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November 2012

The Australian newspaper sums it up well

Judicial inquiry the nation has to have

DESPITE the sound and fury of her parliamentary performance yesterday, Julia Gillard added nothing to the sum total of human knowledge about her role in the incorporation of a sham workplace safety association that became a slush fund milked by her former boyfriend and his bagman. Well might the Prime Minister complain that these events occurred 20 years ago, before she entered politics.

It was she who decided not to open a file on the case, as is standard legal practice. If she had, the disputed letters could be produced now. In fact, had she put her dealings on the record from the start it is highly unlikely her legal partners would have allowed her to keep the brief.

Ms Gillard's entire defence against the charge that she misled the West Australian authorities came down to this: that the AWU Workplace Reform Association was not, in a technical sense, a trade union. Never mind that she made representations to the WA authorities on behalf of two officials of the AWU. Never mind that the words "AWU" were written into the application document in her own fair hand. Never mind that the association became the vehicle used to siphon hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union or that the two officials who ran it withdrew so much cash that one of them was forced to bury it in his backyard. Ms Gillard, without elaborating, tells us she is in the clear.

Whatever her strengths, Ms Gillard's background in industrial law draws attention to her party's achilles heel. Her own office has had links to senior figures in the Health Services Union, and she long stood by discredited former Labor backbencher Craig Thomson after evidence of union fraud was presented against him. The Prime Minister has blustered, stonewalled and obfuscated as details have incrementally been unearthed by The Australian's Hedley Thomas and other journalists on the AWU matter. Now fresh revelations have demonstrated how Ms Gillard failed to level with the public, and has gone close to misleading the parliament, over whether she might have misled WA authorities in 1992.

Ms Gillard has repeatedly been asked whether the Corporate Affairs Commission raised concerns about the application she lodged to incorporate the AWU Workplace Reform Association, and whether she argued for the association's bona fides. But, as with some other crucial questions, this is one Ms Gillard continually refused to answer directly. On the contrary, in parliament on Monday she seemed to suggest such correspondence might never have occurred. "The correspondence he refers to has never been produced," the Prime Minister said, "so the claim has been made, but no correspondence has ever been produced." Yet, as this newspaper revealed yesterday, previously unreleased sections of Ms Gillard's 1995 interview as part of her law firm's internal investigation of this matter confirm the correspondence. At best, Ms Gillard has been less than frank.

But it gets worse. The transcript revelations also suggest that her letter to the WA authorities could have downplayed the association's union links. This does not accord with Ms Gillard's other comments in the interview that she knew this was a union "slush fund". If Ms Gillard's letter misled the Corporate Affairs Commission as to the true nature of the association, or if the description she drafted was misleading, she may be in breach of the law.

We know Ralph Blewitt and Bruce Wilson, by their own admission, fraudulently obtained upwards of $400,000 through the AWU Workplace Reform Association. They withdrew so much illicit cash they did not know where to put it, and Mr Blewitt tried to bury it in his garden. We know that if Ms Gillard, as their lawyer, had either notified the AWU executive or her firm the scam might have been nipped in the bud. Furthermore, after the WA Corporate Affairs Commission declared it ineligible for incorporation as an association, it could not have proceeded without Ms Gillard's written arguments in response. All of this occurred in secret - without Ms Gillard adopting the standard accountability check of opening a file for the work. After money was fraudulently channelled by Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt through the fund over three years, it led to an investigation at Slater & Gordon, the dropping of the AWU as their client and, ultimately, the exit of Ms Gillard. Yet even then Ms Gillard did not tell the police or the AWU about the so-called slush fund.

Ms Gillard's stubborn unwillingness to be transparent about the facts raises questions of character. Her elliptical answers, her dismissive put-downs of questions from fair-minded reporters, her mocking, off-hand parliamentary manner and her history of playing the misogyny card to distract from unsavoury issues may be useful

short-term tactics, but they merely delay the reckoning for, one way or other, these outstanding questions must be answered.

The prospect for Labor now is a long, hot summer, with this unresolved affair left festering. Ms Gillard's technique of blaming the messenger is wearing thin; she has tried to blame a mendacious media, right-wing bloggers and the opposition. She must know, however, as we do, that much of the information comes from dissatisfied members of her own party, who want this running sore cleared up once and for all, for the sake of the union movement and the party.

The Gillard/McTernan doctrine

This note from the PM's office earlier today.

Comment from a spokesperson for the Prime Minister, and letter to Fairfax Media [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED] 


The below statement contains comments from a spokesperson for the Prime Minister about today’s reports and the Opposition’s claims.

