More on Bruce Wilson's departure from the AWU and Ms Gillard's role in keeping his bigger Workplace Reform Assn frauds secret and concealed
As we saw in the previous post, Bruce Wilson resigned from the AWU on 18 August, 1995. He was clearly still in dialogue with parties within the union until at least 1 September, 1995 when his hand-written resignation was faxed to the National Construction Branch.
Ian Cambridge refers to the "dispute" about Commonwealth Bank AWU accounts involving Bob Smith and Bruce Wilson, represented by Maurice Blackburn and Slater and Gordon Solicitors respectively. It appears from Ian Cambridge's notes at the time, his affidavit and from the testimony of other witnesses whom I know of, that Julia Gillard was giving Wilson legal advice right up until the 18 August redundancy payments.
It is significant that since Wilson's departure from the AWU, Gillard has never said anything publicly that would incriminate Wilson and she has never accused him of a specific crime, nor has she provided or pointed to evidence disclosing any crime. Wilson has acted in precisely the same way towards Gillard. Their behaviour, Gillard's in particular given her higher standard of responsibility as a lawyer, suggests that some sort of mutual non-incrimination agreement may have been struct between them.
I have always been fascinated by the handwriting on the back of Jim Collins's redundancy cheque and I wonder whether it is Ms Gillard's - handwriting analyis will resolve that issue in due course.
In any case, Gillard knew of the AWU Workplace Reform Association, she knew that Wilson was being investigated for fraud with the discovery of irregularities in the Members Welfare Association account in Melbourne - and she told the union nothing about the Western Australian AWU Workplace Reform Association. Just a few short weeks later Gillard would be interviewed by Peter Gordon and Geoff Shaw in a recorded interview at Slater and Gordon in which she would make tell her partners in Slater and Gordon about her role in establishing the AWU Workplace Reform Association, calling it a slush fund. But she told her client the AWU nothing about Workplace Reform or the financing of the house at Kerr Street.
Gillard was interviewed by Nick Styant Browne and Geoff Shaw on 14 August, 1995 after it was clear Wilson was in big strife - and after the firm's discovery of the AWU Workplace Reform Association. As Mark Baker reports in this 10 October, 2010 report published in The Age:
That meeting had been called after the firm became aware for the first time that the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association, an association incorporated with the advice of Ms Gillard, had been corrupted by her then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson - a senior AWU official - to steal, it was later discovered, hundreds of thousands of dollars of union funds.
The firm was also disturbed about aspects of conveyancing work done by Gillard in 1993 for the purchase of a unit in Fitzroy. While the unit had been bought in the name of another AWU official, Ralph Blewitt, the transaction had been comprehensively managed by Wilson using a power of attorney drafted by Gillard.
What the senior partners did not know then, but discovered the following year, was that more than $100,000 towards the purchase of the property had been siphoned from the AWU Workplace Reform Association.
Gillard, then a salaried partner at Slater & Gordon, had been first challenged about her role in helping create the association and in assisting with the purchase of the Fitzroy unit at a meeting on 14 August, 1995, with Geoff Shaw and Nick Styant-Browne, an equity partner in charge of the firm's commercial department.
At that meeting Gillard confirmed she had not followed established procedures to open a formal file on the work done to incorporate the Workplace Reform Association. She had played down her role, claiming she had only given some advice about incorporation.
She also confirmed that she had drafted the power of attorney for Wilson without advising senior colleagues.
Gillard told Shaw and Styant-Browne that her unofficial file of paperwork relating to the Workplace Reform Association was no longer available as it had been passed on to someone outside the firm.
Immediately after that meeting, Gillard took leave and in her absence staff found the file in her office.
Questioned about this at her September 11 meeting with Shaw and senior partner Peter Gordon, Gillard said - according to the transcript of the recorded interview - that her recollection was ''that I hadn't opened a file on the system and that I had had some papers and at some point I had given the papers to [name redacted]''.
She said an assistant had found the papers in a cabinet: ''I was surprised … my recollection was I had given the papers to [name redacted]. I didn't expect them to be here and so I didn't go on a big hunt for it, really I should have. That was an error.''
So Gillard was on leave from Slater and Gordon while she worked with Wilson during his separation from the union. And she said nothing about the AWU Workplace Reform Association to the union.
That meant that Ian Cambridge wasn't told about and knew nothing of the major fraud involving the AWU Workplace Reform Association or of any irregularities in the source of the funds that paid for Kerr Street property. This time delay allowed Wilson to sell Kerr Street, to empty the Workplace Reform Association accounts of cash and to decamp with the loot, after deductions for any amounts he disbursed to other parties by way of settling debts or say a property settlement.
Here in this post you'll read how Ian Cambridge and the AWU found out about the slush fund Gillard had set up - the AWU Workplace Reform Association - in April, 1996. That was 8 months after Gillard's departure interview from Slater and Gordon - add a few weeks extra to get the timing from the point at which Wilson left the AWU. Gillard had a clear duty to the firm's client the AWU to disclose what she knew about the AWU Workplace Reform Association. She didn't disclose, she concealed the AWU Workplace Reform Association's existence from the AWU - unforgivable.
In one of her many statements of untruth about her role in the AWU Scandal, Ms Gillard told the House of Representatives last year that by the time she became aware of what Wilson was up to, the AWU Workplace Reform Association was already being investigated. That is simply not true and it was a misleading statement to the House on a matter of substance. Ms Gillard tried to create the impression that the union's interests were being protected and the slush fund she set up was investigated as soon as she became aware of what Wilson's malfeasance - when Ms Gillard in fact knows that not to be the case. The AWU didn't find out until the enquiries it made itself discovered the bank accounts 8 months later - Wilson had an 8 month start to stash the cash.
By January, 1996, Ian Cambridge was clearly very uncomfortable about the apparent fraud in Melbourne. On January 23, 1996 Ian wrote to the Federal Minister for Industrial Relations calling for a Royal Commission into his own union.
In particular you'll note that he knew nothing about the AWU Workplace Reform Association. He describes a payment to Bob Kernohan which has now been properly accounted for and acquitted. Ian also describes how the redundancy payments came about. Here's the essence of that speech.
Gillard knew enough of the operation of the AWU Workplace Reform Association she'd incorporated in 1992 to say in 1995 that she couldn't rule out the possibility that the Association paid for renovations at her private home. She discloses in that recorded answer to Peter Gordon much more than a passing insight into the slush fund she'd set up for Wilson and its potential for abuse as late as 1995. She'd been at the Kerr Street auction in 1993 and had acted directly for Blewitt in the conveyance of that purchase and the financing for it. Finally, in August 1995 Wilson was formally advised he would be charged with breaches of the union rules relating to money, that he would be referred to the police and that the jig was up after the discovery of the AWU Members Welfare Association irregularities.
Gillard continued to give Wilson advice. BUT SHE TOLD THE UNION NOTHING ABOUT THE AWU WORKPLACE REFORM ASSOCIATION.
And there are still journalists in this country who repeat Julia Gillard's assertion that she did nothing wrong.