I have been trying to figure out Mark Latham’s strange obsession with the purported innocence of Julia Gillard in relation to all matters connected with the AWU slush fund scandal – apart from her mistake in falling in love with the wrong bloke. (Hey, the Biff could have been available at the time – who knows?)
I think one of the reasons is that Jools was one of the few among his former colleagues who did not completely cut him off after he went nuts (who can forget the performance in the park in Western Sydney, crew-cut and all?) and even after the Latham Diaries were published. I guess the occasional email could count for a lot when everyone else regards you as a cross between someone with rabies and the hunchback of Notre Dame.
Now most people think that the stupidest thing that Jools ever said was “there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead”; to my mind, it was her declaration that the AWU Workplace Reform Association was a slush fund.
Here’s the problem for Jools: by doing the legal work to set up the Association without the knowledge of the other partners of the firm or without their permission (Laura Tingle: this was not just poor paperwork management), she enabled everything that happened subsequently. This is the key. It is critical to the way law firms work and she violated this principle.
There is no doubt that had the partners been informed, she would not have been allowed to undertake the work and the AWU, which was a client of the firm at the time, would have been informed. The slush fund would never have got off the ground. This is the key.
Whether or not she received cash or whether or not she paid for her own house renovations are not the critical issues – she knew the association was a slush fund, she knew that the AWU head office did not know about it, she called it a ‘slush fund’ herself.
She was also asked to leave the firm. And the involvement of Bernard Murphy, now Mr Justice Murphy, needs to be investigated. (Recall that he was elevated to the bench when Labor was in power.)
And as for ABC’s Jon Faine? Having worked for a nanosecond at the Fitzroy Community Legal Centre, or whatever, he thinks he is some sort of expert in the legal processes governing Royal Commissions.
Please. No one has been charged. It is not like a criminal case. I’m putting my money on Mr Justice Heydon and everyone else should.
There is no doubt that Faine continues to flout the ABC Editorial Policies big time – but will anything be done?
Here’s the piece by the Biff (ease the squeeze) from the Fin:
In his single-minded pursuit of Julia Gillard over the past three years, the right-wing blogger and journalist at The Australian newspaper, Michael Smith, has followed a compelling mantra. From his time in the Victorian police in the 1980s, he remembers how, “We learnt that frauds are investigated on the documents, the paperwork”. On his Michael Smith News website, he has repeated ad nauseam his belief that “every touch leaves its trace”.
Like a Gatling gun dislodged from its platform, Smith has randomly fired dozens of allegations at Gillard in the ancient AWU affair. According to this online Sherlock Holmes, the former prime minister is guilty of improperly registering an incorporated association, misleading the Western Australian Corporate Affairs Commissioner, falsely witnessing a power of attorney, lying to her employers at Slater & Gordon, tampering with conveyancing files, failing to tell police about a known crime, interfering with a widows and orphans fund, using rorted funds to renovate her Melbourne home, embezzling large amounts of union money and stealing archived government documents to cover her crimes.
It’s quite a list. In Smithopia, Gillard makes Chopper Read look like an altar boy. But after lengthy hearings at the trade union royal commission in recent weeks, how do Smith’s claims stack up? What do the thousands of pages of documentation tendered in evidence show? Has every touch left its trace?
WHERE’S THE EVIDENCE?
The public record is strikingly clear. There is not a single document from the 1990s that incriminates Gillard. On the available paperwork, she provided valid legal advice and paid for her home renovations via personal cheques. By the standards of his police training, Smith has come up empty-handed.
Documents aside, what verbal evidence has come before the commission concerning Gillard? Like a parade of ageing Oompa Loompas, three impish men – Ralph Blewitt, Wayne Hem and Athol James – claimed to remember cash being exchanged in and around her Melbourne home.
Indeed, the nature of their recollections is remarkably similar.
In the witness box, the three veterans struggled to recall other events and details from 20 years ago. Under cross-examination, they were unclear about the amount of money involved and why it had been handed over.
None of them accused Gillard of knowing where the cash had actually come from. Rather, the commission was left with a vague impression of money floating around the house – claims that cannot be proven or disproven.
Coincidently, early last week, ABC radio host Jon Faine aired allegations that another witness, Gillard’s former boyfriend Bruce Wilson, had been offered $200,000 by a third party to say he had funded Gillard’s renovations from an unspecified source.
If Wilson had accepted the alleged bribe, he’d have added to the notion of funny money drifting around Gillard’s abode. In practising the politics of personal destruction, The Australian hasn’t been after the truth. It’s been after Gillard.
If the Slater & Gordon solicitor dating Wilson in the early 1990s had not gone on to become prime minister, the details of fundraising entities, property purchases and home renovations would have remained as footnotes in history. They would have gathered dust in the archives of the police officers who so badly mishandled the matter in the mid-1990s.
Ever since, Australia’s right-wing hunting pack has been trying to rewrite history: to portray Gillard’s pre-parliamentary career as that of a criminal mastermind. As part of this push, a group of vengeful, cashed-up fanatics have co-opted witnesses to their cause.
In Blewitt’s case, they have written police statements for him, given him extensive financial assistance and coached him on what to say.
This solves the mystery as to why Blewitt, aged in his late 60s and having started a new life in Malaysia, returned to Australia in 2012 to admit to a 20-year-old fraud. In establishing the truth of what happened in the AWU, circa 1992-95, the royal commission not only has to consider witness evidence but also the political reality of witness manipulation.