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457 Visa holder John McTernan's role in the Gillard/AWU slush fund cover up

I first published this piece on 21 July 2013, it's relevant today as the media and prosecution authorities examine Ms Gillard's behaviour in shutting down enquiries into The AWU Scandal.

McTernan declares his love for Julia Gillard and her niceness.

The Sunday Telegraph today promotes the first column from a man who declares his love for Julia Gillard, mainly because she's nice.   His love is undeterred by what he describes as the almost physically-tangible affection he observed between her and Barack Obama.   John McTernan variously says these things - here are his words in a precis form:

There are few genuinely nice people in politics. Julia Gillard is the exception.

(proof of her niceness is found in her) quick-witted, sharp, funny generousness;  her charm and her teasing humour; her grace her wit and lightness of touch - this is the Gillard I know, love and am loyal to.

Most people have had bosses who have lost their tempers at one point or another - often with some justification - but Julia never ever lost it.

Maybe not with her staff John, but I wouldn't bet my howse on your proposition more generally.  

This article was published in The Australian on 3 September, 2010.  The month that McTernan started working for Gillard and Glenn Milne lost his media jobs.  That's when I tried to broadcast Bob Kernohan's interview on 2UE.

APPROACHING 8am last Monday, John Hartigan was walking into his office after a session of boxing, stairs and weights at a park in Sydney's inner-city Glebe when his mobile phone rang. It was Julia Gillard.

"I presume you know why I'm calling," the Prime Minister said.

Hartigan, chairman and chief executive of News Limited, had no idea. He soon did, as the Prime Minister voiced her displeasure at the publication that morning in The Australian of a column by Glenn Milne, which revived 16-year-old allegations about Gillard's one-time relationship with former unionist Bruce Wilson.

According to Hartigan, Gillard put a series of demands that she wanted addressed in 15 minutes. The deadline was later pushed back to 9am.

As well as a public apology and the Milne article being taken offline, she wanted a commitment that the allegations never be repeated again in The Australian. This demand was later extended to all News Limited newspapers and their websites.

"She said they were very damaging accusations," Hartigan said. "She wanted some action and she wanted it quickly."

Hartigan told Gillard he would speak to Chris Mitchell, The Australian's editor-in chief.

Mitchell was at his Manly property on Sydney's northern beaches reading the morning newspapers and drinking tea when Hartigan called and asked him to ring Gillard.

When Mitchell rang and spoke to the Prime Minister, he said, she was "apoplectic". He had been on the end of verbal sprays from Paul Keating, he said, but "they were nothing compared to this".

Asked yesterday for comment regarding the accounts given by Hartigan and Mitchell, a spokesman for the Prime Minister released a one-paragraph statement last night that read: "Those accounts of the conversations are false and inaccurate. Considering what The Australian has already published this week, that's hardly surprising."

The day before, Friday 2 September, 2012, this email was sent by Greg Baxter the News Limited Corporate Affairs boss to Jonathan Holmes of the ABC's media watch.   John is John Hartigan, former CEO of News Ltd and Chris Mitchell is the editor of The Australian.

Greg baxter 1
Greg baxter 2
Greg baxter 3

Gillard had much to be worried about.   A very tight lid had been kept on her involvement in The AWU Scandal up until that time and Gillard's job and perhaps her liberty were at stake if the cover-up was blown.

Gillard had successfully used the technique of forcing retractions in 2007 when Glenn Milne's first article on the scandal appeared, just prior to the Rudd election.

Glenn wrote that Gillard had incorporated the fund used by Wilson, the AWU Workplace Reform Association.   That resulted in this retraction way back then:

"The first edition of today's Sunday Mail contained an allegation that Ms Gillard had incorporated funds used by Mr Wilson. The Sunday Mail acknowledges that this allegation is entirely untrue. This error was made by Sunday Mail."

Let's deal with the incorporation and fund words first.   She got her retraction from the Sunday Mail in 2007 because she said she did not incorporate fund(s) used by Mr Wilson.

This is what she said on 26 November, 2012 after more and more details had publicly emerged about her wrong doing:

PM: Hindsight's a wonderful thing, isn't it? It’s a wonderful thing over 20 years. But put yourself in my shoes incorporating that association. This did not strike me as a non-standard transaction; unions incorporate associations to support the re-election of union officials.

Second word.   Fund.   Is it reasonable to talk about the entity that Gillard set up as a fund?

Well, let's turn to Gillard's own way of describing the entity she set up. This is Gillard in her own words at her Record of Interview on 11 September, 1995 on her departure from Slater and Gordon, a Record of Interview that she knew existed but that wasn't made public until one year after I left 2UE and Gillard successfully made her demands of News Limited.

