It’s great to see you and so many Facebook friends maintaining the rage over The AWU Scandal.
It’s so important we don’t let that passion dissipate until the whole truth is laid out for all to see.
I share that passion too. Having seen your recent posts about the AWU and Gillard in particular, I thought I'd write to let you know where I'm at in pursuing the shared goal of justice. You may know I've a private prosecution of Ms Gillard pending - more on that in my next letter.
Back in September 2011 I told you I’d stick with investigating the scandal until the whole truth was disclosed. We’re approaching that goal but we’re not quite there yet.
We are however able to see a much better picture of the whole affair than when last you and I spoke - so here’s a quick progress report of what I think happened in The AWU Scandal.
It all started in 1989 with Gillard giving Ludwig/Wilson legal advice
Gillard told the Royal Commission she met Bruce in April 1991 - but that’s not true.
She had a strong motive to lie about the date as you’ll see shortly.
She was formally asked about meeting Wilson during her recorded exit interview with Peter Gordon on 11 September, 1995.
Gillard said they met in April 91. She said she’d “gone to WA to run a full bench appeal for the TCFUA” and Graham Droppert, a Slater and Gordon solicitor asked her to stay on to give legal advice to Bruce Wilson who was “basically stalking” the then WA branch secretary.
“….Bruce had been an organiser of the Western Australian branch. He had a falling out with the then secretary. The secretary had dismissed him. He had been appointed as a national organiser ‘cause he enjoyed national support. He had run in the elections as national secretary contender. He hadn’t been successful in that but he had run it close. He was AT THAT POINT basically stalking the then WA secretary with a view to getting him out and taking his position, and he needed some advice about arrangements to do that. And Graham Droppit asked me if I could give him some advice when I was over there about those things. So I ran the full bench appeal like a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, something like that, and I stayed on in Perth on the Saturday for the purpose of meeting with Wilson.”
There was no TCFUA full bench matter in April 1991, nor the whole of 1991, nor 1990.
On 16 October 1989 the Full Bench heard a TCFUA respondency matter with Graham Droppert listed as the TCFUA’s solicitor.
On 20 October 1989 nominations for the AWU December 1989 elections closed. Wilson nominated as National Secretary on a joint ticket with Bill Ludwig National President.
On 18 December 1989 Wilson was defeated for the national secretary role. WA State Secretary Joe Keenan then sacked him as a WA Organiser.
Wilson had no job, no office, no income - but he clearly enjoyed the support of running mate Bill Ludwig.
Wilson along with Ralph Blewitt worked from the offices of Labor Senator Michael Beahan in Perth. Their purpose - with Ludwig’s express backing - was to destabilise and replace the Hodder-friendly Joe Keanen as AWU WA Branch Secretary.
Wilson secured slush fund monies to unseat Keanan with donations from Julian Grill, a Minister in the Lawrence WA Government and Graeme Campbell MP, the Federal Member for Goldfields.
And Gillard provided Wilson with legal and political advice to achieve that end.
A problem arose for Gillard because she was also the lawyer of record for the AWU itself in Victoria. Unseating an elected state secretary in WA was hardly something the AWU itself could engage her and pay her for.
And so her informal, under the table legal services for Bruce and Bill Ludwig kicked off. The AWU WRA Inc was just another step further along that path.
The AWU national convention in January 1990 discussed a paid role for Wilson as a national organiser in certain specific industries. The Convention moved that further research and legal advice on the rules be provided before moving forward with the role.
On 28 June 1990 a legalistic rules based motion was put to the Federal Executive of the AWU for Wilson’s appointment as a National Organiser working out of the WA Office.
On 2 July 1990 the appointment took effect.
On 3 July 1990 NSW AWU Secretary Ernest Ecob (who’d run with national Secretary Errol Hodder in the election where Wilson was defeated) filed an urgent motion in the Federal Court challenging the validity of the Wilson appointment.
Gillard provided legal advice to Wilson in that matter. Justice Einfeld heard Ecob's application.
I think it's worthwhile to pause her for a moment before we get too confused.
