Later today I'll post a development in the AWU Scandal which strikes at the heart of the modern, Bill Ludwig influenced Labor Party - the Party that gave us Gillard.
But before that, I thought this clip of Tony Abbott speaking off the cuff, unprepared for the surprise announcement made by Martin Ferguson of his intention to resign.
In reviewing the correspondence that I'll post later I couldn't help but feel much the same way as Tony. So many decent people put so much into the Labor Party of old. They wouldn't recognise it now.
And here's a little of my dealings with Martin more than two years ago. If only the TURC had taken him up on that offer.
MONDAY, 07 APRIL 2014
Young, naive and taken in by a con artist. Martin Ferguson talks about Julia Gillard's pre-selection.
Hedley Thomas in The Australian today reports on former ACTU chief Martin Ferguson and his willingness to assist the royal commission into union corruption.
Former Gillard minister Martin Ferguson to reveal knowledge of AWU slush fund
- HEDLEY THOMAS
- The Australian
- April 07, 2014 12:00AM
FORMER union boss and retired cabinet minister Martin Ferguson is offering to tell the national royal commission into union corruption his knowledge of controversial payments, key witnesses and other information in the AWU slush fund scandal that has dogged the Labor Party and Julia Gillard.
Mr Ferguson told The Australian that, if asked under oath, he would provide information including details revealed to him recently by a former Melbourne builder, Kon Spyridis, payments to whom have been part of an ongoing investigation by Victoria Police’s Fraud Squad into hundreds of thousands of dollars that flowed in and out of the slush fund.
Mr Ferguson, who was head of the ACTU when the slush fund was operating without his knowledge, said: “I am disturbed by the accounts of the slush fund in question and the involvement in it of both union and employer representatives.
“I’m concerned about the operation of that fund — the way it was operated — and the people from the union and business who were connected to it. It is fair to say that I have taken more of an interest in it in recent years. When the issues arose again (in 2012), I went and double-checked dates to check on certain things, including what positions I held at the time. It is not a question of whether I welcome the royal commission or not. There is an absolute obligation on the union movement to clean up its house. There is an obligation on the unions to put their house in order.’’
Mr Ferguson said Mr Spyridis, a constituent in the parliamentarian’s Melbourne electorate of Batman until his retirement at the last election, had recently disclosed information about the work he had performed for the AWU and Ms Gillard. There is no allegation of wrongdoing by Mr Spyridis.
“He came to my office for help on a migration matter because I was the local member,’’ Mr Ferguson said.
“He did raise with me the question of his previous involvement with the AWU and he indicated to me that he was being upfront about it, having done work on the AWU’s offices and some private work (at Ms Gillard’s house).
“I am not prepared to go into these details now. They are his interpretation of events. I would take seriously my obligations to talk to the inquiry if asked. I have absolute confidence in the integrity of the royal commissioner.’’
Ms Gillard has told journalists she paid for the renovations. However, in a tape-recorded 1995 interview during an internal investigation by her then employer, law firm Slater & Gordon, she said she could not rule out whether union money or slush fund money went into the cottage, saying “but I can’t see how it’s happened’’.
She added that “a series of tradespeople came in and did the renovation’’ on the instructions of AWU organiser Jim Collins.
Her former legal client, Mr Blewitt, a self-confessed corrupt union bagman, has told Victoria Police that he was directed by Mr Wilson to use slush fund cash to pay for renovations at her home.
Bank records indicate that Mr Spyridis received bank cheques from at least one of the slush funds controlled by Mr Wilson. Mr Spyridis has previously said: “I get my money and that’s it.’’
I was with a lawyer in Melbourne in November 2012 and we both happened to see Mr Ferguson walking towards us - it was the day that Ralph Blewitt made his statement to Victoria Police and the issue of Julia Gillard's involvement in The AWU Scandal was very prominent in the news. I've been sent this video that an onlooker took - small world huh!
Mr Ferguson confirmed that he had conducted an interview with Julia Gillard prior to the Labor Party pre-selecting her for the seat of Lalor. I'll bet he wishes he knew then what he knows now.