Also attached is a letter from the Prime Minister to Fairfax CEO Mr Greg Hywood.

Statement from a spokesperson for the Prime Minister:

It's time for the Liberals to give up their witch hunt and start talking about things that matter.

The whole country is sick to death of Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop pursuing a discredited smear campaign against the Prime Minister, when we could be talking about jobs, health, and education.

After months of speculation about a smoking gun, the Liberals have nothing.

So, the Prime Minister wrote to the WA Commissioner? So what? She did what lawyers do. Act on instruction. Provide legal advice.

So, the Prime Minister can't remember writing one letter from 20 years ago. So what? Lawyers write thousands of letters in their careers.

And what does the transcript show? That the PM said the association wasn't a union. So what? It obviously wasn’t.

In fact, the unredacted transcript backs up what the Prime Minister has been saying.

The transcript supports the Prime Minister’s account that she had nothing to do with the Association once it was incorporated.

The transcript also supports the Prime Minister’s account that she didn’t have anything to do with setting up bank accounts operated by the Association.

The Opposition’s central claim goes to the Prime Minister’s knowledge of alleged fraud. The unredacted transcript shows those claims to be empty and false.

It is worth restating that any correspondence in this matter would have been received or sent in Julia Gillard’s capacity as a lawyer acting on instructions. As the Prime Minister has noted, the application to incorporate the Association was lodged by its office bearer, Mr Ralph Blewitt. The decision to incorporate the Association was made by the WA Commissioner of Corporate Affairs.

The Prime Minister has not done anything wrong.

No evidence has been produced that she did anything wrong.

The only misleading statements in this matter have been made by Julie Bishop when she denied multiple contact with Ralph Blewitt, and denied she’d made accusations against the Prime Minister she had made several hours earlier; and by Tony Abbott this morning.

Tony Abbott this morning accused the Prime Minister of misleading the West Australian Corporate Affairs Commission, and of breaking the law. These assertions are completely unsupported by the evidence. The unredacted transcript says only that the Prime Minister stated that the Association was not a trade union – a fact that is clearly true.

Tony Abbott needs to produce evidence to support his unsubstantiated claim, or follow his Deputy into a humiliating backdown.

Today, Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne made serious claims against the Prime Minister with no evidence. This is exactly the same thing that killed Malcolm Turnbull’s career.

Go and buy The Australian. Right now!

Proof: PM told firm what she won't tell parliament

  • From:The Australian 
  • November 29, 201212:00AM

Julia Gillard admitted during a secret internal probe to writing to a government department to help overcome its objections to the creation of an association for her then boyfriend and client, union official Bruce Wilson.

The revelation, contained in a document released today after 17 years, comes after days of stonewalling by the Prime Minister, including in parliament, on the question of whether she had personally vouched for the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association.

The document, a record of interview between Ms Gillard and her law firm, Slater & Gordon, in September 1995, reveals the association was initially regarded as ineligible because of its "trade union" status.

Ms Gillard overcame the obstacle by writing to the Commissioner for Corporate Affairs in Western Australia in 1992 and arguing that the decision to bar it should be reversed.

Ms Gillard also wrote the association's rules, which emphasised worker safety but made no mention of its true purpose of funding the elections of union officials.

The document reveals she "cut and pasted" some of the rules from her earlier personal work incorporating the controversial Socialist Forum, which she helped found at Melbourne University in the 1980s.

Ms Gillard has admitted providing legal advice to help Mr Wilson and his union colleague Ralph Blewitt set up the association, which was later used by the two men to defraud hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Prime Minister later described the association as a "slush fund" for the re-election of union officials, but she has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying she had no knowledge of the workings of the association.

In parliament this week, Ms Gillard has refused to answer repeated questioning from Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop on whether she wrote to the West Australian authority to vouch for "the bona fides of the AWU Workplace Reform Association".

On Monday, she told parliament: "The claim that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has now made is a claim that appeared in The Age . . . The correspondence she refers to has never been produced, so the claim has been made but no correspondence has ever been produced."

Yesterday she told parliament she had "dealt with these matters fully".

"I have dealt fully with my role in providing legal advice on the incorporation of this association. I have provided detailed answers on this. They were provided in press conferences; they have been provided in this parliament," she said.

Later she added: "Once again, we are in a situation where the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is asserting things she has got no sources for, except she read them somewhere."

Last night, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said she had "no recollection of receiving or sending the claimed correspondence in this matter".

