Aaron Patrick, writing in today's Australian Financial Review goes some way to describing the sleaze and greed that swirls around Labor:
Corruption scandals at the heart of Labor’s electoral woes
As the Labor government rips itself apart over the leadership, the party is in danger of forgetting a problem at the heart of its problems: ethics.
The are many reasons 70 per cent of Australians indicate they plan to vote for a party other than Labor at the election. Among the most important are the sleazy scandals that hit it at the national and state levels.
In NSW, the party was controlled for almost two decades by Eddie Obeid and his cronies.
Obeid, who was pivotal in the appointment of three premiers, is now accused of using his influence over cabinet to try to enrich himself and his family to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
(Obeid denies doing anything wrong. A report by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption is likely to be delivered next month.)
Federally, Labor embraced two men now facing criminal charges over their employment in the Health Services Union (HSU), Craig Thomson and Michael Williamson.
Thomson, who was famously accused of using union money to pay for prostitutes, was selected again as a Labor candidate for the 2010 election despite credible allegations against him appearing on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald in 2009. (The author of the original article is now press secretary to Industry Minister Greg Combet.)
Thomson, who denies breaking the law, was bankrolled by the Labor Party when he sued Fairfax, the owner of the SMH and The Australian Financial Review, for defamation.
Eventually, faced with a mass of evidence against him, Thomson dropped the lawsuit and agreed to cover Fairfax’s costs. Labor picked up the bill.
Williamson, a leader of the Labor Right, was elected federal president of the party in 2009. The role required him to chair meetings of the national executive, the body that runs the party month-to-month and often makes important rulings about which members will be given safe seats.
Williamson, who also says he has done nothing wrong, now faces about 50 criminal charges over his time at the HSU, including fraud and money laundering.
But Aaron, like most of the nation, is coy about the centrality of Ms Gillard in union related racketeering.
Ms Gillard's rise to the top job was sponsored by the AWU. Bruce Wilson was her de-facto partner from 1991 until she "found out" about his frauds in 1995. Wilson was an up and coming AWU elected appointed official, on a joint ticket to be national AWU Secretary with Bill Ludwig as national AWU President. Ludwig touted Bruce Wilson as a future Labor Prime Minister.
Gillard lost her job as a lawyer in the wake of the discovery of Wilson's frauds. She had acted unconscionably, unethically and unlawfully in performing secret legal work for Wilson. While she was acting for the AWU and was paid to act for the AWU, she did work for Wilson that was unmistakably contrary to the interests of the union, appropriating the union's name for the incorporated legal entity she established for Wilson's personal benefit.
Wilson banked about $400,000 in cheques from the construction company Thiess into the bank account of the slush fund that Ms Gillard had incorporated for him. He controlled the slush fund. Gillard did its legal work in secret; when the AWU discovered some of Wilson's other frauds, Gillard remained staunch to Wilson and did not tell the union of the secret slush fund.
She left the law in disgrace, but was welcomed into the bosum of the ALP. It was Paul Howes, the national secretary of the AWU who announced the shifting of AWU support away from KRudd #1 and to Gillard, installing her as Prime Minister. Bill Ludwig, the former running mate of Bruce Wilson, was and remains the national president of the AWU, still calling the shots today. How can any risk analysis for the nation not remark on the ethical and conflict-of-interest problems posed by the AWU's sponsorship into the Prime Ministership of someone so compromised by and beholden to the AWU?
The Victoria Police Major Fraud Squad is investigating the complex Wilson/Gillard/Blewitt frauds, which were facilitated by the complex legal work that Ms Gillard undertook in secret for Wilson. The Legal Services Board of Victoria recently confirmed that it was investigating the work done by lawyers at Slater and Gordon during the time of The AWU Scandal. Then at the request of Victoria Police, the Legal Services Board suspended its investigation because of the formal advice from police that a criminal investigation into the conduct of persons involved in the legal work at Slater and Gordon was underway.
We have recently learned that Ms Gillard's former offices were attended by Victoria Police armed with a search warrant issued by a Magistrate, to search for files that she had worked on. The police seized several boxes of documents and the Magistrate who issued the warrant will have the police appear on oath in court shortly to advise of the results of their search. Any party that believes that it may have a claim of legal professional privilege over the documents seized by police may also appear before the same court. This fascinating hearing will take place shortly.
Search warrants have also reportedly been executed on AWU offices, on the Federal Court of Australia and other locations. A warrant authorising police to search is an intrusive judicial instrument that is not issued lightly. This is a most serious investigation involving serious criminal offences which carry lengthy maximum gaol terms. And the former Prime Minister is a person of interest to police.
