The AWU Scandal - More on the Power of Attorney - updated 15 January, 2013
UPDATE - 15 January, 2013
I put the below post up on 12 October, 2012, within a day or so of getting the conveyance file from Slater and Gordon about 1/85 Kerr Street Fitzroy. I had never spoken to Ralph Blewitt at that stage and I did not know what he had to say about the Power of Attorney. We've had a lot to say about the Power of Attorney document since, Ms Gillard of course could make all this public commentary go away, she could answer my questions, Chris Uhlmann's questions or Hedley Thomas's questions - where does she say she was when she witnessed Ralph Blewitt's signature?
The Power of Attorney is a curious document. I believe the evidence points to it being created after the date on which it purports to have been created. It certainly does not appear to comply with legislation about the creation of Powers of Attorney. I would be interested to know from the PM whether or not she personally witnessed Ralph Blewitt sign the document as the document itself claims.
Keep in mind that we are not talking about a normal property transaction. We are talking about the purchase of real estate with tainted funds. The purchase had the effect of laundering those tainted funds into a legitimate asset. Every aspect of the purchase ought be subject to intense scrutiny.
The Contract of Sale was signed by Wilson (with Gillard in attendance) on 13 February, 1993.
There are at least two places where Wilson signed the contract documents on that day. You will notice that in handwriting near his signature are the words Ralph Blewitt as per Power of Attorney. Note that it's not as per "Specific Power of Attorney dated 4 February" - that may be significant. The Power of Attorney document itself is not attached to the Contract for Sale and I'm told the agent did not receive a copy of it on the day.
So where was the "Specific Power of Attorney dated 4 February, 1993" hiding? It was not in the offices of Slater and Gordon. There wasn't even a certified copy of the original document (which Miss Gillard witnessed on 4 February) present.
On the next business day, 15 February, 1993, the Real Estate Agent GA Thomson wrote this letter to Slater and Gordon. It makes no mention of the Specific Power of Attorney.
On 16 February Olive Brosnahan the para-legal executive resonsible for the conveyancing transaction makes a hand-written file note. She acknowledges receipt of the contract for sale from G.A. Thomson, the Real Estate Agent but notes that it is not accompanied by a copy of the Power of Attorney. She makes a further internal note to Elisha/Julia G - "we need P/A (Power of Attorney) or certified copy". She writes the word "Heidi" adjacent to that note, by the angle of the writing it looks like the word Heidi was written after writing the original note, perhaps after enquiring as to who at GA Thomson was handling the matter.
The following day, 17 February, 1993 Olive makes this further note regarding Heidi, a sales person with the Real Estate firm GA Thomson. Note that Heidi returns the call and says that she will let Olive have the original Power of Attorney (when she gets it?) and will need a certified copy in return.
On 22 February, Slater and Gordon acknowledges that it has received the Contract of Sale, Section 32 Statement and the Power of Attorney from GA Thomson.
On 23 February, Olive Brosnahan signs her first "certified copy" acknowledgement on a copy of the Specific Power of Attorney, dated 4 February.
Ralph Blewitt is appointed WA Branch Secretary in the week 15 February to 19 February, 1993. (The letter to the Industrial Registrar dated 25 February which advises of the appointment says Blewitt was appointed "last week".) Bruce Wilson flew back to Perth during the week 15-19 February to attend branch meetings, to resign his own appointment and to arrange for certain executive appointments, including that of his old friend Ralph Blewitt as new WA Secretary. They are both in Perth that week.
The first time the Specific Power of Attorney dated 4 February and witnessed by Julia Gillard makes an appearance at Slater and Gordon on is on 22 February. It's delivered by the Real Estate Agent. One would have thought that the lawyer who witnessed the signature of the donor Ralph Blewitt on 4 February would have prepared certified copies for the anticipated real estate transaction. It does seem unusual that Slater and Gordon would ask the Real Estate Agent for the Power of Attorney that the law firm had produced itself.
After 23 February, whereever the Specific Power of Attorney is referred to, it's referred to as a "Specific Power of Attorney dated 4 February, 1993".
Ralph Blewitt has made certain statements to his current lawyers about who asked him to sign it, who was present and where he was when he signed it. He will no doubt make a public statement in due course. He had not seen the property in Melbourne prior to its purchase. He says that he was not in Melbourne on 4 February, 1993.
I have now received advice from a night-owl Melbourne conveyancer who tells me this.
Concerning the Specific Power of Attorney - It has always been my understanding that two witnesses are required to a Power of Attorney, and that the Attorney must accept the granting of the Power of Attorney. Below is a link to the Instruments (Powers of Attorney) Bill 2003. The subject document by Blewitt was a Specific Power of Attorney though I would think the rules in relation to signing and witnessing would be the same as for an Enduring Power of Attorney. In Section 123 on Page 8 you will note it states that the Power of Attorney must be signed and dated in the presence of two adult witnesses in the presence of the Donor and each other. There is only one witness to the Specific Power of Attorney of Blewitt - Julia Gillard. It also states that each witness must sign a Certificate in accordance with Section 125A, the terms of which are set out on Page 9. In Section 125B on Page 10 it sets out that the signature and undertaking of the Attorney is required for the Power of Attorney to be effective. Wilson has not signed the Specific Power of Attorney. I note this Bill was to take effect in 2004 to amend previous laws regarding Enduring Powers of Attorney, but it is my memory that in 1993 Powers of Attorney were still signed in the presence of TWO witnesses and that a specimen signature of the Attorney was required at the bottom of the Power of Attorney. Of course, some research would be required to establish the specific laws re Powers of Attorney in 1993.
That note from the professional conveyancer seems very reasoned and sensible. What reason could the solicitor Julia Gillard have had for not having 2 witnesses present on 4 February when she was in the same location as Ralph Blewitt and when she saw Blewitt donate his Specific Power of Attorney to her boyfriend Bruce Wilson? Why weren't any certified copies available before 23 February, 1993? Why would the firm not retain a copy of the document it produced on 4 February, 1993? Why wouldn't Blewitt and Wilson have received copies of the document? Why would a law firm need to ask a real estate agent to return the only copy of a Specific Power of Attorney in existence, only to have the law firm make a certified copy and return that to the Real Estate Agent? Where were Ralph Blewitt and Miss Gillard respectively on 4 February, 1993?
FURTHER UPDATE - THANKS TO READER K
I'm sure this was the law until 2004 in Vic. If correct the P of A in the scandal is not worth the paper it's written on.
Instruments Act 1958 - SECT 106
Execution of powers of attorney106. Execution of powers of attorney (1) An instrument creating a power of attorney may be executed by, or by direction and in the presence of, the donor of the power. (2) Where such an instrument is executed by a person by direction and in the presence of the donor of the power, two other persons shall be present as witnesses and shall attest the instrument.