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A bit of memorabilia with background to PM Gillard's sweetheart deals with the unions, the AWU in particular

"The AWU was Gillard's power-base - almost made her invincible". Chris Bowen.

Part Four of the "Meltdown" series was published by the Sydney Morning Herald here.


Gillard downfall

 These were my thoughts at the time I first published this piece in 2013.

And the thing that will destroy any respectable legacy she might try to construct will be the slow realisation, as court cases and enquiries bring the facts to public consciousness, that Ms Gillard the Prime Minister indulged the same destructive crush for the dangerous bad boy unionist that killed off her legal career.   She compromised herself and her responsibilities to others to impress her teen idols and prove her worth.  She abused her lawyer position to deliver what Bruce wanted - as she climbed to the PM job so did the scope of her authority to hand benefits to her chosen heroes.   The character flaw was the same, it was the scale that grew.   the PM-approved authority for gifts to friends is awesome - and reconciled by the belief that any gain for a union boss is a detriment to the evil bosses and if the boss is losing that's good for the workers.

Here's an extract from today's chapter from Meltdown.

In November 2011, Gillard hosted a meeting with the secretary of the ACTU, Dave Oliver, and the heads of the major unions. It was held over lunch at Kirribilli House. Its purpose was to forge a strategic alliance between Gillard and the union movement. 

It was not about the routine industrial relations agenda. The prime minister did not invite her minister for workplace relations, Chris Evans. It was unpublicised.

"It was another Kirribilli agreement," says Martin Ferguson, referring to the notorious secret deal where Bob Hawke promised to hand over the Labor leadership to Paul Keating. "It was the deathknell for her government. She gave the unions everything they wanted." Ferguson, the minister for resources at the time, was not at the meeting. He was once the president of the ACTU.

And what did Gillard get? "It was 'lock in behind me and I will deliver for you'."

Gillard's Kirribilli agreement began a major rapprochement. Dave Oliver began the meeting with a log of demands. A discussion followed. Gillard responded by setting up a machinery for working on key items, according to participants.

It worked. The unions ultimately co-operated closely with the ALP at the 2013 election. And the unions, especially the big Right faction-affiliated unions of the Australian Workers Union and the Transport Workers Union, were her staunch defenders inside the party. 

Their leaders lobbied caucus members to vote for Gillard in leadership ballots against Rudd three months after the Kirribilli House meeting, and again this year.

Four months later, the secretary of one of the biggest unions explained it like this: "Most of the key union leaders were elected post 2007. We've experienced two prime ministers. One treated us like a pile of shit. We used to joke with each other, after Rudd had had us to a meeting at Kirribilli House or whatever, that he'd be shampooing the carpet the moment we left. We couldn't get anything through; he just refused to engage with us."

And the other prime minister? "She's very good at delivering for us."

As Chris Bowen has observed to colleagues: "The AWU was her power base, and it almost made her invincible. Almost."