My husband is sick. Actually, quite sick. He's been in hospital twice in the past week, plus a GP's surgery and a specialist's office. He's taking some time off work to (hopefully) aid him in his recovery. Not a big deal, or is it?
You see my husband is Craig Thomson MP.
The controversial, embattled or troublesome MP (depending on who's writing) that you may have heard about over the past few years.
Whatever you may or may not think of Craig – he's human and he's sick.
Craig hates taking time off work; he's never missed a day of Parliament, except for the birth of our daughters (thanks for trying to stop him doing that too, Mr Abbott). But after falling sick 10 days ago, and seeking urgent medical advice last Wednesday in Canberra, he was urged to take some time off.
Yep, Warren Entsch, he has "abdominal pain". And sorry, Christopher Pyne, our GP hasn't been more specific... a) because it's none of your business, but b) because they don't know exactly what is going on down there.So over the past few days Craig has undergone more medical procedures, some of them invasive. I don't feel the need to share all of the details of his condition (you can probably guess – it involves a gastroenterologist and his gut).
Whether you believe Craig or me is largely irrelevant. Although I would be keen to know how you would feel if a doctor's certificate you gave to your boss was questioned. I wonder how you would feel if you were told you were making it up, exaggerating the pain. As the AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said yesterday- a medical certificate is a legal document not issued lightly by a GP.
The Coalition is heading into dangerous territory by questioning the validity of a medical certificate. It's well known that the practise of "pairing" is a long standing agreement under the Westminster system and no one can remember the last time an MP or Senator was asked to "prove" their illness by the way of a certificate. Can you imagine the furore it would have caused if the government had refused a prominent Liberal MP sick leave when diagnosed with depression?
Not to mention the massive insult to GPs around the country. Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but despite never training as a GP – Messers. Abbott, Pyne and Entsch feel they know how to do your jobs better than you do.Maybe next time before you're about to diagnose a patient you should pick up the phone and give the Liberal Party a call.
Some of the lines between Labor and Liberal are blurred these days. There are a few fundamental differences though, and workers rights are one of them. No Labor Government would order an employee back to work when ill. The Coalition needs to focus on their policy differences with the ALP – not engage in silly games with my husband's health.
If my husband was off on holiday while he was supposed to be sick, I'd understand. If he was sitting in our local café, I'd get why the opposition was angry. 'Chucking a sickie' is not a great idea, particularly when you're a federal MP who is under a huge amount of scrutiny. But, I hate to break it to you: he's sick. So give the guy a break, let him get better, and then let the political games continue.
Zoe Arnold is Craig Thomson's wife, and a freelance journalist.