We've had quite a few comments on Ralph Blewitt's arrest and the 31 fraud charges he'll answer in court next Wednesday -"Perhaps its softly softly to get the ball rolling", "Maybe that's just Ralph's share of it????" and the like.
If only that were so.
The charges against Ralph are much more than just getting the ball rolling, or taking it softly softly at the start - they're fundamental to the way the crimes in the AWU Scandal are dealt with. And these charges against Ralph have broader implications for union corruption in general.
The charges excuse Thiess from involvement in any wrong-doing and position the company and its employees as victims, unwitting, unknowing and innocent. Further they isolate wrong doing to a single individual and protect the union's national leadership and legal advisors.
We've just had a a $60M Royal Commission, a protracted and bitter campaign to bring back the construction industry watch dog, a double dissolution election and the creation of an ongoing multi-agency/multi-police force trade union task force.
On 9 April 2016 Prime Minister Turnbull said, "Union corruption threatens the nation's future prosperity. The threat from union power in the construction industry is flowing across the whole economy."
He was speaking of improper inflation of construction costs and sweetheart agreements through which monies are siphoned from construction contracts to unions or union officials.
There is ample evidence that is precisely what Thiess and Ludwig's AWU agreed when Thiess was awarded the Dawesville Channel $60M construction contract and the Melbourne Water maintenance outsourcing.
Paul Darrouzet was the HR/Industrial Relations manager for Thiess during the time of the Dawesville Channel and Melbourne Water contracts.
In February 1993 the Kennett Government called for tenders from contractors to outsource Melbourne Water's maintenance work. One key requirement of tenderers was a demonstrated ability to engage in workplace reform and enterprise bargaining.
Thiess won the contract and was so proud of its "special arrangement" with the AWU that it produced a glossy full page write up about it in the company's 1992/93 Annual Report.
Here's a readable extract:
HR/IR manager Darrouzet's sworn evidence on the matter is that in August 1993 (after the contract had been awarded) Bruce Wilson asked Thiess to pay a consulting fee because the union would have to do a lot of extra work with the Enterprise Bargain (which had already been negotiated).
Darrouzet agreed to pay 100 hours per month for two years, the life of the contract at the same hourly rate as the AWU WRA was charging at Dawesville.
Darrouzet also told the TURC that from early 1993 he believed he was dealing with Wilson in his capacity as secretary of the National Construction Branch of the AWU.
But the NCB wasn't formed until March 1995. From June 1992 until March 1995 Wilson was the state secretary of the Victorian Branch.
Perhaps Mr Darrouzet thought it would make his protestations that he was paying money to a private PO Box in Perth for the supposed consultancy services in Melbourne sound a bit more plausible.
Darrouzet might not "remember" the AWU WRA being mentioned.
Leigh Ainsworth the Melbourne based GM of the Thiess division responsible for Melbourne Water has a memory that's perhaps more helpful. Or honest.
Darrouzet approved 7 invoices - all on the identical AWU WRA INC letterhead, all with the WA Post Office Box - here's the first one, signed by the Secretary. Not Bruce Wilson, but Ralph Blewitt. But Darrouzet paid up anyway.
Here are the other 6 invoices for the Melbourne Water project.
There are a few points worth noting.
These invoices for consulting services were sent to Brisbane for approval by the national HR/IR manager Darrouzet. He knew no consulting as described on the invoice was performed.
Ralph Blewitt has been charged with committing a crime each time he sent out an invoice from the AWU WRA Inc to Thiess for Dawesville.
A criminal action has two elements - actus reus (the guilty action) and mens rea (the guilty state of mind).
Ralph's actions and state of mind for each of the 31 alleged false invoice frauds against Thiess for Dawesville are identical to his actions and state of mind in the 7 invoices for Melbourne Water. He did what he did in the same place, on the same AWU WRA Inc proforma invoices and sent them off to the same payer (Thiess Contractors) in the same place (Brisbane head office).
But Ralph hasn't been charged with the Melbourne Water invoices. Identical behaviour and state of mind with Blewitt's acts committed in WA.
