Case based on politics, Thomson lawyer says

CRAIG THOMSON will argue that Fair Work Australia has launched a civil case against him to get ''the press and politicians off their back'' and should be forced to pay his costs, according to his lawyer.

On Monday Fair Work brought proceedings in the Federal Court against Mr Thomson, the former Labor MP who now sits on the crossbenches, carrying potential fines and compensation payments of up to $450,000.

But Fair Work concedes more than half the allegations - which include Mr Thomson spending thousands of dollars of union funds on prostitutes - could be thrown out on the grounds that the legal time limit has been exceeded.

Mr Thomson's lawyer, Mr Chris McArdle, said that ''if this case runs we will apply under the Fair Work Act for costs to be awarded in Mr Thomson's favour because the action was commenced without reasonable cause and for a collateral purpose, namely to get the press and the politicians off their back''.

The Federal Court is still considering an appeal in a separate case between the Fair Work Ombudsman and Toyota Material Handling, which found there was a two-year statute of limitations, or time limit, for actions under the old industrial act, the provisions of which were rolled into the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009.

That is the act Mr Thomson is alleged to have breached 37 times when he worked for the HSU up to 2007, with each alleged breach potentially punishable by fines of up to $6600.

If they were thrown out because of the time limit, Mr Thomson would still face 25 allegations he breached the Health Services Union's rules. If found proved, these would not attract a financial penalty but could involve compensation.

The financial penalties are the most immediate potential political ramification for the minority government, because if Mr Thomson was bankrupted he would be disqualified from sitting in Parliament. Being found at fault in a civil case does not preclude an MP from serving.

But Mr Thomson said he was confident ''this civil action has no legs at all'' and bankruptcy was not something he had contemplated.

A directions hearing in the case is set for December 7.

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