A UNION boss accused of major fraud in the AWU slush fund scandal had intimidated and threatened to destroy the political career of a premier, Carmen Lawrence, according to a mining executive.
One of Australia’s most respected resources-company leaders from the era, Hugh Morgan, the former chief executive of Western Mining, said that Dr Lawrence had confided the threats to him when she was the West Australian premier.
Mr Morgan, who has battled unions and been a strong Liberal Party backer, said he would give evidence to the royal commission into unions if it called him as part of its investigation of the slush fund and the allegedly criminal conduct of former AWU boss Bruce Wilson.
An investigation by The Weekend Australian into the delivery by Dr Lawrence’s cabinet of a $60 million building job to Thiess Contractors without a public tender has raised concerns about taxpayer-funded contracts that are likely to be part of the royal commission’s probe.
After receiving the $60m contract following a late change that prevented a public tender process, Thiess paid more than $300,000 into Mr Wilson’s slush fund over the course of the building works. The slush fund, the AWU Workplace Reform Association, had been set up and registered with the legal advice of Wilson’s then girlfriend, Julia Gillard, who was a solicitor at Slater & Gordon. The former prime minister has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Wilson’s trusted AWU ally, Ralph Blewitt, has told The Weekend Australian and police that Mr Wilson used his powerful union influence to threaten key ministers in Dr Lawrence’s Labor government that they would not receive preselection or support if Thiess did not get the job.
Asked for comment about the claims of Mr Blewitt and Mr Morgan, Dr Lawrence said yesterday: “This does not ring true.”
Dr Lawrence added that she had not had time to refresh her memory on the events.
She said she did not wish to make further comment until she had recollected the circumstances surrounding the matters that The Weekend Australian emailed her about on Thursday.
The deputy premier and minister for state development at the time, Ian Taylor, now retired, said the assertions by Mr Blewitt were “ridiculous”.
Mr Taylor said he had no recollection of Mr Wilson ever raising the building project, known as the Dawesville Channel.
Mr Morgan said he became aware of Mr Wilson’s remarkable hold on the then Labor government when he had a meeting with Dr Lawrence amid a backdrop of AWU strife at WMC.
“Bruce had done everything he could to avoid signing an (industrial) agreement,” he said. “But finally, we got him to sign. I went to Carmen Lawrence and she said to me very directly, ‘Hugh, I cannot fulfil that because Bruce has informed me that if I go ahead with that agreement he will ensure that I do not get my preselection for the next election’.
There's much more at The Australian.