The evidence that she did write to the West Australian body is contained in a section of transcript from the September 11, 1995, tape-recorded interview with Ms Gillard during an internal probe led by Slater & Gordon's then senior partner Peter Gordon.

Read the entire article at The Australian.



Thank you for making this blog what it is - a fact-based, source-document-driven place for considered analysis and strong actions

Just for the record, there was no defamation risk in my proposed broadcast of the Bob Kernohan interview at 2UE more than one year ago.   Every imputation was true.

I lost my job over editorial differences, Prime Minister.   I wanted to tell The AWU Scandal story with Bob Kernohan and 2UE's management did not want me to.

What a difference a year makes.



Michael Smith Blog House Of Representaives 28/11/2012 1 --Ms GILLARD: There is no amount of overacting that makes this line of questioning any more credible. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, having shredded her credibility yesterday, is now going through the files of old newspaper clippings. Honourable members interjecting— Ms GILLARD: It is truly pathetic—and the bellowing does not help. At some point the Leader of the Opposition has to say what he stands for in these matters. Does he back the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in yesterday for her dishonest statements or not? This sleaze and smear out of Michael Smith blogs—how pathetic is it? All over to you. 2 Ms GILLARD (Lalor—Prime Minister) (14:35): As the matter grows more and more embarrassing from the point of view of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I remind her that in this House and outside this House I have consistently answered questions about this matter and how I provided advice as a lawyer on the association, and no amount of smear changes that simple fact. In relation to smear and the line of opposition questioning today, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition's questions have been based on Michael Smith's blog today. That is her only source, Michael Smith— Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: Madam Speaker, on a point of order: I refer you to page 565 of the Practice and also page 516. Clearly, the Prime Minister is given the right to absolutely refuse to answer questions—which she does repeatedly in this chamber. But she also chooses to use, as it says on page 516, 'abusive and insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder'. Clearly she does, and the point of order is this: if she is not prepared to answer the questions, she should at least take them on notice or say she is not prepared to answer them, when in this chamber it is time she said— The SPEAKER: The member for Mackellar will resume her seat. Government members interjecting— Mr Lyons interjecting— The SPEAKER: The member for Bass might be telling people a great many things—but not in the chamber, in the next couple of minutes, if he is not careful. The Prime Minister has the call and will return to the question before the chair. Ms GILLARD: In answer to the point of order by the member for Mackellar and to the question in general: I have answered questions about my role as a solicitor in relation to providing legal advice on this association. I am also pointing out to the House that the opposition's tactics today have been dictated by Michael Smith's blog. Who is Michael Smith? He is the man who was sacked for wanting to defame me, basing that defamation on an affidavit drawn up by John Pasquarelli of One Nation fame. Who is Michael Smith? Mr Pyne: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The SPEAKER: I will point out to the Manager of Opposition Business that the one point of order on this question has been taken. I will listen carefully to a different point of order, but be warned. Mr Pyne: Madam Speaker, you have directed the Prime Minister to be relevant to the questions she is being asked. How could talking about Michael Smith be in the least bit relevant? So, she is defying your ruling. The SPEAKER: With all these questions there is a great deal of information given before the question is put. The Prime Minister has the call and will go to the question before the chair. Ms GILLARD: I am dealing with this in the sense that the source of these allegations is Michael Smith. Who is Michael Smith? He is the man accompanying Ralph Blewitt around Australia. Who is Michael Smith? He is the man who rang the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and handed the phone over so that she could speak to Ralph Blewitt. What is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition's version of these events? It is that Michael Smith rang her up and she had no idea who the phone was going to be handed over to. Who was she expecting—Humphrey B Bear? No; he can't talk. Tom Cruise? No; he's not in Australia 3 Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (14:15): Madam Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the Prime Minister's last answer and ask: why didn't the Prime Minister, in her recent press conferences, reveal the existence of the AWU fatal accident or death fund and the advice she gave Mr Wilson and the advocacy she gave at the meeting? And why won't she answer my question today about this new fund? Ms GILLARD (Lalor—Prime Minister) (14:15): I have just indicated to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the matter she is raising is not new. It has been canvassed in the West Australian newspaper. I suggest that she go and have a look at the West Australian newspaper. More generally, how many calls does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition get where this sort of thing is just handed over? How come Michael Smith has her number, anyway? Does John Pasquarelli have her number? Does Pauline Hanson have her number? This absurdity from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is embarrassing to her and it is embarrassing to the Leader of the Opposition. Opposition members interjecting— Ms GILLARD: It is his strategy and the bellowing is trying to cover up the red faces. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition wanted to spend this week as a starring character in an investigative drama; she has ended up as the winning candidate on Red Faces.

