Peter Trebilco remembers Julia Gillard's performance on the Drive for Dignity Carmen Lawrence bus tour
Saturday, 31 January 2015
Some chronology first.
2 May, 1991 - Bruce Wilson becomes AWU WA Branch Secretary
November 1991 - Carmen Lawrence cabinet awards no tender $60M Dawesville contract to Thiess
April 1992 - Thiess writes to Bruce Wilson's AWU WRA to advise it will pay $300K to the Association created by Gillard to Wilson's specs - note the Thiess letter is specific, it's not paying the AWU it's paying the separate legal entity
Mar-Jun 1992 - WA Corp Affairs finally approves AWU WRA after further payment of $22 fee, consistent with ministerial review.
Carmen Lawrence faced a difficult election on 6 February, 1993. During the weeks of the election campaign, the AWU under Wilson's leadership contributed a $100,000 contribution, the Drive for Dignity. It took the form of a bus tour of the state campaigning for the return of the Lawrence government.
Courtesy of Peter Trebilco we now have an eye-witness account that Julia Gillard participated in the Drive for Dignity with Wilson as one of the speakers.
A $100,000 donation to an election campaign in 1993 was a huge amount of money, in this case it was not slush fund money, but AWU members money.
See our report on the Drive for Dignity here - reproduced in part below.
The following extract is from "A Financial Analysis of the AWU West Australian Branch 1991-1997" by Dr John Lourens published here.
So the Drive for Dignity was funded by AWU general operating money and at a time when the accounts were in deficit. So how was the decision to spend $100,000+ made?
The Royal Commission published the minutes of Wilson's AWU WA Branch meetings here. The following extract sheds some new light on the origins of the "Drive for Dignity".
Wilson started speaking about Victoria's political environment that morning. It wasn't immediately clear what relevance that topic had for the AWU's WA Branch.
This topic was titled "Industrial Relations Report - Victoria" which sounds innocuous. But hidden in the detail is the "Drive for Dignity" approval - the nett effect was an apparent $100,000+ payment from AWU coffers in direct support of Carmen Lawrence's election campaign.
In 1993 the WA branch was in financial strife before the Drive for Dignity; it couldn't make a $308,000 payment to head office and overall it posted a $780K deficit. Someone must have really wanted to spend $100K on the Drive for Dignity, particularly when the business case set out in the minutes above was so short on detail.
This extract from Dr Lourens's financial analysis gives you some sense of the branch's income statements for 1993 and surrounding years.
By October 1993 some members of the union were sufficiently concerned to print flyers criticising the branch's management. This extract is from defamation proceedings Slater and Gordon brought against the authors of one flyer who'd taken Wilson's successor Ralph Blewitt to task:
So even at the time the spending was viewed with concern. Fast forward to 12 May 2014 and Ralph Blewitt gave the following evidence to the Royal Commission.
MR STOLJAR: Q. Mr Blewitt, you were describing at the
13 outset of this examination a role that you said Mr Wilson
14 played in Thiess obtaining the tender to carry out work at
15 the Dawesville Channel project. Do you remember giving
16 that evidence a couple of hours ago now?
17 A. Yes.
19 Q. You said he had had various meetings with a Mr Taylor,
20 I think the name was, and some others. Was that something
21 Mr Wilson did from time to time - have negotiations of that
22 kind - to your knowledge?
23 A. Sorry, negotiate?
25 Q. With the --
26 A. He was a branch secretary of the union. He negotiated
27 with all sorts of people.
29 Q. Did he involve himself in political affairs at all?
30 A. Oh, yes.
32 Q. Can you tell me a bit about that?
33 A. The Western Australian branch - I'm very sketchy on
34 the memory of this, but we were a major supporter of, from
35 memory, Carmen Lawrence's campaign in Western Australia.
36 We ran a "drive for dignity" campaign to support that
37 election campaign, and I think our office, WA, donated
38 $100,000 to the ALP for that campaign.
Like I said, the Drive for Dignity $100,000 is well worth a closer look.