all right

Occasionally adding corroborative details to add verisimilitude to otherwise bald and unconvincing,
but veridicous accounts
with careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination.

16 July, 2013

A Penultimate Post on the Previous Premier

Good Riddance to a Bad PM

She ruled three years, at such great cost,
but sycophants regret she lost
to Rudd (who took his destined place
by putting on his umble face).
Apologetic lackeys yell,
“She’s liked by those who know
her well,”* 
forgetting her hypocrisy,
inferring much misogyny,
they shriek that she was warm and wise—
ignoring all her wicked lies.
So, Gillard told her henchmen, “Right,
we must continue Labor’s fight!”
To caucus colleagues she said, “Stay!”
as then she swiftly ran away.
We’ll say no more until that time
when she’s indicted for some crime.

*  whereas, for Rudd, most folk adore
    him rather less when he’s known more.

UPDATE I (27 August):  from reading “Police ordered to return sealed documents seized during AWU probe”, by Shannon Deery, we might conclude that the firm of Slater & Gordon—which less charitable critics might denominate Australia’s top outfit of immoral, lucripetous ambulance-chasers—is as mired in corruption as its former clients:
Police have been banned from inspecting a series of documents seized during an investigation into the AWU slush fund scandal involving former [corrupt] Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
A judge today ordered eight documents seized by Victoria Police during the fraud investigation to be returned to law firm Slater & Gordon.
The documents were seized in May and have remained in a sealed envelope and held by the Supreme Court.  They must be returned within seven days.
Lawyers for Slater & Gordon successfully claimed legal privilege over the documents seized from its office.
Phil Corbett, SC, for the firm, said the documents related to legal advice acquired by the firm.  The application, before Justice John Digby, was not opposed by police.
But lawyers for Detective Sergeant Ross Mitchell asked the court to examine the documents to ensure they fell under legal privilege laws.
The police probe into the alleged fraud examines Ms Gillard's relationship with former AWU secretary Bruce Wilson.
The investigation plagued Ms Gillard’s final months as prime minister due to attacks on her integrity over her involvement in providing legal advice to Mr Wilson to help set up a “slush fund”.
Then a lawyer at Slater & Gordon, Ms Gillard set up the fund in 1992 for her then boyfriend.  […]
Mr Wilson and his one-time deputy, Ralph Blewitt, are alleged to have misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars in unauthorised accounts.
They have been accused of setting up the slush fund, which was used to siphon $400,000 from a building firm [among other malfeasances].
Ms Gillard lost her job with the firm after her role in helping establish the fund was discovered.
Mr Wilson is under investigation over allegations he was behind a series of other unauthorised funds.
Both Ms Gillard and Mr Wilson have consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to the scandal.
Mr Wilson was represented at yesterday’s hearing.
The wicked sharks of Slater & Gordon have consistently refused to help the police because, we may reasonably infer, Julia Gillard was not the only shady, incompetent lawyer within that firm and, perhaps, because she was not the only lawyer who was party to the fraud which she assisted her former leman to commit.

UPDATE II (17 September):  see “Tim Mathieson’s car use cost Julia Gillard $4000”, by Hedley Thomas:
Julia Gillard wrote a personal cheque for $4243 to the Department of Finance because her partner, Tim Mathieson, had misused her taxpayer-funded car to drive around Victoria selling shampoo and other haircare products in breach of parliamentary rules.
Documents released to The Australian under Freedom of Information laws yesterday show that Ms Gillard made the payment on March 9, 2007, as deputy leader of the opposition because of concern over a breach of rules forbidding the use of the car for commercial purposes.  The documents were provided yesterday after a 10-month battle by the former prime minister and her office to prevent the Department of Finance from following through on its decision to release the material.
The $4,243 repayment by Ms Gillard indicates her office estimated that Mr Mathieson had driven several thousand kilometres while pursuing his commercial interests in the private-plated car, which was wholly funded by the commonwealth.  […]
The misuse of Ms Gillard’s parliamentary entitlement was not known until a whistleblower alerted The Australian late last year to Mr Mathieson’s heavy use of the car when he was a PPS Hairwear salesman of hair products shortly after their relationship began.
One of four documents released yesterday is the March 2007 letter written by Ms Gillard’s then chief of staff to the entitlements manager of the Department of Finance, and a copy of Ms Gillard’s personal cheque.
The letter states: “Following the election of Julia Gillard as deputy leader of the opposition and my subsequent appointment as chief of staff, Ms Gillard asked me to undertake a comprehensive check of her entitlements.
“I am writing to address an issue.  In relation to the use of Ms Gillard’s private-plated vehicle, I believe there may have been some use of the car outside of the guidelines, particularly in relation to guideline 4.4.7.
“To ensure absolute compliance with the guidelines, please find enclosed a payment of $4243.58 to reimburse the department for the use of the vehicle.”  […]
Ms Gillard’s chief of staff calculated the amount based on the kilometres believed to have been travelled by Mr Mathieson, indicating he accrued more than 6,000km before it was brought to the department’s attention. Mr Mathieson, a hair dresser, and Ms Gillard began seeing each other in early 2006.  Soon after he worked for PPS Hairwear and travelled through regional Victoria.  Under the rules he was permitted to use the car—but he could not use it for his own business.
Parliamentary Library records of payments for travel entitlements show the cost to taxpayers of running Ms Gillard’s car more than doubled to $9,200 in the second half of 2006 compared with $4,162 in the same period in 2005.  This was the highest increase of Victoria-based parliamentarians.
The Australian asked Bruce Wolpe, a spokesman for Ms Gillard, for a response from the former prime minister and Mr Mathieson to the disclosures.  Mr Wolpe replied that there would be “no further comment”.
Other documents released previously show the car was in minor accidents, leading to insurance claims for repairs.
A month ago, Information Commissioner John McMillan ruled against Ms Gillard’s attempts to block the release of the material under FOI with a decision in which he stated: “The central facts disclosed in the documents are that there may have been an incident of non-compliance with government guidelines on parliamentary entitlements.”
So, a leman of Ms. Gillard breaks the rules, and—though she often claimed to believe in transparency for governments and ministers—she tries to prevent people learning the truth.  That seems to be a pattern with this woman.

