Bathurst’s Mark Worthington and Rodney Allan have found themselves at the centre of the controversial Craig Thomson debate after agreeing to open an account which will house funds for the embattled former Labor Party MP’s mounting legal fees.
Both Mr Worthington and Mr Allan said they were contacted by Craig Thomson’s family requesting them to set up and act as signatories on a bank account where supporters can deposit funds to contribute to Mr Thomson’s legal defence against 154 criminal charges.
Mr Allan said Craig Thomson’s father was a former colleague of his at Charles Sturt University in the late 1970s and 1980s.
The two remained in contact after the Thomsons relocated to Sydney around 1990.
He said Jack Thomson telephoned him in the first half of April and asked him to establish the account for the purpose of raising funds for his son’s legal fees.
Mr Allan said even though he has never met or spoken to Craig Thomson he holds his parents, Jack and Shona, in high regard.
“In my opinion it’s been a very one-sided piece of reporting about Craig. I just feel a person needs the opportunity to be able to present their case and counteract the claims made against them and we all know the legal process in this country is not cheap.
“There is no ulterior motive for me. I am doing this at the request of a long-time friend and coll-eague, that’s all there is to it.”
Mr Allan opened the bank account with local retired lawyer Mark Worthington a few weeks ago at the Bathurst branch of the Commonwealth Bank.
Mr Worthington said Jack and Shona Thomson were supporters of his when he contested the state seat of Bathurst as an ALP candidate in 1976 and 1978.
“I haven’t had ongoing contact with Craig’s parents since they lived in Bathurst but we have mutual friends. I don’t know how my name came up as a contact.”
He said his motives in becoming involved were purely because the Thomsons were looking for reliable people to set up an account for fund-raising.
“I do feel Craig has been treated very badly. I think a significant proportion of the population think he is guilty and we haven’t even got beyond allegations. I think a huge injustice has been done to him and I was reminded of a quote used by John F Kennedy – ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’.
“He has proclaimed his innocence and the law says he is innocent, so how can we think otherwise.”
Mr Worthington said he spoke with Craig Thomson just before opening the bank account.
“He called me from Bali. I needed to talk to him about the name of the account, which we decided would be called Defence Fund. That is all we spoke about.”
Mr Worthington said he is not currently aware of the balance of the account and has not decided if he will make it public.
“I don’t think people need to know, but it certainly isn’t a secret. The whole thing is going to be a very transparent business as far as I am concerned.”
Both Mr Worthington and Mr Allan were surprised at the amount of interest in them since opening the account and said they had been contacted by various news outlets on the subject.
The interest in the local pair peaked this week after Craig Thomson released a letter on
the internet urging friends and supporters to donate to his legal defence.
The letter states that “this approved account has been established by two supporters who have kindly agreed to act as the signatories”.
It goes on to list the account details and the name of the account is credited as Mark Worthington and Rodney Allan.
Neither Mr Allan nor Mr Worthington had seen the letter when they spoke with the Western Advocate.
Last month Fairfax Media reported that the independent MP had only $60 in his bank account and documents filed in the Federal Court revealed Mr Thomson owed $23,000 on credit cards.
Mr Thomson’s solicitor Chris McArdle reported that his law firm had charged Mr Thomson $50,000 to date and he anticipates the legal bill for the civil proceedings alone will amount to $200,000.
Both Mr Worthington and Mr Allan were adamant the account in their names was strictly for legal fees and that Craig Thomson would not have access to funds.
Mr Worthington said contact would be made with Mr Thomson’s legal representatives at a later date and any funds released from the account would go straight to them.
Both account holders said they would be making modest donations to the fund, but were not going to be approaching members of the public for donations.
“I’ll leave the fundraising to Craig and his supporters,” Mr Worthington said.
Mr Worthington has been a member of the Labor Party since 1970.
Mr Allan said he is not and has never been a member of the Labor Party or any political party in Australia. He was a long-term member of a trade union but his membership ceased when he retired in 2002.