This extract from the BRW’s Portrait of a man, Portrait of a Union is a helpful summary of where we're at:
.......(in 1989) Wilson was using his Perth-based position as organiser to extend his influence to the gold fields and to other significant sites, including the Kambalda gold and nickel mine and the construction industry, within the union events were moving nationally that were soon to engulf him. The Queensland AWU secretary, Errol Hodder, had replaced Gil Barr as federal secretary in August 1988. But before moving to Sydney Hodder had made an enemy of his Queensland successor, Bill Ludwig, as a result of having attempted to have Bob Boscacci from the northern district (the huge Queensland branch is divided in six districts) fill the powerful Queensland position.
All state and federal officials went to election in 1989. Hodder and Ludwig each ran tickets, with Hodder enlisting the New South Wales secretary, Ernie Ecob, as his running mate for national president; Ludwig put himself forward for the presidency with Wilson as secretary. The organiser from the west, who had never been a state secretary or president, was playing at the big table.
The outcome was the worst possible result for the union. Hodder retained the secretary's position, and Ludwig won the presidency. It guaranteed disunity, especially as the left had come to power in Victoria by pushing the right wing, under Ian Cutler, from office. Worse, Hodder wanted to introduce central funding in a union in which states had always jealously guarded their rights, especially their financial rights, none more so than Queensland.
Wilson says he had no burning ambition for the national secretary's position. "Hodder had created plenty of enemies and these people were looking for a candidate to run against him. None of the state secretaries wanted to run so it was suggested I put my hand up. I did, and nearly won."
Although Wilson now had a national profile, he also had a more immediate problem. In Wilson's words, Keenan, who was loyal to Hodder, in effect sacked him after the election by making his position as organiser redundant. "He gave me what amounted to a 'Dear John' letter on the flight to a meeting in the east," he says. (In the 1989 election Wilson had secured the position of vice president of the WA branch, as well as a delegate to the national convention.)
But the national executive, where Ludwig had the numbers and Queensland about 25% of the vote, had Wilson appointed a national organiser, based in Perth. It was the first time such a position had been created, and sent a message to the union that Ludwig would support anyone who opposed Hodder. It gave Wilson the time and resources to organise the numbers on the WA executive to ensure he was Keenan's successor.
Even by the AWU's standards of bitter infighting, the struggle for the secretary's position between Wilson and Keenan's preferred choice, branch president Joe Isherwood, set new lows. In correspondence with Hodder in February 1991, Isherwood detailed the campaign being orchestrated against him: "Because of the crap that has been meted out to me by way of pamphlets organised from within this office and distributed widely throughout the north-west, where the vast majority of our membership is, it has made it impossible for me to function effectively (as president). As an example, the cowards that they are, in early 1989, put out a pamphlet titled Joe Isherwood: An Agent for the Bosses."
Isherwood was not exaggerating. Among other things, the pamphlet alleged that Isherwood was:
- *assisting Woodside to pick and choose union officials;
- allowing Woodside management to spy on union officials;
- participating in private and secret meetings with Woodside's management to prevent members from pursuing legitimate claims.
- The pamphlet concluded: "The man is a deceitful traitor to the AWU and the union movement --against those who should be able to trust him I He must not be allowed to continue under the banner of the AWU. He must go."
The blood between Wilson and Isherwood had always been bad, a reality that Wilson still acknowledges. So it was no surprise that on Wilson's accession to power, Isherwood was made redundant. By this stage Hodder, having failed to get the concept of central funding accepted, moved sideways to the Industrial Relations Commission in April 1991. His successor, Mike Forshaw, was quickly drawn into the dispute.
Gillard, Wilson and Ludwig were effective in convincing Keenan the time was right.
On 19 February 1991 the AWU WA branch Executive formally approved a motion to appoint Wilson as Branch Secretary, replacing Keenan - effective 2 May 1991. All the “stalking” of Joe Keanen was complete prior to 19 February 1991.
On 22 March 1991 Justice Einfeld handed down his decision in the Ecob application. He found in Wilson’s favour.
On 3 April 1991 Bruce Wilson opened a new AWU WA Branch bank account at the CBA with himself as signatory
Account 6001 1002 0466 styled AWU WA Branch A/C (opened since 3/4/91)
Wilson had access to slush funds from Julian Grill, Graham Campbell, arrangements with Woodside and others from the Pilbara - and now he had the top WA job with Ludwig's support. The future was bright.
On 15 April 1991 Wilson signed a contract to purchase a house at 57 Hampton St Burswood for his PA Christine Campbell to live in. He bumped up her salary $200 per week to cover rent payments to him.