UPDATE III (11 June, 2014):  see “Evidence of this corruption is everywhere”, by Hedley Thomas: 
Bruce Wilson has stopped throwing punches outside the hearing room of the royal commission into union graft.  But four weeks after the allegedly corrupt AWU official stepped away from a Sydney cafe meeting with his lawyer, Kristine Hanscombe QC, and went the biff on a couple of photographers, Wilson’s presence still looms large.
He remains the focus of attention because the inquiry’s senior counsel, Jeremy Stoljar SC, ­started this week’s new round of investigative hearings into the AWU slush fund scandal with a series of powerful and definitive statements.
Stoljar wasted little time in his opening before calling out the slush fund for what it was—a corrupt device that drove a significant fraud.  He described it as “a mere contrivance”.
This corrupt device, misleadingly called the AWU Workplace Reform Association, sprang to life when Julia Gillard, a Slater & Gordon lawyer, gave legal advice to her then-boyfriend Wilson to have it set up. She vouched for it to West Australian authorities, who had doubts.
She strenuously ­denies that she had knowledge of any misuse of, or intent to misuse, the fund.
Stoljar can clearly see the criminality the slush fund spawned.  It is so obvious that he took an unusual step at this early stage of the royal commission—he lined up Wilson and his former ally, Ralph Blewitt, for fraud-­related offences.
But there are some, such as ABC radio’s Melbourne-based broadcaster Jon Faine, who seem to think the former PM, and other key players in the saga, should not have to answer any questions at all.  Using the slush fund’s AWU-linked name, Stoljar explained, the two men issued false invoices to building company, Thiess, “thereby committing an offence under section 558 of the Criminal Code of WA”.  And as “they claimed payment for work that had never been done … to procure a benefit”, they committed another offence under section 409.
What about the “right-wing nut-jobs”, as the then prime minister described some who have tried to raise these matters over several years?  Twitter will be disappointed to learn the commission is an evidence-based zone.
While the ABC and many in the Canberra press gallery chose to run a protection racket of the former PM when these matters were in plain view, Stoljar takes evidence from credible witnesses—former union officials like Ian Cambridge, a serving Fair Work Commissioner; Bob Kernohan, a former AWU president in Victoria; and the tradesmen who received cash while renovating Gillard’s house in the 1990s.
These are serious matters, particularly in light of evidence, flagged by Stoljar for examination today, that Gillard herself obtained a benefit with slush fund cash paying for the costly makeover at her house in Abbotsford, Melbourne.
Stoljar’s position on this was crisp.  “The evidence further establishes that moneys acquired … by the (slush fund) was used … to pay for renovations at the Abbotsford property.  There is a factual controversy about this.”
We can see how high the stakes are in this 17-year-old fraud.  Because if Blewitt and Wilson committed crimes in procuring financial benefits from the fraudulent slush fund, where does that leave the former PM, who has strenuously denied any wrong­doing, and insisted that she paid for her renovations?
The commission should test Gillard without fear or favour to determine whether there has been any wrongdoing.  She was involved in setting up the slush fund.  She was the girlfriend and lawyer for its mastermind, Wilson.  She was an alleged beneficiary herself of thousands of dollars in slush fund cash that paid for the makeover at her house.
Faine thinks it is professional journalism to ignore reams of corroborated evidence since 2012, then latch on to one self-serving witness statement—Wilson’s—and expend taxpayers’ resources in an on-air bid to imbue it with credibility.
Faine’s previous bias on the AWU scandal, which he calls a “house of cards”, was such that even the ABC found him guilty, following a separate and earlier admonishment from the ABC’s Media Watch.  He now seems to believe Wilson’s statement to the royal commission, leaked to him and read on his radio show yesterday, is the real story.
Faine told listeners that in this statement, Wilson claims he was offered $200,000 to tell his story in 2012 to Harry Nowicki, a former union lawyer, and to make stuff up to the detriment of the serving PM. A vast right-wing conspiracy, anyone?
Nowicki, who was introduced to me in 2012 by a senior Labor figure, has been a seeker of truth.  The idea that he would corruptly pay a corrupt union official to lie about corruption is ludicrous.
