It's more than a little galling to see Fairfax's AFR editorialising today about the importance of a free press.
Fairfax is yet to apologise to Bob Kernohan for refusing to broadcast his interview about the AWU Scandal. As I told The Australian at the time "This country's pretty screwed up if decent, working people can't turn to a free and open media to have their say."
While there is rightly concern about free speech curbs in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, the libel laws also let the powerful hide from proper inquiry. It is a disgrace that media organisations such as Fairfax Media have been penalised by the state for damaging the reputation of a politician now adjudged to have abused the trust placed in him. The defamation industry and the legal profession that sustains it should be ashamed of maintaining this conspiracy against the public interest. Personal reputations should be determined by the marketplace of free and open discussion.
Australia's open democracy and institutions assume a high degree of integrity and trust. That also leaves it open to rare but important instances of abuse and greed: WA Inc, the Moonlight State of Queensland in the 1970s, and now Obeid's decades of profiteering as he pulled the strings of the ruling party in our biggest state, are all reminders of the vigilance needed over high office.
Fairfax were the architects of this.
Bob's interview was legalled by Bruce Burke, the country's pre-eminent defamation lawyer.
It was approved for broadcast.
Fairfax folded to Gillard.
Since then the Trade Union Royal Commission found that Gillard was not telling the truth about payments for her home renovations. The source of those funds was Bruce Wilson. And there is much more.
I have stayed the course on the Gillard matter and now have evidence of Bill Ludwig's central role in approving the AWU WRA scheme, including the house purchase at Kerr Street Fitzroy.
That same Ludwig installed Gillard as Prime Minister.
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 the book 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."