Hedley's enquiries in Perth
Union slush fund papers vanish
- by: PAIGE TAYLOR and HEDLEY THOMAS
- From:The Australian
- October 26, 201212:00AM
PUBLIC documents that were essential in the fraudulent operation of a union slush fund that Julia Gillard helped to establish 20 years ago are missing from the official file in Western Australia.
The file, numbered 000 748 and titled "Australian Workers Union -- Workplace Reform Association Inc", is held in archives by the State Records Office in Perth.
The file should contain key documents from 1992 when the association, which Ms Gillard described as a "slush fund" for union officials including her then boyfriend, AWU boss Bruce Wilson, was registered by the WA government.
The association's constitution described it as being dedicated to workplace safety, and omits any mention of it being designed to fund union elections as stated by Ms Gillard. But the government archivist who retrieved the file for The Australian yesterday expressed surprise the file folder no longer held any documents.
The discovery of the empty file follows Slater & Gordon disclosing last week it could now not find its own file on the slush fund, which Ms Gillard helped set up as a salaried partner at the law firm without disclosing it to the other partners.
The firm's managing director, Andrew Grech, said that despite a thorough search through archives his staff had failed to locate the file, the subject of a secret internal interview with Ms Gillard before she left the firm in 1995.
Harry Nowicki, a Melbourne lawyer who is researching AWU history and Ms Gillard's role in the slush fund, said yesterday it was "very troubling that two files about the same fraud have disappeared -- one from Slater & Gordon, and now the other from a State's official archives".
Mr Nowicki said that as former AWU bagman Ralph Blewitt has already admitted to fraud with the slush fund and was now seeking an indemnity from criminal prosecution in return for his testimony, authorities should be concerned that key documents were missing.
The SRO said the file was delivered in 1999 along with 931 others held by the now-defunct Office of State Corporate Affairs.
The file is listed on the archives' database without reference to it being empty. It was not possible to establish if the file had been recently inspected, but it was not recorded as borrowed.
The Prime Minister, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, said in August she provided legal advice for the slush fund's establishment but knew "absolutely nothing about its workings" until serious allegations were raised in 1995.
The existence of the slush fund was withheld from other union members and the leadership for four years from April 1992. Ms Gillard did not disclose her legal work on the slush fund to the other partners at the firm until serious claims of fraud were raised against Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt, both of whom refused to co-operate with police investigations.
As a result of the lack of disclosure, Ms Gillard's relationship with the firm's partners "fractured, and trust and confidence evaporated", according to a statement two months ago by the firm's former senior partner, Peter Gordon.
Money in the slush fund's accounts was siphoned off, with large cheques made out to cash, while about $100,000 went into a $230,000 Melbourne terrace bought in 1993 in the name of Mr Blewitt, for the use of Mr Wilson.