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The first claim about the AWU WRA Inc - what were Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt's instructions?

We'll work through the claims made about the AWU WRA Inc one by one today - and as long as it takes.

Starting at the beginning - this is Ms Gillard's evidence about her instructions from Bruce Wilson to set up the AWU WRA Inc.

I was asked by Bruce to, I was asked by Bruce to form, I was asked by Bruce about the holding of election fund monies. 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.

Bruce wanted to have such an account.

We have at Slater & Gordon, we have incorporated associations for the purposes of holding, if you like, being the legal entity that holds such an account. 
So, I advised Bruce that we had done that in the past for unions. We had incorporated associations.
The problem for Ms Gillard is that neither Bruce nor Ralph back her up. 

Wilson’s evidence about what he wanted to set up when he instructed Gillard

Bruce Wilson's statements and evidence in cross examination do not corroborate Gillard's election fund claim as being the primary purpose for which he gave instructions on the AWU WRA. Gillard says it was, she says Bruce sought her her help for an election fund – it’s just that Bruce doesn’t say it. He says he wanted the incorporated entity to receive money from the Dawesville project and that’s what it did.

Gillard’s own documents don’t mention the idea of elections for union officials. Her own work, the very documents she created don’t corroborate payroll deduction fund story for her bosses. The Gillard story explaining why she did what she did doesn't make sense, but Wilson's cover story does. Wilson was giving instructions to his lawyer to do things while all the while his purpose was to achieve clearly unlawful things. That is what he says he asked for and what he got - a sham entity controlled by him that would be able to receive money from the Dawesville Channel project.

Here's Bruce Wilson in his own words as to his state of mind and intentions set out in two lengthy sworn statements for the Royal Commission. ment-of-bruce-wilson-dated-4june2014.pdf ment-of-bruce-wilson-dated-6june2014.pdf

In his first statement Wilson gives his reasons for incorporating the AWU Workplace Reform Association.

Commencing at paragraph 109 he talks about a meeting with Thiess executives and Bill Ludwig in Sydney to discuss setting up a legal entity. He is quite specific and firm in that the entity was established in order to receive monies from Thiess.

Some further discussion ensued around the table about funding for training projects that would be available on the Dawesville Channel project. I raised that the funding for such training should be kept totally separate from the funds of the AWU. There was some discussion about how that might be done, and someone suggested creating a separate legal entity that could run the training and to which the funding could be provided. If that could be done, we discussed that there could be no confusion that the funds for the training would be completely separate from AWU funds.

It was my strong position that there was no way that I would be raising these funds and allowing the national office to make any claim on them. The separate legal entity would be the vehicle that would propel the concept of the NCB, and funds received by the entity could be used to support the NCB concept through supporting candidates in the election and paying for various associated expenses.

A general concept of a separate legal entity was further discussed, and there was support for this idea. I recall that when the meeting finished LUDWIG said words to the effect ''That sounds alright to me, I'm happy with that. I'll leave the rest to you blokes to sort it out." I considered that LUDWIG and ALBRECHT had given their 'blessing' to the arrangement. I believed that this constituted the basis of an agreement between the THIESS representatives and myself.

It was agreed that whatever arrangement was finalised in terms of funding to the entity, it would be effective from the nominated start date of the DCP to the nominated completion date of the project. Then there was general chit-chat and LUDWIG and I left together as we were staying at the same hotel.

He talks about an entity whose purpose was to receive funds from Thiess. It needed a cover story about its purpose that sounded better than the real story. So the cover story Wilson et al came up with was that it was a workplace reform and safety entity set up to achieve great things. Total BS, pages of objects written down to convince the Commissioner the thing was legit and should be incorporated. But for Wilson the cover story was inestimably better than the truth, which according to Wilson would sound something like “This association is formed for the purpose of creating a separate legal entity with the AWU’s name in it for the purpose of receiving money from Thiess after Thiess was awarded the Dawesville Channel project”.

