertainment and cash withdrawals in excess of $100,000.

He was the union’s national secretary from 2002 until his election to Federal Parliament in December 2007.

Court documents state that the alleged offences occurred between February 2003 and April 2008.

One charge claims he used a Mastercard to avoid paying a debt of $330 to Sydney escort service Aboutoun Catering for sexual services in February 2003.

Mr Thomson is still being investigated by NSW police in relation to Strike Force Carnarvon, looking into alleged fraud in the NSW branch of the HSU.

In an interview with Fairfax Media on Monday, Thomson said he had never used prostitutes and was worried his legal fees to fight the case could cost him his house.

When the HSU allegations against Mr Thomson first surfaced in 2009, Zoe was pregnant with their first child.

She said at the time she stood by Mr Thomson "100 per cent".

Writing in the Australian Women's Weekly last year, Mrs Thomson said: "A lot of people have made their minds up about my husband. They see him as a philanderer, a man who's loose with his money and his morals. I don't know that man.

"I love my husband. This will all end one day and then we will still have each other."

Craig Thomson, accompanied by his wife, arrives to face court in Melbourne. Photo: MAL FAIRCLOUGH

Craig Thomson, accompanied by his wife, arrives to face court in Melbourne. Photo: MAL FAIRCLOUGH