Greg Sheridan's treatise on courage & Jim Molan - compared to The Greens and their divisive, spiteful & cowardly ways
Former BCITF chief Raymond Ernest Crake's conviction for false invoicing training scam

WA taxpayers paid $500K to help get the Gillard AWU slush fund over the line


The future looked bright for Julia and Bruce in the summer of 1991.  

Within days of Bruce being confirmed as AWU WA Branch Secretary he and Julia signed contracts to purchase real estate.  

Bruce put his secretary in as tenant on his new investment property, increasing her salary by $200 per week to pay the rent.  

And Julia was the new owner of a "renovator's delight" that Bruce would do up as payment for sorting some tricky legal problems.

In December 91 Carmen Lawrence's government stopped the tender process for the Dawesville cut - handing a $58M contract directly to Thiess Contractors.

Wilson's payoff was a $300,000 cut from Thiess - all he needed was Gillard's legal expertise to hide the payments.

BLF chief Norm Gallagher had just been jailed for receiving secret commissions from builders.

It wasn't just Norm who was in strife - the building company executives who paid him were looking at jail time too.

The AWU Workplace Reform Association was created to avoid - or more accurately to evade the law that stung Norm and his corrupt funders.

It had two main purposes.

Firstly to make sure Bruce Wilson's corrupt payments were kept away from the AWU's clutches or prying eyes.

Secondly to allow Thiess executives to pretend the payments were legitimately made to the AWU.

The plan went well for the first few months of 92.

In March of that year Nick Jukes wrote to the  AWU WRA confirming Thiess would pay the entity $100K per annum - for 3 years.  

Jukes's letter said the money was for a workplace reform representative.  He didn't specify anything the representative had to deliver.  His letter just said the payments were to be made monthly for 3 years (the life of the project) come hell or high water.

$100K PA was a laughable amount of money for a low-level union rep in 1992.  The AWU Branch Secretary was on half that dough and only a handful of Thiess senior executives were paid more than $100,000 at the time.

In April the AWU WRA sent its first invoice to Thiess.

It went out before the paperwork to incorporate the sham had been lodged.  

Ralph and Bruce had set up a secret Post Office box to receive the cheques and by early May they'd set up bank accounts in the AWU WRA's name.

Thiess executives had been working away on their side of the deal too. 

Theiss's financial systems were changed to include a brand new supplier code for the AWU WRA - completely separate from the AWU.  

The new vendor code meant the cheques for the AWU WRA were automatically made out to the AWU Workplace Reform Association Inc and sent to the private post office box.

The first two corrupt payments to the slush fund went through the system perfectly.

But in early May the Corporate Affairs Commissioner Ray Neal threw a big spanner in the works.

The Office of State Corporate Affairs decided the association was ineligible for incorporation and knocked back AWU WRA's application.  

The advice was not made public - the notice was delivered to Ralph Blewitt in a letter to his home address.

But some one must have told Jukes because Thiess responded by shutting down the unique vendor code it had set up for the AWU WRA.

Julia Gillard responded by flying to Perth.

The next week Wilson and Blewitt flew to Melbourne to meet with Gillard to continue planning their next steps.

The Commissioner's problem centred on the fact trade unions are ineligible for incorporation.

The law said an association regulating affairs between workers and employers had to be registered under industrial law - not the less regulated lawn-bowls and table tennis association legislation preferred by Gillard.

So anything that was said about the benefits of the Thiess/AWU relationship only served to confirm the Commissioner's reasons for the refusal to incorporate. 

But Gillard and Bruce came up with an answer - another party to the association's activities to legitimise the claim the association had broader aims than just doing what a union does.

The Building and Construction Industry Training Fund had everything going for it.  It was part of the WA Government, it had money to grant for training and it had Bruce Wilson as a director!

It also had a CEO who turned out to be corrupt and given to false invoicing scams.

So a plan was hatched to present the AWU WRA to the office of corporate affairs as being designed for a joint venture - between the AWU, Thiess and the BCITF.

The actions of Thiess and Wilson/Gillard show an extraordinary level of coordination in responding to the Commissioner's knock-back.

Nick Jukes wrote to the BCITF and AWU head honcho Bill Ludwig arranged for an AWU/Thiess MOU for workplace reform solely for the Dawesville site.

But even with their tri-partite arrangements, Gillard and the boys couldn't convince the Corporate Affairs Commissioner the sham was legit.

