Craig Thomson has criticised the police investigation into him and says he will fight allegations he misused union funds to pay for prostitutes and pornography.
The independent federal MP walked hand-in-hand with his wife as he entered the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday to face 154 charges of fraud alleged to have been committed while he was national secretary of the Health Services Union.
It's alleged that between 2002 and 2008, Thomson used union credit cards to spend more than $27,000 on prostitutes, pornographic films, flights, accommodation, meals and cigarettes, in a total of $42,000 he is accused of stealing or dishonestly obtaining.
During the hearing, Thomson's lawyer, Bill Dwyer, sought to vary a condition of the MP's bail that he not contact prosecution witnesses, including any prostitutes he had allegedly used.
He asked that police provide a witness list, so Thomson was aware who he shouldn't contact.
"The prosecution must know the bulk of these witnesses by now," Mr Dwyer said.
"My client has had this hanging over his head for years. He should be given the full explanation."
The prosecution provided a varied condition that prohibited Thomson from knowingly contacting, either directly or indirectly, anyone who was an owner, employee or contractor between 2003 and 2007 of several named escort services and brothels.
Magistrate Donna Bakos said the varied condition was fair.
"I don't see that there is undue onus that's placed upon the accused," she said.
Outside court, Thomson said it was disappointing police could still not provide a list of the witnesses in the case.
But the suspended Labor MP said he wanted to clear his name as quickly as possible.
"What was disappointing about today was of course, it became clear that not only was last Thursday wrongly done by the police but after 18 months in relation to investigating this matter they still don't even have witnesses that they're able to produce for us," he said.
He joked about the size of the media scrum: "You'd think it's AFL grand final with all you guys here."
Mr Dwyer said claims in the arrest warrant that Thomson had not made himself available to police were untrue.
"There was never any evasion, he was always available. The police were well aware he was.
"In the end the process was unnecessary."
Ms Bakos said the court had heard no such allegation from the prosecution.
"He is here, he has answered his bail, that is all this court is concerned about," she said.
"If you want to make utterances there are others present who may want to report matters.
"That's a matter for you and you can do that at another venue."
The 48-year-old MP was arrested on January 31 on a warrant from Victoria Police at his electorate office at Tuggerah on the NSW Central Coast.