Julia Gillard gives legal advice as a lawyer to her client. 3 examples today - here is the AWU-Workplace Reform Association.
Julia Gillard states now that she was a solicitor who gave legal advice on the incorporation of an association to her clients, Ralph Blewitt and Bruce Wilson.
She does not say she acted for the AWU as her client in setting up the AWU WRA.
Rule 1 of the union at the time defined ownership of the name Australian Workers' Union and set out that the union was a registered organisation under the Industrial Relations Act 1988.
Rule 89 of the union defined the name and its abbreviation AWU. It made clear the union owned the name and the name that represented the union was the name of the entity that held title to its possessions.
The union was a party to many agreements and it held title to millions of dollars in assets. Any entity using the union's name would open itself to the common law tort of passing off and individuals who took and used the union's name without authorisation could be open to criminal charges. A lawyer providing advice in those circumstances would satisfy him or herself that the legal advice adequately described those circumstances and sought and obtained authority for the use of the name in the incorporated entity.
The AWU Annual Convention is the union's highest deliberative body and only it is able to authorise any subisidary incorporated entity to use the title Australian Workers' Union. Any use of the name AWU by a subsidiary incorporated entity would have to include provisions consistent with the Objects of the AWU at Rule 4 (c), namely that the entity would promote the interests and welfare of the members of the AWU.
The 106th Annual convention of the Australian Workers Union was held in January 1992 and its
deliberations were reported in The Australian Worker, the official newspaper of the union.
In its report of the 106 th Annual Convention no resolution was passed authorising and permitting
the Australian Workers Union – Workplace Reform Association to use the name of the union in its
Julia Gillard has commented on her role in the recorded interview of 11 September, 1995 and in various media and parliamentary forums since, notably in her August and November 2012 press conferences.
She says now her role was limited to giving legal advice. In 1995 she told her partners she had drafted the rules of the association and a letter to the WA Corporate Affairs Commissioner vouching for its bona fides stating that it was not a Trade Union for the purposes of the WA state legislation.
In various examples of Ms Gillard's genuine legal work she presents as thorough and complete in providing legal advice to her clients who can then, fully informed, instruct their lawyers as to how they wish to proceed.
The matter of the AWU Workplace Reform Association stands out in that no file was created, no bill was raised, no letter confirming instructions was sent, no letter setting out the "legal advice" Ms Gillard claims to have given was produced.
We can now see what criminal end was achieved through the association. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were siphoned through it, converted from legitimate looking funds paid in answer to invoices recorded as representing work done by the AWU - but which were in fact false invoices.
Instead of providing legal advice to Mr Wilson that made clear where he was likely to fall foul of the law and the union's rules, Ms Gillard simply went to to work on producing the documents that were necessary to secure the incorporation of the AWU Workplace Reform Association Inc. Where Mr Wilson's plan required secrecy from other AWU officials lest they get wind of the funds being paid ostensibly to the AWU - Ms Gillard too uncharacteristicly doesn't bill, doesn't open a file, doesn't inform her partners about Bruce's request for "legal advice". She says now that it was small job and that it was an oversight that she did not open a file. It's a remarkable coincidence that Bruce needed secrecy to achieve his end and in this instance that secrecy extended to Ms Gillard's work on the incorporation.
When a competent authority, the WA Corporate Affairs Commissioner wrote to state that the association was apparently prima facie incapable of incorporation because it apparently met the legislative test that defined a Trade Union in WA, Ms Gillard admits to having written back urging its incorporation.
In her 26 November 2012 press conference in Canberra Ms Gillard said to the assembled media;
Hindsight's a wonderful thing, isn't it? It’s a wonderful thing over 20 years. But put yourself in my shoes incorporating that association. This did not strike me as a non-standard transaction; unions incorporate associations to support the re-election of union officials.
Well in her role, acting in concert with Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt to achieve the end of incorporating that association, Ms Gillard was apparently able to turn a wilfully blind eye to several important legal issues.
If she is telling the truth when she says that she simply gave legal advice, then the advice she gave was lousy. Mr Blewitt and Mr Wilson would be able to point to their legal adviser now and make clear that she placed them in jeopardy by failing to make the following points clear.
- No authority was produced to allow the use of the AWU name in the association's title
- The association's title was misleading as to its purpose
- The association did not have the requisite 6 members and no enquiries were made about its membership
- She didn't open a file.
- She didn't bill for the work.
- She wrote to the Corporate Affairs Commissioner to vouch for the Association when it did not meet the threshold for incorporation
- She wrote rules that were not consistent with her description that it was a slush fund for the personal benefit of her boyfriend
- she set it up to have bank accounts under Blewitt and Wilson's control that included the AWU name in the bank account title
- She went to the auction as Wilson's girlfriend and as a representative of the law firm Slater and Gordon and told the real estate agent that she acted for the purchaser in the sale.
- She did the conveyance work for the Fitzroy house in Melbourne for free.