Now compare Gillard’s position. She says that she got instructions to set up a payroll deduction fund to meet the expenses Bruce Wilson and his mates would legitimately have in election campaigns. But rather than write down what Gillard says was the truth, the election fund thing, she writes down reams of unlikely workplace reform this, safety training that, etc etc etc. That’s where Gillard’s version of the truth comes unstuck. If it was as innocent and conventional as she told Peter Gordon and Geoff Shaw, why didn’t she tell the corporate affairs commissioner the same thing? But if she’d done that, the election fund purpose would be on the public record and it would be a brave Thiess executive who’d authorise invoices to transfer shareholders money to fund Bruce Wilson’s elections.

Wilson said he wanted an entity to get the money from Thiess, that’s what he said it was set up for – and that is precisely what the entity did. Wilson’s statement is not benign from Gillard’ perspective, who is stuck with her story that she was told to set up a payroll deduction fund that just ended up achieving its purposes through convoluted processes. Wilson’s statement contemplates some legal planning involving the processes Thiess required to pay out money. The entity that Wilson says he wanted to create must have had the legal ability to "receive the funds" - that is it had to raise invoices in its own right and negotiate the money paid in its name through a bank account. Bruce Wilson Consulting wouldn't cut it for Thiess's auditors - likewise a hand-written invoice in a book from a newsagent with a bank account associated with it. For Thiess managers to pay out $300,000 and stay on the right side of their auditors, Thiess would require invoices raised by some legal entity (if not the AWU itself). In Wilson's own words, that was the reason for the creation of the AWU WRA Incorporated. In that context, the necessity for the AWU's name in the title becomes a little clearer.

In order for Wilson to achieve his stated aim one presumes that he gave instructions consistent with his intended outcome to his lawyer. What Gillard did is consistent with what Wilson says he wanted. But it’s impossible to reconcile Wilson's evidence - and the documents associated with the AWU WRA Inc - with the version of events that Ms Gillard now gives for her actions.

Recall that in the paragraphs above Wilson said, "It was my strong position" that the funds he proposed to receive from Thiess had to be in a legally protected separate entity from the AWU. In view of that "strong position" what is the likelihood that he gave instructions to his lawyer that the entity was simply a re-election account that could be called anything and structured in any way? It just happened through coincidence that his lawyer suggested a separate legal entity for this particular payroll deduction scheme. Just a coincidence that she put the AWU’s name into the title of the association, in her own handwriting. Every action in the incorporation is consistent with the truth of a sham entity cloaked in Wilson's cover story about workplace safety and reform.

The AWU WRA Incorporated was created as a result of pages of legal work done by Julia Gillard. It was her baby. Yet the structure she says she chose, an incorporated association, could not legally do the very thing she says it was established to do – to fund Bruce and his mates election to paid AWU offices. What her legal work did achieve was all of the things that she says she had absolutely no idea about. Her structure could send sham invoices to Thiess, using the AWU’s name without authority, operating in complete secrecy from the AWU and from her partners at Slater and Gordon where she didn’t even open a file.

Gillard went in to bat for her simple payroll deduction election fund that happened to be a separate legal entity with the AWU WRA name in it. While it’s hard to see how a payroll deduction election fund needed it, Gillard argued strongly for its incorporation against the objections of the Corporate Affairs Commissioner, writing letters and drafting revised rules for post incorporation promised changes. On her evidence she did all of that to make sure a simple payroll deduction fund to pay money out to fund Bruce Wilson’s election expenses was all hunky dory. She did all that for the innocent payroll deduction election fund. So on her evidence it’s just a coincidence that she fought so hard for the innocent but strange name she selected, the AWU WRA. The AWU bit wasn’t necessary in a payroll deduction election fund. And it’s just a coincidence that she was doing all that arguing for incorporation in that name after Bruce had already committed to operating his funding agreement with Thiess in the AWU WRA name, months prior to incorporation. And a coincidence that she argued for that name after Bruce and Ralph had opened bank accounts in that

AWU WRA name, after they had started issuing invoices in that AWU WRA name and after they had started banking the cheques – made out in that AWU WRA name. It had to be a coincidence because she says she had no idea and asked no questions about why that name was so essential.