So Gillard put together a submission asking the Minister to overturn the Commissioner's decision not to incorporate the slush fund.

Nick Jukes letter to BCITF chief Raymond Ernest Crake was dated the same day Ralph Blewitt paid the $22 fee for the Minister's review. 

It was no surprise when Carmen Lawrence's minister agreed with Gillard's submission.  The Minister directed the Commissioner to incorporate the AWU WRA.

Only Gillard's submission didn't say the association was a re-election slush fund for Bruce.

The paperwork from Gillard described a bona fide training entity with a tri-partite oversight structure.

That's why Gillard's been so keen to conceal her submission.  It shows she knew about the deal between Wilson and Thiess.

Prior to 27 May 1992 no one had mentioned the BCITF grant program in connection with the Dawesville Cut.  Juke's letter of that date makes it clear Theiss had no idea about what funds were available and for what purpose.

But the company was keen to sing the praises of "workplace reform" - and to do what was needed to make the AWU WRA look legit. 

Joe Trio's covering letter in the BCITF funding submission was headed "Workplace Reform - Dawesville Channel Project".  

I'll hand over to Dr John Lourens who analysed Thiess's $500,000 award winning paperwork:

In a submission dated 6 October 1992, Thiess Contractors Pty Ltd made application to the Western Australian Building and Construction Industry Training Fund (BCITF) for a large financial grant. The submission sought funding assistance from the WA State Government to implement an ambitious plan at the Dawesville Cut worksite. In light of the large funding amount sought, Thiess’s eleven-page formal submission to the BCITF was rather surprising. Far from being professional in its presentation, the document had all the hallmarks of a poorly planned, hastily thrown together and badly presented undergraduate student assignment.

Little, if any, time appears to have been devoted to professional layout. And even less time appears to have been spent on checking the document for accuracy and consistency. As well as fundamental addition errors, the Thiess submission contained significant transcription errors, calculation formulas that failed to match the figures presented and, inexplicably, financial items that differed in amount according to their location within the document. The Thiess employee responsible for its preparation clearly failed to check the submission prior to lodging it with the BCITF. More astonishing still, when the BCITF approved Thiess’s funding application, it accepted the company’s calculations and figures at face value. The scrutiny normally associated with disbursement of public funds was plainly absent. These inaccuracies hinder contemporary analysis and interpretation.

Trio asked for money for a “workplace reform model project” at its Dawesville Cut operations with details like this:

Our commitment to Workplace Reform and best practice is widely acknowledged. As an organisation we are committed to the delivery of quality projects, whilst providing a harmonious and productive work environment.

In a statement to WA Police BCITF CEO Raymond Ernest Crake described the process through which Thiess's 6 October submission was approved.

"At the 13th of October 1992 meeting I referred members to the agenda which related to the proposal of Thiess Contractors".

"As a result of the proposal being made, it was moved Colin Saunder (AWU) and seconded T Dobson that the proposal be approved and $516,000 be provided".

"The grant approved was for onsite workplace reform and was a pilot project run by Thiess at Dawesville.

"The project was a tri-partite project consisting of Thiess, the AWU and the BCITC".

The BCITF/C usually required a bit more specific detail than the nebulous "workplace reform" before handing over $500,000 in taxpayer money.  But Thiess found a friend in Ray Crake.

Thiess's budget included $140,000 for a workplace reform project manager at Dawesville.  A new one.

This workplace reform advisor was in addition to the Bruce Wilson AWU WRA payments.

The money was a nice little earner for Raymond Ernest Crake - thank you very much WA taxpayers.

Almost $100,000 of the grant money was paid directly to Crake.

His statement to police is unclear on dates, but he appears to have been on the BCITF payroll and in receipt of the grant money for some overlapping months.

The BCITF commissioned Stanton Partners to audit the grant made to Thiess.

The auditor noted some significant discrepancies in payments made under the contract.

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A review of BCITF funding prepared for a WA Parliamentary committee said:

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Trio and Jukes say that the money they paid to the AWU WRA was for workplace reform - money to implement training.

But the AWU WRA was kept secret by Thiess.  And none of the payments to the AWU WRA show up in any of the project's finances, particularly in the BCITF funded workplace reform activities.

That's because the Thiess executives knew the payments were corrupt.

So did Wilson and Gillard.

Every touch leaves its trace.

More on this disgrace soon including the court records for Raymond Ernest Crake's false invoice training scam fraud conviction.