On 17 April 1991, just two days after Wilson's property purchase, Gillard purchased the run down 36 St Philips St Abbotsford property.
On 29 April 1991 Wilson refinanced his marital home and the Burswood property with the Bank of Melbourne. The BoM did not have any branches in WA. Wilson’s loan and other account transactions were conducted in Melbourne.
On 2 May 1991 Wilson formally became branch secretary and he set about installing his team and removing those loyal to his predecessor.
Wilson immediately set up a payroll deduction election fund and the WA Branch accountant immediately commenced deductions from the salary of every member of the Wilson team (with one exception). Russell Frearson (the AWU WA finance guy) confirms that here. The one member who wouldn't join the fund was Peter Trebilco who described his reasons and his exceptional recall of precisely when the fund was set up (immediately Wilson took over) here.
On 20 August 1991 Ms Gillard wrote this detailed 4 page letter giving legal advice to Wilson on installing his choice of person to fill a vacancy. She shows a detailed understanding of the AWU's arcane procedures in the letter. In her departure interview she spoke in detail about her understanding of union elections and the operation of payroll deduction election funds.
At that point Slater and Gordon were yet to be confirmed as the official branch lawyers for the AWU in WA.
In the process of giving Wilson legal advice for the takeover and later for filling positions with his chosen candidates it's likely Gillard and Wilson discussed the team's payroll deduction election fund. But whether they did or not, the fact remains - from May 1991 the Bruce Wilson WA Team members (minus one) were contributing money by payroll deduction into an election fund.
On 25 November 1991 Carmen Lawrence's cabinet decided to withdraw a public tender process and directly award Thiess the $60M Dawesville Channel contract. Wilson had lobbied for that to happen. Hugh Morgan then CEO of Western Mining states Lawrence said Lawrence did Wilson's bidding because he'd threatened her with losing her job if she didn't. Wilson had the numbers in the state's Labor Party to do just that.
Sometime in the second half of 1991 Wilson's AWU WA Branch formally engaged Slater and Gordon as the branch solicitors.
It’s important to note that Bernard Murphy gave sworn evidence that Gillard introduced Wilson to Slater and Gordon as a new client. Gillard said it was the other way around, that she was introduced to Wilson by the firm’s solicitor Graham Droppert.
SUMMARY to this point
By mid-1991 Gillard had been providing legal services to Wilson and Ludwig for 18 months.
In the December 1989 AWU elections Bob Smith (one) and his team were elected to run the Victoria Branch - and Slater and Gordon were appointed as the branch lawyers.
Gillard’s provision of legal services to help Wilson stalk and unseat Joe Keanen (which she admits to in the exit interview) was self-evidently against the interests of the AWU membership, i.e. the AWU itself. The members had only months earlier made their decision to vote Keenan in as State Secretary. While it was in Ludwig’s Wilson’s interests to unseat him - it was manifestly not the desire of the membership - i.e. the AWU itself.
Thus Gillard’s lie about only commencing work for Wilson in April 1991. By nominating the start date as April 1991 Gillard might make the argument she'd been properly engaged by Wilson. She faces a problem with that - Gillard didn’t have the minutes of the WA Branch Executive in front of her when she lied to Peter Gordon about stalking and helping to unseat Keenan. Had she, she’d have recalled that the deal to unseat Keenan and thus the stalking was completed before 20 February 1991.
Gillard had a strong motive to conceal her involvement with Wilson and Ludwig acting against the union's elected official Keenan.
It was unethical and improper of the AWU’s lawyer (Victoria Branch) to work against the interests and wishes of the same union’s WA Branch - so as to advantage two officials (Ludwig and Wilson).
It was also not possible for her to have been paid for that “work” by the AWU. By her conduct she demonstrates a willingness to do ‘under the table’ work in her own right for Wilson and Ludwig - not the union itself.
When the Dawesville Channel Project slush fund with Thiess was discussed late in 1991, it was second nature for Gillard to continue with her under-the-table arrangements with Wilson/Ludwig, just as she’d been doing for almost 2 years.
And that is the lead in to the off-the-record, no file opened initial round of work Gillard did in the first application to incorporate the AWU WRA Inc.
I’ll write again shortly to bring you up to speed with what I say happened next.
Hope you're well Bob and looking forward to the end of this saga. Next instalment soon.