My story in The Australian today on Ms Gillard, The AWU Scandal and the ABC's efforts to avoid reporting it
I've written a 2,000 word piece published in The Australian today. Here's a little of it - but there's nothing like getting your own copy!
When Aunty turned a blind eye
WHEN important and difficult stories break, you will hear about them on your ABC. We will not succumb to pressure to suppress or ignore legitimate stories to protect those in power. - Kate Torney,ABC director of news, on the Indonesian phone-tapping story.
THIS year, the ABC has studiously ignored every major development in the Victoria Police major fraud squad investigation into the Australian Workers Union scandal. Even the proceedings of Victoria's courts on the matter - the bread and butter of local journalism - have eluded the national broadcaster's local reporters.
Jonathan Holmes spoke at length on the ABC's Media Watch about legitimate reporting of the story back in August last year. The Australian's Hedley Thomas had just broken the news that one of Julia Gillard's former law firm partners claimed that Gillard had lost her job at Slater & Gordon as a direct result of legal advice she gave to help establish a slush fund for her then boyfriend and client, AWU state secretary Bruce Wilson. There were numerous revelations in leaked documents, including a transcript of her exit interview from the firm, and the subsequent disclosure by the firm's then head partner, Peter Gordon, that it was a very serious matter involving an alleged fraud.
Jon Faine, of 774 ABC Melbourne, said: "The conspiracy theorists are having a ball, the blogosphere's running amok, it's all completely out of control ... why is it on the front page of the paper?"
To his great credit, Holmes said of the Faine view: "Well, I think that's nonsense." He went on to say the story was news, and had been presented in a sober and meticulous fashion by The Australian and elsewhere online.
There was a flurry of reporting in November last year from the ABC. It carried all of Gillard's press conferences and a lengthy interview with Wilson and, separately, his union colleague Ralph Blewitt. Then nothing.
Since the parliament rose last year, it's as if the AWU scandal had ceased to be for the ABC. Yet substantial developments have taken place - although not the sort of developments that would sit well in an Anne Summers, ABC live, Gillard extravaganza.
In January, Thomas reported that Victoria police had travelled to Queensland and taken a lengthy statement from a former para-legal executive at Slater & Gordon, Olivia Palmer (nee Brosnahan). That interview marked a turning point in the police investigation, with a significant increase in the number of detectives assigned to the matter as a result of her evidence.
The ABC reported nothing.
On May 15 this year, Gillard was closing in on her third anniversary as prime minister. By 11am, she had introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme legislation into the House of Representatives.
That same day, detectives from the major fraud squad visited the Melbourne Magistrates Court to give sworn evidence in an application for a warrant to search and seize documents from Slater & Gordon. Magistrate Lance Martin heard their evidence and duly issued the warrant.
The law does not provide for search warrants to seize documents for background information, or to provide leads for further investigation. Before Martin could issue the warrant, he - not police - had to believe on reasonable grounds that a serious crime had occurred and that the things he specified in the warrant would afford evidence of that crime.
There's much more at The Australian! 1400 words more.