What Gillard knew about the ‘slush fund’PUBLISHED: 3 HOURS 56 MINUTES AGO | UPDATE: 1 HOUR 24 MINUTES AGO
There is concern within government Julia Gillard remains vulnerable on her role at Slater & Gordon. Photo: Bloomberg
LAURA TINGLE AND MARK SKULLEY
Julia Gillard had reason to be feeling good when federal Parliament rose last week. The polls were continuing to improve for the Prime Minister and the ALP. The release of the Asian Century white paper finally gave a structure to the government’s agenda for the next election. Ms Gillard held the ascendancy in Parliament over Tony Abbott, who was facing his own pressures and demons.
But all was not well. Not only was the government in conflict with its cross benches about the budget, but the controversy over Gillard’s role in a 17-year-old union corruption scandal had been revived.
After a marathon press conference on August 23, the Prime Minister declared done and dealt with the saga of her role as a lawyer at Slater & Gordon in the establishment of a fund in 1992 by her then boyfriend, Australian Workers Union official Bruce Wilson, which Gillard believed to be for the purpose of his re-election but was subsequently alleged to have been used to corruptly siphon off $400,000.
She would deal with any questions journalists had about the matter at that press conference, she declared on the day, but after that the matter would be closed.
NEW MATERIAL HAS EMERGED
Unfortunately for Gillard, new material has emerged, the opposition has got it all, and there is a deep concern within the government that she remains both vulnerable to a renewed focus on the issue and dangerously resistant to discussing it with her colleagues.
Conspicuously sensitive to new questions about the issue, the Prime Minister continued to claim last week in federal parliament that she had dealt with all the allegations that had been made against her.
But a slow but relentless series of questions from Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop last week finally procured what the Coalition had been seeking: a declaration by the Prime Minister that she stuck by everything she had said at the August 23 press conference.
The opposition says that declaration brings the whole issue to life again because the political question becomes a matter of what the Prime Minister said on August 23, and what she has subsequently told the Parliament, rather than what happened 17 years ago. In her answer to a last question from Ms Bishop last week, Ms Gillard confirmed in Parliament that she stuck by everything she had said at the August press conference.
The opposition believes Ms Gillard’s declaration gives it the material to, at the least, declare the Prime Minister has misled Parliament or even to suggest she did not bring criminal behaviour to the attention of authorities.
A lengthy piece, I've just put a few paragraphs here. The piece includes a relatively cursory analysis of the conveyancing file - I'll put up our analysis later on this morning, thanks again to Penny for providing it several weeks ago and there's a new analysis to go up today from a Victorian lawyer. There was no lawyer at Slater and Gordon other than Gillard who was taking instructions and liasing with the client, the purchaser of 1/85 Kerr Street.
It was Ms Gillard's boyfriend, and Ms Gillard's client - even extensive backgrounding of journalists in Canberra can't change those facts.