Beyond her “I did nothing wrong” protestations there’s no evidence to support her claim of innocent unknowing young and naïve involvement. Wilson knew what he wanted and he got what he wanted. Gillard didn’t sense the vibe of what would be best for Bruce through engaging her powers of extra-sensory-perception. The only explanation for Gillard’s actions is that she was instructed to do what Wilson says he wanted done. And his sworn evidence tells us what he wanted the sham entity to look like. The only logical explanation for Gillard’s actions is that Gillard was working to set up what Wilson wanted. The AWU WRA Inc was created so as to invoice and receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from Thiess in a way that would satisfy Thiess's internal processes and would achieve Wilson’s stated aim of secrecy and retention of the money once it was received by him – away from the knowledge or grasp of the broader AWU.

Wilson's next paragraph, flowing directly from the evidence above is going to be difficult to reconcile with Ms Gillard's explanation for her innocent, unknowing involvement in incorporating the
entity. Wilson says:

I did some research to inform myself about how to go about setting up a legal entity to receive the monies from the DCP (the Dawesville Channel Project). I may have asked someone like my accountants, or Stephen BOOTH or Julia GILLARD. I got as much information as I could about how to go about it from various sources. After informing myself I believed that the entity should be an incorporated association.

Wilson is explicit. His evidence is sworn and it makes sense. In his own words his reason for setting up the legal entity was "to receive the monies from the Dawesville Channel Project". He goes on to say that he sought advice as to how he could achieve that end - he nominates Ms Gillard as someone he may have spoken to about it. Gillard describes her own role as providing all the legal advice in the matter. She says no other lawyer was involved. We now know what Wilson wanted advice on - how to receive money from Thiess in relation to Dawesville, how to keep it all secret from everyone else in the AWU and how to keep the money out of the hands of the AWU itself. Unfortunately for Ms Gillard, the documents she created and the actions she took are entirely consistent with a lawyer acting on the instructions Wilson says he gave. And that was not to set up a benign, innocent, run of the mill payroll deduction fund.

Wilson doesn't say he sought advice about setting up a slush fund for an election. He says he asked Gillard or Stephen Booth for advice about how to set up a legal entity to receive money from Thiess. He says nothing about planning for problems where members of the "team" who leave some time in the future might argue about who owned what money.

If Gillard acted innocently, the precision with which her actions align with Wilson's stated aim beggars belief. The only explanation that makes sense is the truth.

To summarise:

  •   Gillard claims Slater and Gordon had incorporated associations as union election slush funds before

  •   she leads no evidence to back up that claim

  •   her boss contradicts her - he was not aware of any and was surprised to learn of her effort

  •   the law makes such an entity ineligible for lawful incorporation - further the Act demolishe another of her claims about ownership of the money on wind-up, it provides that all the money in the Association would be distributed to charity if the group broke up

  •   Bruce Wilson says that he needed an entity that looked like a training entity for the purpose of receiving funds from Thiess flowing from the Dawesville Channel project

  •   All the documents produced by Gillard are consistent with Wilson's evidence about his instructions and what he wanted to achieve

  •   Wilson admits that the invoiced "training/consultancy" work was largely not performed. No effort was made to perform the work in 1992 or 1994 with dubious claims about work performed in 1993, yet the sham entity Gillard had set up continued to issue invoices

  •   If Gillard could not tell the truth to her partners about the instructions she was acting on - that is if she concealed her knowledge of Wilson's aim, it speaks volumes about her state of knowledge as to the propriety or legality of just what it was that she was helping Wilson to do.


Finally here is some evidence the TURC did not hear.