A direct result of Bruce Wilson's 7.30 interview, thanks again Bruce

As a result of Bruce Wilson speaking publicly about the instructions that he says he gave Julia Gillard in the incorporation of the AWU-Workplace Reform Association (Inc), Bruce has made public what would otherwise have been confidential.

There's no prospect of arguing a case for Legal Professional Privilege and its attendant confidentiality obligations, when the client himself has made the issue of the instructions he gave to Slater and Gordon very, very public.

That led directly to Nick Styant Browne, a former partner in the firm, deciding to release what he had previously kept confidential - the extracts you've seen in the press today from Julia Gillard's departure Record of Interview with Slater and Gordon.

She gambled and she lost.   She seems to be addicted to risk.  The PM bet that the damning bits of her record of interview would remain safely redacted and she could cruise in to next year.   Well it was not to be, we can now see what a dreadful deception she pulled on the WA Corporate Affairs Commissioner and I'm sure police are looking very carefully today at what she did all those years ago.

There's a bit of poetic justice here for the reputation of the WA Commissioner for Corporate Affairs in 1992 as well.   In the Federal Parliament Ms Gillard has been trashing the judgement of the Commissioner, saying to the opposition that if it felt the AWU-WRA was improperly or unlawfully incorporated, it should criticise the Commissioner for improperly incorporating the sham Association. Now we know that the poor Commissioner was comprehensively deceived.  A victim of fraud.   Ms Gillard's own words make her intent clear.   She vouched for a sham.

Fancy blaming the victim of the fraud!

Labor must move today to rid the nation of this terrible embarrassment.   I hope the opposition takes no triumph, just let her go quietly, she's not worth anything more.

The police will take care of the rest.



PETER GORDON: All right, well, let's talk about the AWU Workplace Reform Association Account. That account, as you've said, is an account which was the account belonging to an incorporated association by the same name which was incorporated by Slater & Gordon at (Bruce) Wilson's, on Wilson's instructions following your advice to him which you described earlier.

JULIA GILLARD: That's right.

PG: And that happened in or about mid-1992.

JG: That's right.

PG: And last Monday I think you gave to Paul Mulvaney a follow-up which demonstrates that Slater & Gordon had drafted model rules for, for that, had submitted those rules to the relevant Western Australian government authority, that there'd been a letter from the authority suggesting that it might be a trade union and therefore ineligible for incorporation under that legislation, and that we had prepared a response submitted on Wilson's instructions to that authority suggesting that in fact it wasn't a trade union and arguing the case for its incorporation. My recollection is that all of that happened in or about mid-1992. Is that right?

JG: I wouldn't want to be held to the dates without looking at the file, but whatever the dates the file shows are the right dates, so . . .

PG: Yes. And to the extent that work was done on that file in relation to that it was done by you?

JG: That's right.

PG: And did you get advice from anyone else in the firm in relation to any of those matters?

JG: No I didn't.

PG: Did Tony Lang have anything to do with the model rules or the drafting of them?

JG: No, I obtained, I had just in my own personal precedent file a set of rules for Socialist Forum which is an incorporated association in which I'm personally involved. Tony Lang and I drew those rules some years ago. Tony more than me. And I've just kept them hanging around as something I cut and paste from for drafting purposes, and I obtained, I don't quite recall how now but I obtained the model rules under the WA act and I must have done the drafting just relying on those two sources. I don't have any recollection of sitting down with Tony or any other practitioner and talking through the draft of the rules.

PG: Do you recall whether when it was necessary to argue the case with the, with the relevant Western Australian authority, whether you consulted anyone else in the firm as to what would or would not get, become acceptable or appropriate?

JG: I once again don't recall talking to anybody else in the firm about it.

PG: Beyond that, and it seems from the file that after that letter it was successfully accepted as an incorporated association and duly was created and presumably accounts were set up. I should ask did we have anything to do with the setting up of the accounts or was that done by the officers of the incorporated association?

JG: Slater & Gordon didn't have anything, did not have anything to do with setting up bank accounts for that association. We attended to the incorporation.

PG: Can I ask you then following the last thing that we did to setting up the incorporation, which appears from the file to be the letter arguing that it ought to be not construed as a trade union, did you have anything personally to do with that incorporated association afterwards?

JG: No I did not.

PG: Right, to the best of your knowledge did anyone at Slater & Gordon?

JG: To my knowledge no one at Slater & Gordon had anything to do with it post that time.