Ms Gillard's denials of guilt have been rendered increasingly implausible as the excrutiating publication of mounting evidence against her has unfolded. Her own admissions in the record-of-interview published by The Australian after it was released by her former partner Nick Styant-Browne are damning. Her former de-facto Wilson has spoken on the record to the ABC's 7.30 program and given a vastly different account of the operation of the slush fund from Ms Gillard's explanation of Wilson's alleged instructions. In particular Wilson's description of his purchase of the Fitzroy property is diametrically opposite from Ms Gillard's account of the elaborate subterfuge associated with a Power of Attorney, mortgage, conveyance into Blewitt's name but control vesting in Wilson's etc.
The cover-up for The AWU Scandal has been viciously enacted and enforced. Bob Kernohan, a happy union official at the time, knew of the details of the scandal. He tells of detailed conversations about it with Bill Shorten, then Kernohan's underling. Similarly Nicola Roxon was involved in legal work associated with the AWU at the time that Ms Gillard left the law over the scandal. Roxon, Shorten and Gillard have all had careers under the tutelage of the ALP and to varying extents the AWU. And never a peep from them about any move to adequately investigate the improper and secret diversion of money from Thiess or the AWU to the control of Ms Gillard's de facto.
Kernohan for his part did not accept the advice he states Shorten gave him - to think of his career and shut up about the frauds. Kernohan has never faltered in his quest for a proper investigation of the frauds and for the persons involved to be held to account. He was offered a seat in the Victorian Parliament, he says the offer was conditional on him "forgetting" about The AWU Scandal. I have seen Bob's statement regarding the persons who made him that conditional offer. They should be worried.
When the coercion with bribery didn't work, the very, very nasty stuff started coming Bob's way. First it cost him his job. He was viciously bashed in circumstances where he was told to back off about the AWU frauds. He was harrassed with phone calls at all hours, bullets mailed to him and many verbal threats were made. It cost him friends, family, social standing, many years that would otherwise have been the prime of his life foregone.
When I interviewed Bob while I worked at 2UE, I saw first hand the improper and bare-teethed abuse of prime ministerial power by Ms Gillard. I spoke with News Limited executives who felt the brunt of her demands that the newspaper publisher drop the AWU story. I watched Glenn Milne lose his job as a columnist at The Australian, then as a panellist on the ABC's Insiders program because he'd written a column critical of Ms Gillard. Ms Gillard sought a guarantee from News Limited that it never again report in any form on The AWU Scandal - a singularly improper request in any circumstances, but made all the more sinister as the evidence against her later came to light. Evidence that she must have known was out there.
When 2UE dropped Bob Kernohan's interview it made an implicit public statement about Bob. That is that he was saying things about Ms Gillard that must have been false. The media backed Ms Gillard against Bob Kernohan - and it's been on that wrong horse since - with some notable exceptions like Hedley Thomas, Steve Lewis, Mark Baker and latterly Jonathan Holmes.
Well the evidence of malfeasance in The AWU Scandal is here on this blog for all to see. The AWU Scandal involved complex transactions, the frauds were designed to be concealed. They were designed to have ostensibly plausible proper explanations. The frauds took place over 4 years with hundreds of transactions constituting the entirety of the course of conduct. As the frauds were incrementally discovered, various civil court actions were undertaken, and some police investigations were made at the time. In the case of the police, prosecutions waned for want of complainants - all of whom had some stake in the status quo.
Well no more. A comprehensive investigation by an exceptional team of investigators is well advanced. It has a goal. It will achieve a result. The matters will be opened up for all to see. Justice will be manifestly seen to be done - at long last for the long-suffering Kernohans and others who saw wrong but felt nobody cared.
And in the face of unresolved scandal, in the exchange between a public that generally gets it right and a PM who has plenty to hide, one of the nation's institutions, the media, has blithely accepted Ms Gillard's risible "I did nothing wrong" and allowed her to escape serious scrutiny. She doesn't answer difficult questions, sent to her in writing by me, Hedley Thomas and others. She abuses Freedom of Information laws to deflect inquiry. And through her pattern of lies, misleading statements, vicious demands and the all too obvious consequences for people who speak against her, Ms Gillard has allowed the Labor Party's name to be sullied - possibly beyond redemption.
It is a terrible legacy. Obeid, Thomson, Williamson and Gillard. Working people deserve much better. People who really care about the once great Labor Party would do well to understand how it came to this.
And to make sure that never again do people of such poor character get past square one on a Party membership form.
Let alone to the Lodge.