Julia Gillard used her office as Prime Minister to mislead the media on her role in The AWU Scandal
Monday, 13 October 2014
On 29 November 2012 the Fairfax press published this article written by the well informed Editor at Large of The Age, Mark Baker.
Letter contradicts PM
Julia Gillard enabled the incorporation of a union slush fund from which her then boyfriend later stole hundreds of thousands of dollars by formally denying to authorities that it was a trade union organisation.
A newly released document confirms that Ms Gillard wrote to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission stating the fund, the Australian Workplace Reform Association, was not a trade union organisation. Her assertion came in mid-1992, after the commission initially rejected the association's incorporation because ''it might be a trade union and therefore ineligible''. The document also confirms that Ms Gillard, then a salaried partner with Slater and Gordon, drafted the rules for the association - without opening a formal file, without consulting the senior partners and without taking advice from expert lawyers within the firm.
The revelations contradict Ms Gillard's claims at media conferences and in Parliament that she played a limited role in the formation of the association, from which Bruce Wilson and his crony Ralph Blewitt later misappropriated more than $400,000.
Asked by the Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, on Monday whether she had written vouching for the bona fides of the association, Ms Gillard told Parliament: ''The claim has been made but no correspondence has ever been produced.''
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott broke his week of silence on the AWU scandal on Thursday morning saying the Prime Minister's ''fitness for office'' has been compromised by the new document.
''It demonstrates Prime Minister made false representations to the Western Australian Corporate Affairs Commission,'' Mr Abbott said on Sky News this morning.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister had ''no comment'' when asked to confirm whether or not she had written to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission.
That article resulted in the then PM sending this letter on Prime Ministerial letterhead to the Chief Executive of Fairfax, Greg Hywood.
Given that the PM's office refused to release any documents related to her role in The AWU Scandal because it was a "private matter" and not related to her Prime Ministerial role the use of her office to advance those private interests should have been a cause for concern.
But more importantly, we now have more of the correspondence Mark Baker reported about.
Ms Gillard took issue with his use of the word fund - a word she herself used to describe what she'd set up, it was a "slush fund" but she's recently given quite explicit sworn evidence on the issue. Here are some extracts from her sworn evidence to the Royal Commission. She states Wilson wanted her to set up a fund:
Q. Mr Wilson raised it with you?
A. Mr Wilson raised with me wanting to have a fund in
Western Australia that would support him and his team and
their re-election in Western Australia and, you know,
regularising arrangements amongst the team.
MR STOLJAR: Mr Gordon says:
Now, around about mid 1992 were you asked
by Bruce or Ralph or anyone connected with
the AWU to set up certain unincorporated
associations to enable the union or
factions within it to raise and control
And you say "Yes". You give some more detail about that a
bit further down the page. You say.
... I was asked by Bruce to form, I was
asked by Bruce about the holding of
election fund moneys. It's common
practice, indeed every union has what it
refers to as a re-election fund, slush
fund, whatever, which is the funds ...
into which the leadership team puts money
so that they can finance their next
Is it the position that Mr Wilson wished to have an account
of that kind?
Q. You understood that the Association was setting up an
A. I understood that --
Q. At the time I mean.
A. Mr Stoljar, I understood that it was the desire of
Mr Wilson and others involved in the Association to have an
association, to be a team that would run together for union
elections, and to have an account into which they would
bank moneys that they had fund-raised for that purpose,
Q. And the account to which Mr Gordon is making reference
on page 137 is that very bank account, is it not?
A. He is obviously referring to the discussion before,
yes. But if your question to me is - and I may be
misunderstanding you, Mr Stoljar, and if I am, I apologise,
but if your question to me is did I have any knowledge of
particular accounts operated by the AWU Workplace Reform Association, no, I did not.
Q. I am not asking if you knew the account number, but
the fact is that you knew that it had set up an account and
was operating an account under the same name as the
A. I knew at the time that I provided legal advice on the
incorporation that there was an intention to set up an
Q. You certainly understood, as at 11 September, that the
account had been set up because Mr Gordon makes reference
to it and then you say, "That's right."
Gillard's letter to Hywood goes on to say that she wrote to the Corporate Affairs Commission "noting that the body proposed for incorporation was not a trade union". Well without Rule 3A it clearly was.
Ray Neal's letter to Gillard is below. He says her explanation as to the purpose of the association is accepted, however further clarification was still needed in the form of a proposed Rule 3A.
The Associations Incorporation Act made any Trade Union ineligible for incorporation and a trade union was defined under the 1902 Trade Union Act as
" Trade Union " shall mean any combination, whether
temporary or permanent, for regulating the relations
between workmen and employers, or between workmen
and workmen, or between employers and employers, or for
imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade
or business, whether such combination would or would not,
if this Act had not been passed, have been deemed to have
been an unlawful combination by reason of some one or
more of its purposes being in restraint of trade.
The condition imposed by the Commission of a new rule 3A was to craft the rules in such a way as to suggest that the Association did not have the characteristics of a union. Gillard's letter of 13 May did not achieve that end. Without the rule 3A the Commission had advised that sufficient doubt existed about the Association's status as to require Gillard's further action in the memo below to Blewitt.
Without that extra step the Association had been found to fall within the definition of a Trade Union - Gillard's letter to Hywood misleadingly states it was not.
If it was demonstrably true that the Association wasn't a Trade Union for the purposes of the Act, why the necessity for the new rule 3A? Without the rule 3A it fell within the Trade Union definition.
I'd appreciate your views.