Why? What's different?
Here's one thing - when Wilson was rumbled and made his admissions to Gillard, her best friend Robyn McLeod fortuitously moved from the AWU where she'd been working for Wilson to a brand new job working for Thiess. Have another look at invoice number 7 for Melbourne Water.
On 16 July 1995 McLeod signed off on the AWU WRA Inc invoice no 7 - here are her initials on the invoice and a sample of her initials taken from her statement to the TURC.
But Ms McLeod told the TURC she'd never heard of the AWU WRA Inc. She didn't tell the TURC she left the AWU to work for Thiess where she approved Bruce's invoice either.
Thiess charged each of the 7 Melbourne Water invoices to a Thiess internal vendor code (93732) for the AWU Workplace Reform Association Inc. Not the AWU itself, but one especially created for the Workplace Reform Association Incorporated, a separate legal entity on Thiess systems with a different mailing address.
But when Bruce asked for the cheque in payment of invoice No 7 to be made out to the AWU National Construction Branch - Thiess complied:
But despite Bruce (then rumbled) asking for the cheque to go to the National Construction Branch (which Paul Darrouzet now says he thought he was always dealing with all along), Thiess didn't code the payment to the NCB branch of the AWU where all other AWU payments were coded. It coded it to the AWU WRA Inc. In WA. For consultancy services in Melbourne. And sent the cheque to the secret Northbridge Post Office Box.
Which brings me to another difficulty for Thiess.
28 February 1995 - AWU WRA Inc issues this invoice to Thiess
11 April 1995 - Thiess issues this cheque with advice slip to AWU WRA Inc
21 April 1995 - Wilson closes the AWU Workplace Reform Association bank accounts, both its cash management and cheque accounts. The $20,160 cheque from Thiess was not banked into either of the AWU WRA Inc accounts. Apparently no matter what else was discovered, the first priority was to get rid of the AWU WRA Inc.
13 June 1995 - Wayne Hem (on Wilson's instructions) banks the $20,160 Thiess AWU WRA Inc payment into the AWU Members Welfare Association Account. The cheque is met on presentation and the funds form part of the AWU Members Welfare Association balance.
In July Bob Smith had the AWU Members Welfare Association account frozen.
Who knows what went on behind the scenes over the next several weeks as Wilson and his lawyers hammered out a deal with Bob Smith. This letter from Bob Smith's lawyers to the CBA suggests to me that there'd been some discussion between Thiess and Wilson - how else to explain the "Thiess get everything left over" calculation.
On 17 August 1995 Maurice Blackburn's John Cain wrote to the CBA.
And sure enough, on 17 August 1995, bank cheques were drawn for Thiess:
The discrete invoiced amount for $20,160 paid back to Thiess was unmistakably the return of money it had paid to the AWU WRA Inc in a cheque with that name as payee. The money was coded internally by Thiess to the vendor code for the separate legal entity vendor no
The cheque number 452352 is noted on the Thiess general ledger entry.
So if Darrouzet et al genuinely thought they were dealing with the real AWU, how do they explain this?
On 15 September 1995 Ian Cambridge had well and truly discovered the Wilson/Smith/Maurice Blackburn/Slater and Gordon scheme to return the money to the companies without the approval of the AWU. Here's his letter to Thiess.
(Ian was out on one figure, the $9405.56 represents the leftover in the AWU Members Welfare Assn that went to Thiess, the eventual bank cheque also included the amount left over in the Election Fund, bringing the total of the bank cheque to $13,934,32. But the old mates at Thiess could be relied on to say nothing.)
If Thiess was the honest victim of Wilson's frauds as the TURC suggests, what would you expect Thiess to do? I'd expect a prompt response = "an amount of $20,160 was paid to the AWU WRA Inc in April and the same amount again on 1 August to the AWU National Construction Branch. Our records show the second cheque for $20,160 to the NCB hasn't been presented as yet. We don't recognise any payments to the AWU in our systems for $9,405."
That's if Thiess was not part of the scam.
Thiess did not respond to Ian's letter for one year.
