TO HAVE one scandal is bad for a government. To have two running simultaneously looks, to slightly misquote Oscar Wilde in another context, just too careless.
How Oscar would have loved the Slipper shenanigans, and revelled in the Thomson affair! Both are truly incredible, over-spiced with sex, politics, and high stakes.
James Ashby, the former staffer who accused his boss, the Speaker, Peter Slipper, of sexual harassment and misusing Cabcharges, further revved things up last week when he reported the Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, and the Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce to the Human Rights Commission for disparaging remarks they'd made about him.
Not that this deterred Carr one bit - he just had a slap back at Ashby, saying that there were a lot more serious infringements of human rights than his tweet (saying Ashby ''seemed more rehearsed than a kabuki actor'').
Tony Abbott intoned that both Carr and Joyce shouldn't be talking about the case. Meanwhile, another email surfaced showing contact between Ashby and the manager of opposition business, Christopher Pyne. It raised more questions about the Liberals' relations with Ashby but (naturally) it was too cryptic to answer any of them.
While the Ashby sexual harassment case will (unless settled) grind on in the court and Slipper awaits the outcome of the police inquiry into his Cabcharges, the Thomson affair will come to one of its many climaxes in the Parliament tomorrow when he replies to Fair Work Australia's forensic indictment of his misuse of union funds.
He has already given one response to Laurie Oakes last weekend. The bottom line? It wasn't him who did various bad things (how anyone could have set him up defies belief). There has been speculation that he might claim his phone was hacked by some bizarre method. Let's face it, nothing Thomson might say tomorrow would surprise.
Julia Gillard, attending the Chicago NATO summit on Afghanistan, will be out of the country when he speaks. What follows that speech is, as with so much that happens in this strange Parliament, unpredictable.
It's safe to assume that MPs on both sides and the crossbenches won't be convinced by what Thomson says. But the crossbenchers who support the government don't want to suspend him from the House, for reasons of principle and practicality - that would make the government wobbly. They might, however, think they should make some sort of stand. What about censuring him? Perhaps, yet they have also been banging on about Parliament not being judge and jury, so how would that fit?
Apart from any reaction to his statement itself, the opposition also wants to pursue Thomson - who, now he's suspended from the ALP, sits in the crossbench - over his failure to declare in the required time the aid with his legal expenses that he received from the ALP. It has threatened to seek to have this referred to the privileges committee.
Under parliamentary rules, privilege matters go in the first instance to the Speaker - and that is Slipper, even though he is not sitting in the chair. While he handed the chair to Anna Burke, she remained deputy, rather than becoming acting Speaker.
If all this comes to pass, and one man with a cloud over him has to make a decision about how things proceed with the other man who is under a cloud, it will be the perfect farcical fusion. Oscar could not have done better.