INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL SMITH
THURSDAY 11 OCTOBER
And on the telephone I have Mr Ralph Blewitt. Ralph, g’day.
Hi, how are you?
I’m very well, thank you. Ralph, you were an organiser with
the AWU and you were an offsider, worked alongside Bruce Wilson. Is that
Yeah that’s right mate, in the late, oh, early 90s.
And you are the man whose name is detailed on a power of
attorney which is allegedly dated the 4th of February 1993. The
document says that you have donated your power of attorney to Bruce Wilson for
the purposes of doing whatever acts are necessary for him to purchase property
in the state of Victoria.
Not allegedly. It’s a fact. That document is a fact, on the
4th of February – a fact in as much as, it’s dated the 4th
of February 1993, referring to the power of attorney now…
But in actual fact the power of attorney was not signed by
me until sometime in the week after the 13th of February, after the
purchase of the house in Kerr Street.
Right. So who was present with you when you signed it?
Was there anybody else in the room?
No. Bruce Wilson came back to WA the week after the purchase
of the house by himself and Julia Gillard in Melbourne – that’s the Kerr Street
property – to address the WA branch executive and put aside any fears they may
have about why he was going to be living permanently in Victoria.
Now, he at that time came to me in the office in Perth and
said, look, it’d be simpler for me dealing with the house I bought last weekend
in Melbourne if I had a power of attorney and then I don’t have to keep sending
documents over to you to sign and I can deal with the real estate [inaudible].
So he puts a power of attorney in front of me and I sign it. He and I were the
only two people present at the time. Subsequently I have now seen a copy of the
power of attorney, when I see that it’s witnessed by Julia Gillard. Now, Julia
Gillard was not in WA at the time that I signed the power of attorney and I
cannot recall at this point in time whether it had already been [inaudible] or
that occurred after. I suspect, from memory, that I’ve basically signed a blank
power of attorney, there was no witness signature on it at the time I signed
But just to make sure that you’re absolutely crystal clear
on this point, that document purports to be a document that records Julia
Gillard, a solicitor with her stamp there, witnessing you signing and donating
your power of attorney to Bruce Wilson. What’s your response to that?
I categorically vow, I will state on the record that Julia
Gillard was not in attendance when I signed that power of attorney.
On the 4th of February when the document says
that you actually donated the power of attorney, where were you?
I was in WA.
And was Julia Gillard in WA?
So look mate, is there any room for misunderstanding here? Is
there a possibility that your recollection is faulty, that she was in fact
Give me one reason why Julia Gillard would be in WA on the 4th
Well I’m more interested in your recollection, Ralph.
My recollection is I have no recollection of Julia Gillard
being present at the time that I signed that power of attorney.
Julia Gillard in her departure interview from Slater & Gordon
was queried about that property transaction. She said that you were a property
investor and that you were a man of means and that you were capable of coming up with the $93,000
in deposit to meet the terms of the mortgage that was advanced to you. What do
you say about her observation?
Bullshit. Can I ask you a question Mike?
If you lived in Melbourne and you were going to buy a
property in WA, would you leave it in the hands of some….
I can hear where you’re going, Ralph. I can hear where
you’re going. No, I wouldn’t do it. The question is would you and did you do
that? Did you say to Bruce Wilson, listen Bruce, I’ve got a heap of spare cash,
I want to buy a property….
No, no, no. [Inaudible] knew where the cash was coming from.
Where was the cash coming from?
[Inaudible] Workplace Reform Association, the initial
deposit. I didn’t even know about this $150,000 mortgage until two or three
months ago. No one ever told me I had a mortgage on a property in Victoria.
Ok, there was a cheque for $67,000 drawn on the Workplace Reform
Association, that was….
It wasn’t sent to Slater & Gordon.
Ok. Now, was that by way of, how did that cheque get into
Slater & Gordon’s hands? Do you know?
I wrote the cheque out. I signed the cheque. I used Wilson’s
rubber stamp for his signature. I’m [inaudible] over this. And I then forwarded
that cheque to Slater & Gordon’s office.
Which office? In Perth or Sydney?
Sydney. Oh Melbourne, Melbourne.
I’m sorry. I beg your pardon, Melbourne, yeah. When you say
for, what, how did you do that Ralph?
You mailed it?
I either mailed it to, well that’s my recollection, it’s
going back a lot of years now. I either mailed it to Wilson’s, to his office or
I mailed it to Slater & Gordon. My inclination to this is that I would have
mailed it to Slater & Gordon, Wilson would have said to mail it to Slater
What was your understanding of Julia Gillard’s knowledge of
the reason for setting up the Australian Worker’s Union Workplace Reform
Initially, the WA branch of the AWU, myself and another
official made an application to incorporate the association in WA. That was, we
kept it by the office of incorporation or whatever you call it. I then spoke to
Bruce Wilson about that and Bruce, when he came back in the office he said,
look it’s been rejected because it sounds too much like a union.
So the next thing I know is this. Wilson and I are on a
plane heading to Melbourne, we meet with Slater & Gordon , in Slater &
Gordon’s office and we meet there and I meet with Julia Gillard, Bernard
Murphy, myself and Bruce Wilson in their office. The intent of that meeting is
to rewrite the [inaudible] of the association, the rules and regulations I
think you call them articles of association, I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know.
So Wilson has complete carriage of all of this. So I sit in
the corner of that boardroom away from it all and Murphy, Gillard and Wilson
sit in the other end of the room and they sit there for some considerable
period of time discussing, debating how they’ll put this package together. Now
I wasn’t privy to precisely what it was that Wilson told Gillard or Bernard
After some period of time they then invite me over to join
them at the table and I am asked to sign the front page of the incorporation
and witnessing with my name and address and so on, on it. However, at that
point in time the actual name of the association has been left blank, no one
had decided what they were going to call it.
We then leave the
meeting, Bernard Murphy excuses himself. Gillard, Wilson and myself go off to
have dinner. I then [inaudible] and Julia to have some further discussions on
what they were going to do and then we headed back to Perth the next day or so.
The next thing I know is the documents are delivered to me
to, so I’m advised by Bruce Wilson, he stays on in Melbourne, [inaudible] and I
was advised by him to lodge a notice in the West Australian newspaper of intent
to [inaudible]this association. Because
you need thirty days or something. Look, I don’t know. I’m a bloody trade union
organiser, not a secretary, I’m not an industrial officer, I’m not an academic.
So you put the ad in the paper.
Put the ad in the paper and then subsequently lodged the
application with corporate affairs, which was subsequently approved with the
name of the AWU Workplace Reform Association, which was written in after I
signed it. That was left blank by me at the time.
And was written in someone else’s handwriting? I tell you
what Ralph, can we have a chat about this time tomorrow and we’ll get the next
chapter of this unfolding story? I’ll talk with you then, Ralph.