But media interest was becoming intense. Initially Thiess refused to answer questions about the matter in the press - but its executives were talking within the industry, this was the big IR issue of the time.
Paul Darrouzet was the HR executive responsible for the Melbourne Water deal with Wilson. He tried to pass off the returned payment as being for the "only extraordinary payment" Thiess made to the AWU during that time, $25K for an asbestos and road study referred to in this September 1995 story - however read the last two paragraphs closely and you'll see that Darrouzet's story was hastily revised.
If this was all legitimate - why didn't Thiess respond immediately?
It took one year for Thiess to reply.
Even then Nick Jukes lied through his teeth.
Thiess didn't tell Ian Cambridge about the AWU WRA Inc until late August 1996. During that time Thiess honoured its cheque for $20,160 that Wilson eventually banked 5 months after it was issued and 4 months after he'd left the AWU.
Still not a peep from Thiess even when that happened. Nor did they speak up when the police started asking questions, likewise as the media storm was building.
So when Thiess eventually explained the returned payments formally to the AWU, here's what it said.
But Thiess had more drama on its plate than dealing with its partner in crime Bill Ludwig.
Tim Daly from the AWU WA branch was well and truly on the case and he was supported by the forensic Russell Frearson the branch accountant.
If this letter from Thiess didn't ring alarm bells with police and the Royal Commission they should have been charged with theft by deception for keeping their pay.
"To the best of our knowledge"? This is Thiess answering a one year old query about its own internal systems.
The reference to Group 0980 and the Dawesville project is at best designed to mislead.
The TURC never twigged that the return of money to Thiess was directly linked to the AWU Workplace Reform Association. Why would Thiess not simply answer questions about what it had paid out honestly and in a timely fashion? The only explanation is that Thiess,- like Wilson, Ludwig and Gillard - had something to hide.
Thesis's failure to respond to Ian Cambridge s inexplicable if Thiess had truly been ripped off in the AWU WRA Inc scandal. The company's failure to brief the AWU - even when its AWU WRA Inc payment was returned to it as being "suspect" - beggars belief.
The scenario that makes sense is the one constantly put by Bruce Wilson, each of Thiess, Bill Ludwig and Wilson's advisors knew all about what he was up to in the AWU Workplace Reform Association.
Back to Ralph Blewitt and the white wash.
He's copped 31 counts of causing detriment to Thiess Contractors by fraud.
The way he's been charged, the prosecution will have to prove Thiess suffered a financial loss - and that it was caused by deceit or fraudulent means. The police say Ralph deceived Thiess into believing training was being done.
In October 2012 I first started talking to Ralph. He has been consistent since then in saying it was Thiess (ie Jukes and Trio) who specified that Thiess required a separate legal entity with the AWU's name in it to issue invoices for Thiess to hand over the agreed slush fund money from Dawesville. Thiess wanted to make secret commission payments. Wilson, Gillard and Ludwig wanted to facilitate Thiess paying the money in a form acceptable to Thiess and separate from the AWU's general accounts.
Ralph's actions and the invoices didn't deceive Thiess.
The way police have charged Ralph, they have to prove that Thiess only paid out "by fraud".
“By” is a word importing causation.
What Blewitt did was dishonest and involved a falsehood but that had no influence on causing Theiss to make the payments.
Put another way the dishonesty was not engaged in with the intention of deceiving(or defrauding) Theiss.
It was engaged in to deceive third parties and Theiss was a willing partner in this.
I can see this matter being run against Blewitt and lost, and that fact used as an excuse to leave Wilson et al alone completely?
Theiss, Jukes, Trio, Albrecht, Ludwig and Gillard have a lot at stake here.
If Blewitt wins by showing Theiss’ involvement a lot of money and reputations are going down the shitter.
Wilson will be essential in showing this so he should get his day in court no matter what.
The Prosecution will try to get a conviction based on what Ralph has already said.
That will avoid them calling anyone.
It will have to be Ralph that pulls them in and then tries to show they are “hostile” so they can be cross examined.
It’s a parody of justice without the humour. Farcical is too mild a description.
Every touch leaves its trace.