'It's, it's common practice, indeed every union has what it refers to as a re-election fund, slushfund, 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.'

Gillard, in her own words - incorporate and fund.  She knew it.  She knew what she had said in her recorded departure interview from Slater and Gordon.  She knew it was taped.  Media enquiries into the affair and the likelihood that they would uncover the evidence she knew existed must have worried her sick.

Evidence like this, released by Nick Styant Browne in November, 2012.

Gillard fin review

And at the time that she hosed down News Limited with her demands to retract, her refusal to specify what allegations she objected to, her demands for an abject apology from News Ltd and the unmet demand it never again publish anything to do with the story again, none of these details were publicly known.
  • We didn't know about the letter vouching for Wilson's AWU WRA to the corporate affairs commissioner.
  • Or that I had forensic handwriting expert opinion that placed her handwriting on the form seeking to incorporate what she called a slush fund - at odds with her then denial of involvement - (I had it when I was still at 2UE but I was prevented from publishing it).
  • I had a confidential source who told me she was sacked from Slater and Gordon for doing "under the table work" for Wilson.
  • I had the $67K cheque from the slush fund she incorporated that was used as part payment for the Kerr Street property and it had not been published.
  • Gillard had denied receiving any benefit from the unlawfully incorporated slush fund and many media repeated her denial as proof of the truth of her claim - however she said in her record of interview in September, 1995 that she could not rule out the association (or slush fund as she called it) paying for her renovations.
  • It wasn't publicly known that she had not opened a file on the work she did for Wilson.
  • That the Slater and Gordon internal investigation, if it was to take an adverse view, would have found that she had been involved in a fraud.
  • That there were a range of views in the Slater and Gordon partnership including summarily dismissing her from her job there - her resignation resolved that issue.
  • That while the Objects (rules) and form she filled out to incorporate the AWU WRA said it was a workplace reform association, she knew it to be a slush fund and said so in a tape recorded interview at the time of her departure from Slater and Gordon.
  • That Gillard did not at any time advise her client the AWU of the under the table work she did for Wilson giving him private use of the AWU name, even after being advised that her man Wilson was being investigated for fraud against the union.
  • Gillard did not disclose her personal relationship with Wilson and the conflict of interest it created to her partners or the AWU.
  • Blewitt had not spoken publicly when Gillard shut News Ltd down.   Nor had he been interviewed by police.  Nor had he made sworn statements to police.
  • Nick Styant Browne had not spoken publicly.
  • Bruce Wilson had not given his 7.30 ABC television interview in which he gave a vastly different version of events from Ms Gillard's about the AWU WRA and its purchase of the Kerr Street property.
  • Ian Cambridge had not released his diary notes.   Cambridge did not find out about the extent of Gillard's involvement in creating the AWU WRA or the purchase of the Kerr Street property until recently.
  • Wayne Hem had not spoken publicly about depositing $5000 into Gillard's private account on Wilson's instructions.
  • We had not seen the conveyance file, nor the Power of Attorney, nor the mortgage file for Kerr Street Fitzroy.
  • No police search warrants had been executed on her former office at Slater and Gordon.
  • The Legal Services Board had not accepted a complaint and commenced investigating the Slater and Gordon Trust Account.
  • The former WA Corruption Commissioner Terry O'Connor QC had not delivered his opinion that Gillard could have been charged with a criminal offence in incorporating the AWU WRA.
  • The Victoria Police had not received a crime report about the Power of Attorney, nor had they ever investigated Gillard as they are now doing.

All of those things had been kept a pretty closely guarded secret for nearly 20 years.  Gillard had much to gain personally by shutting down enquiries into her conduct.  And her techniques worked, aided by so many in the media who stood by and let it happen.

Hedley Thomas was sent a series of questions by Jonathan Holmes from the ABC's Media Watch on 25 August last year.   I reported on Hedley and the Media Watch enquiries after republishing this editorial from The Australian.   Hedley said this:

Hedley thomas media watch

Hedley thomas media watch 2

John McTernan calls himself a journalist.   What a disgusting claim.  Mr McTernan represents all of the spin, the denials, the threats, the lies, the intimidation and other bad character traits that make up Labor's "whatever it takes" ethos.   It's the opposite of journalism.  And he reinforces all that today in the Sunday Telegraph with his lover's soliloquy to Gillard's niceness and the cover up.

Well she may be nice to you John, but moral bankruptcy and atrocious conduct aren't fixed by a coating of niceness.  And she would never have been PM if real journalists hadn't been shut down by the likes of you and others who actively worked to cover up the extent of her immorality.

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