- She set up the mortgage to finance Wilson's house in Melbourne for free.
- She created a Power of Attorney for Wilson to have Blewitt's authority to buy the place in Blewitt's name.
- She pretended that the Power of Attorney gave authority to borrow money in Blewitt's name and presented it in an aplication she caused to be made for $150,000 in borrowings to finance Wilson's house.
- Someone at Slater and Gordon missed the bank statement about the AWU -WRA cheque for $67,772.30 to settle the purchase of Wilson's house! Somehow that deposit was recorded as having come directly from Ralph Blewitt, when the bank statement showed it was a cheque from the AWU WRA. Someone accidentally recorded Blewitt in the Trust Account Ledger as the source of that money and not the AWU-WRA slush fund Gillard had set up.
- When members of the WA Branch of the AWU alleged financial irregularities against Ralph Blewitt in September 1993, Julia Gillard and Bernard Murphy commenced defamation action which had the effect of shutting down rather than investigating the criticism.
- Neither Ms Gillard not Mr Murphy accepted or passed on any of the WA branch members claims of financial irregularities for independent investigation. Rather than act as fiduciaries for the AWU, they manifestly acted for Wilson and Blewitt.
- Ms Gillard couldn't rule out that the AWU-WRA was the source of the money to renovate her own house when queried in 1995.
- She gave Wilson legal advice when you were told you'd be charged and referred to police over AWU Members' Welfare Association No 1 account.
- She admitted to her partners at Slater and Gordon that the AWUWRA was really a slush fund to raise and hold money for Wilson's personal benefit - but she failed to tell the union or the police.
I’m not naive, you know, I’m not Doris Day who’s just somehow parachuted into Canberra. I had to fight hard to get preselected, I had to play a factional game to do that, I had to count numbers, I had to make deals and I’d do all of that again tomorrow if I needed to.
– Julia Gillard, 2006
This article from Mark Baker of The Age sets out his understanding of the circumstances of Nick Styant Browne and Geoff Shaw and their dealing with Gillard in mid August, 1995.
Gillard, then a salaried partner at Slater & Gordon, had been first challenged about her role in helping create the association and in assisting with the purchase of the Fitzroy unit at a meeting on 14 August, 1995, with Geoff Shaw and Nick Styant-Browne, an equity partner in charge of the firm's commercial department.
At that meeting Gillard confirmed she had not followed established procedures to open a formal file on the work done to incorporate the Workplace Reform Association. She had played down her role, claiming she had only given some advice about incorporation.
She also confirmed that she had drafted the power of attorney for Wilson without advising senior colleagues.
Gillard told Shaw and Styant-Browne that her unofficial file of paperwork relating to the Workplace Reform Association was no longer available as it had been passed on to someone outside the firm
Here's some of what she told Peter Gordon a few weeks later.
"It's, it's common practice, indeed every union has what it refers to as a re-election
fund, slush fund, whatever, which is the funds that the leadership team, into
which the leadership team puts money so that they can finance their next
election campaign. It is not proper to use union resources for election
campaigns so you need to finance them yourself. Some of them, you know, they
can cost $10,000, $20,000 -- they're not cheap. So the usual mechanism people
use to amass that amount of money is that they require the officials who ran on
their ticket to enter payroll deduction schemes where money each week or fortnight
goes from their pay into a bank account which is used for re-election purposes
from time to time. They also have different fundraisers, dinners and raffles
and so on to amass the necessary amount of money to mount their re-election
The thinking behind the forming of incorporated associations is that it had been
our experience that if you did it in a less formal way, you just had someone,
say Fred Bloggs, say, oh look, I'll just open a bank account and everybody can
put the money into there, the problem developed that when the leadership team
fractured, as relatively commonly happens, you got into a very difficult
dispute about who was the owner of the monies in the bank account, so it was
better to have an incorporated association, a legal entity, into which people
could participate as members, that was the holder of the account.
And here are further details released by Nick Styant Browne of the Gillard departure interview, released after Bruce Wilson appeared on the ABC's 7.30 programe and effectively dissolved client legal professional privilege.
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?
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.
Here is some of Ms Gillard's latter day descriptions of what happened, these quotes come from her August and November 2012 press conferences.
I was a solicitor at Slater & Gordon. I assisted with the provision of advice regarding the setting up of an association, the workplace reform association that you refer to.
My understanding is that the purpose of the association was to support the re-election of a team of union officials and their pursuit of the policies that they would stand for re-election on.
My role in relation to this was I provided advice as a solicitor. I am not the signatory to the documents that incorporated this association. I was not an office bearer of the association. I had no involvement in the working of the association. I provided advice in relation to its establishment and that was it.
I acted on clients' instructions, my understanding on the instructions provided by my clients was that this was an association which would support the re-election of union officials running on a particular platform of change, hence its name.
My client in creating the Workplace Reform Association was Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt acting as representatives as a team of officials who were going to run together for election in the trade union.