I know that Mr Spyridis was paid for work that he did at Julia Gillard's home in Abbotsford - that is the "And Bruce, while I was away decided that I should just get it done" renovations.
This cheque and the bank teller's notation on the back of it gives some insight into some cash flows that came from one of Wilson's corruptly operated bank accounts.
So $10,000 to the builder Kon Spyridis and $5,000 in cash. Here's the Daily Telegraph from November 2012
The fiery PM and that $5000 question
- GEMMA JONES
- THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
- NOVEMBER 27, 2012 12:00AM
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard was yesterday unable to categorically deny receiving $5000 from a former boyfriend at the centre of the Australian Workers Union slush fund affair.
With the 20-year-old affair threatening to overshadow the work of government, a fiery Ms Gillard addressed questions about the fund and her relationship with the disgraced Bruce Wilson.
The PM revealed she had consulted the Commonwealth Bank and had hoped to release her account transaction record but the bank only kept them for seven years.
Former AWU official Wayne Hem signed a statutory declaration claiming that Mr Wilson, after a night at a casino, asked him to put the money in Ms Gillard's bank account in mid-1995.
Mr Hem said in 1996 he told Ian Cambridge, then AWU secretary and now a Fair Work Australia Commissioner, of the alleged transaction.
When asked about Mr Hem's claim, Mr Wilson said at the weekend: "It's possible, but I don't specifically recall."
At the time Mr Hem said he made the deposit on behalf of Mr Wilson. Ms Gillard was a Slater & Gordon partner and would have been earning about $80,000 a year.
While she said yesterday she did not recall the money being put in her account, she said that, even if Mr Wilson had given her $5000 - which today would be worth more than $8100 - it would not be wrong. She also dismissed stories about the AWU affair, claiming Australians "don't understand" them. Ms Gillard said: "On the day that claim came out publicly I referred to it as smear because it is a matter associated with my personal life.
"Whilst I'm going to answer your question, I just ask you for one moment to assume that that is true, that $5000 was put in my bank account by a person I was then in a relationship with, who the witness involved said had had a big night out at the casino. Can you piece together for me the personal wrongdoing involved in that? I doubt you can.
"On the actual assertion, I do not to the best of my knowledge, remember $5000 being put in my account."
Ms Gillard said she typically was surprised by how little money she had when she used an ATM "rather than happily surprised that there is extra".
"I do not have a memory of this money going into my account. However, it is a long time ago. So I have taken steps to try and check," she said of her approach to the Commonwealth Bank.
She described the financial relationship between herself and Mr Wilson as "garden variety" for a couple and there was not "lots of money around or lots of benefits I somehow couldn't explain."
"Nothing happened in the course of my relationship with Mr Wilson about who paid for what that you would say was in any way unusual for people in a relationship. We'd go for dinner, sometimes he'd pay, sometimes I'd pay, sometimes we'd split the bill," she said.
Ms Gillard said she ended the relationship with Mr Wilson when she heard rumours of problems within the union.
She faced questions about why she hadn't alerted the AWU around the same time of the slush fund for which she had provided legal advice for its incorporation but said she had no knowledge of its accounts or how it was used.
"You can't report things you do not know. I did not know about transactions on the accounts of the AWU workplace relations association," she said.
In parliament, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop used Question Time to focus on whether Ms Gillard had satisfied herself the establishment of the association did not breach AWU internal rules.
Ms Gillard repeated that her role was to provide legal advice to the two officials seeking to register their association, which was to be used for union election campaigning, and she had no dealings with the broader union executive.
Earlier, Ms Gillard had said she was aware of rumours - which she vigorously denied - that she received money from the union for home renovations. Ms Gillard told Slater & Gordon in an interview in September 1995 she had paid the builder $2000 and was "making arrangements to get $1780 ... to pay the rest". The transcript shows she was financially strained at the time with a mortgage and a personal loan - and had taken an advance on her salary.