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The ABC's news judgement is an impediment to fully informed democracy

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard is being investigated in a major fraud enquiry by Victoria Police.   That inference has been available to informed observers since June this year.

On 15 May police gave evidence on oath to Magistrate Martin of the Victorian Magistrates' Court at Melbourne in an application for a warrant to search Ms Gillard's former offices at Slater and Gordon.  On 17 May, 2013 police attended Slater and Gordon's offices and executed the warrant.

On 29 May I published a letter sent to the Legal Services Board with a detailed complaint about the Slater and Gordon Solicitors' Trust Account and the way it records the proceeds of an AWU Workplace Reform Association cheque for $67,722.30 used to finance Wilson/Blewitt's house purchase.

On 31 May the Legal Services Board wrote back to say it had accepted the complaint and begun investigating.  The Legal Services Board investigates the conduct of lawyers only, not firms and not clients.

On 17 June Hedley Thomas of The Australian published the first media report about the police search warrant and seizure.  It is authoritative and comprehensive and names the then Prime Minister.

On 18 June, Mark Baker of The Age published a further comprehensive report, confirming the details of the raid and the fact police would appear in court within two weeks to seek the court's approval to use in evidence the documents they had seized.

On 18 June I had a detailed conversation with the Legal Services Board's Executive Director of Complaints and Regulation.  I have kept the details of that conversation confidential but it is referred to in a letter I received from him later that day.

The letter refers to my complaint about the Slater and Gordon Trust Account irregularity and says:

Slater and gordon irregularity

On Wednesday 19 June the ABC replied to a reader of our news website's letter complaining about the ABC's lack of coverage of the police investigation involving the Prime Minister, the ABC replied:

The ABC was aware that an alleged raid had occurred.  However, we were unable to confirm it had happened and therefore, we did not report it.

On Monday, 15 June 2013, the ABC published an extensive report about the Prime Minister of Spain and his ties to a slush fund:

Calls for Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy to resign over ties to slush fund

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy is facing calls to resign or explain his ties to a slush fund scandal roiling the ruling Popular Party, after its jailed former treasurer appeared in court over the affair.

The 58-year-old prime minister has denied any wrongdoing and refused to comment in past weeks on the growing controversy centred on disgraced ex-treasurer Luis Barcenas.


But still the ABC persisted in its refusal to report the investigation into Ms Gillard.

On Sunday, 25 August we reported that Slater and Gordon would appear in the Supreme Court of Victoria against Detective Sergeant Ross Mitchell of the Fraud Squad, the chief investigator in the Gillard/Wilson/Blewitt matter.

On Monday 26 August we reported the details of the court appearance and the Supreme Court Order made by Justice John Digby that certain documents be returned to Slater and Gordon.

The ABC did not report the matter.

On Monday 2 September 2013 Detective Sergeant Ross Mitchell made an application to the Magistrates' Court of Victoria at Melbourne in which he reported the details of the Search Warrant, the things it directed police to seize and the date of its execution.  The Magistrates' Court released copies of his Application.

The Australian Financial Review carried a comprehensive report the next day, as did The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers and radio.

Detective Sergeant Mitchell's Application was significant in that it showed that the search warrant sought records of Ms Gillard's personal activities at the firm.   Detective Sergeant Mitchell also states that should an application be made for client legal privilege over the documents, police will ask the court to reject it under the provisions of Section 125 of the Evidence Act.

Detective Sergeant Mitchell states police will allege "the contents of the documents were made in furtherance of the commission of a fraud."  Ms Gillard has stated that she created the documents that established the AWU Workplace Reform Association, the primary vehicle for Wilson's alleged frauds.

One reading of that statement has it that police will allege that Ms Gillard was involved in a fraud.  It is an allegation, not a finding and it is made by an investigator, not an authority with the power to make a finding of fact.  However it beggars belief that it is not news.

A serving MP and immediate past Prime Minister, who owed her Prime Ministership to the very union at the heart of the scandal - is named in a search warrant in which police confirm that a major fraud is being investigated and the investigation involves things done by her - and it's not worthy of reportage by the national broadcaster?

Here is a google search for the terms Gillard, search warrant, Slater and Gordon & ABC.

Gillard abc
The only items in which the ABC carried anything are a comment from a reader on the ABC's MediaWatch blog:

Abc mediawatch

And this entirely exculpatory reading of anyone's involvement in the matter:

Abc drum awu

Now compare and contrast the abject absence of any reports about the police action against a serving MP in an election campaign, the immediate past PM, with the prominence the ABC has recorded this gleeful reportage about Gina Rinehart today, 6 September 2013.

Ms Rinehart, a private citizen, wrote an opinion article for an industry magazine in which she put the uncontroversial theory that sentences of courts should include provision for the payment of fines in lieu of jail time.  She expanded her thoughts to include other non-custodial provisions as punishment, for example denial of certain amenities.   Those provisions are already enacted in most states where licence suspension and motor vehicle registration suspensions apply for non-payment of penalties.

But it was a chance for the ABC to score points and do its best to make Ms Rinehart look bad.  For the entire day the story has been the number two story on the ABC news website.

Abc gina rinehart

And it is posted as the Editor's Pick on the ABC News website Abc editors pick

The failure to report at all on developments in The AWU Scandal is in itself scandalous.

Last October one of the ABC's News Editors wrote to a reader of michaelsmithnews.com about Ralph Blewitt's statements to police and explained his editorial approach:

The ABC is aware of these statements but we do not at this stage believe it warrants the attention of our news coverage.

To the extent that it may touch tangentially on a former role of the Prime Minister, we know The Australian newspaper maintains an abiding interest in events 17 years ago at the law firm Slater and Gordon, but the ABC is unaware
of any allegation in the public domain which goes to the Prime Minister's integrity. If indeed Ms Gillard has had questions to answer, ABC News reported those answers from her lengthy media conference of 24/8/12 in which she
exhausted all questions on the issue.

However, if any allegation is ever raised which might go to the Prime Minister's integrity, the ABC would of course make inquiries into it and seek to report it.


John Mulhall
News Editor, ABC News

Taxpayers pay for the ABC and taxpayers are entitled to an ABC that reports without favour, fear, malice or ill-will.   We don't have such a broadcaster at present.

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