DEPUTY Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has rubbished suggestions he did anything wrong by having a beer with beleaguered former Labor MP Craig Thomson.
A News Limited photographer captured a grainy image of the pair enjoying a beverage in a bar near the Commonwealth Parliamentary Office in the Sydney CBD on Tuesday night.
Mr Thomson was forced to quit the ALP in May last year amid allegations he had misused hundreds of thousands of Health Services Union money when he was the union's national secretary.
He will recontest the Central Coast seat of Dobell as an independent on September 7.
Mr Albanese told reporters on Wednesday morning he was "having a beer after work" when Mr Thomson entered the bar.
The coincidental meeting consisted of one beer and lasted about 10 minutes, he said. Mr Thomson had been in Sydney for his father's birthday.
"I work with Craig Thomson. He was in the building; he came along for a beer, a personal chat, that's all. No big deal," Mr Albanese said.
"Hold the front page, Albo likes a beer after work. The fact is that as leader of the house I talk to a whole range of people all the time.
"I'll give you a big scoop: I've had a beer and been to the footy with Joe Hockey as well."
A number of Coalition figures, including Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, were quick to criticise Mr Albanese.
The Opposition's Senate Leader Eric Abetz issued a statement asking why Mr Albanese was "consorting" with Mr Thomson, who is facing 170 fraud and theft charges stemming from his time at the HSU.
"Mr Thomson is supposed to have been expelled from the NSW Labor Party and the party 'reformed', but today's photograph of Messrs Albanese and Thomson shows it's business as usual at the NSW Labor Party," the statement read.
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