The key documents and the witnesses—from Slater & Gordon lawyers to the AWU’s national leader, Cambridge, and a plethora of other officials—have been touchstones for the truth since the 1990s, long before Nowicki began looking at this political cover-up.  Nobody would need to lie that there was a fraud; the evidence of the fraud is everywhere.
But Nowicki turned over rocks, talked to witnesses, tracked down documents, lodged Freedom of Information applications and told the likes of Wilson they would be better off coming clean and telling the truth.  In other words, a retired lawyer who once worked for the BLF has done what Jon Faine and the ABC have conspicuously failed to do.
UPDATE IV (9 August, 2014):  see “Office of PM always warrants scrutiny”, by Hedley Thomas:
A former top criminal defence lawyer has reviewed reams of evidence about the AWU slush fund scandal at the ongoing Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, resulting in his legal opinion that Julia Gillard has problems best resolved by a jury.
Russell Hanson QC, who helped run several royal commission-style probes before his retirement, based his detailed review on sworn witness statements and oral testimony at the commission, as well as key documents including Gillard’s exit interview from the law firm Slater & Gordon in 1995.
His findings are in stark contrast to those by former Labor leader Mark Latham, who has no legal training but who has used his column in The Australian Financial Review to criticise the anti-corruption commission, ridicule Victoria Police and lampoon the evidence of key witnesses.  […]
Hanson’s review dismisses Latham as an “apologist”. Hanson says:  “I am of the view that there has been sufficient evidence given, in a form admissible in a criminal trial, to entitle a jury to find criminal conduct on the part of (former Australian Workers Union boss Bruce) Wilson and (former AWU official Ralph) Blewitt.
“In Gillard’s case, I come to the same conclusion based on the evidence given, supplemented by evidence in the public arena, namely her own public statements.
“The evidence is overwhelming that the Workplace Reform Association (slush fund) was a sham from start to finish.
“There seems to me to be clear and apparently reliable evidence that Wilson was giving Gillard substantial sums of money for her (home) renovations.  Where did it come from?  From the (slush fund)?  Did Gillard know this? What’s a married man with a family in Perth doing paying thousands of dollars for her renovations?  Could she possibly think it was coming out of his own pocket?  Tell it to the jury.”
Leaked emails, published in The Australian last week, and disclosures by former staff have shown how Latham started to become a mouthpiece for Gillard’s former communications head, John McTernan, in 2012, shortly after the AWU scandal burst back into the limelight.   […]
The royal commission is expected to call Gillard, who has always strenuously denied that she did anything wrong in relation to legal advice she gave to her then boyfriend and client, Wilson, that resulted in the establishment of the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association. Wilson has supported Gillard.
In a once-confidential taped 1995 interview with Slater & Gordon’s then boss, Peter Gordon, Gillard described the association as a “slush fund” for union elections.  However, its registration documents that went to the West Australian government claimed its role was work safety and training.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid by building company Thiess into the slush fund, and several witnesses at the royal commission—former AWU staff member Hem, former AWU official Blew­itt and retired builder James—testified that Wilson was behind the payment of thousands of dollars to Gillard, including for the costs of renovations at her home in inner Melbourne.
These matters are also the subject of an ongoing Victoria Police Fraud Squad investigation. Gillard has insisted since 2012 that she paid for her renovations and that she did nothing wrong.  […]
Hanson says he considered three key questions.  Was the slush fund set up with the intention of operating it as a sham?  If so, who was a party to that arrangement?  Who knowingly participated in receiving the proceeds obtained by illegal means?  “There is no basis in the evidence that I have seen for inferring that there was, at the outset, an intention to operate a legitimate organisation,” he says.
“This must be so in the case of Wilson and his willing henchman, Blewitt.  Money paid into the fund was not going to be used for the purposes stated in the incorporation documents.
“As for Gillard’s involvement, this is proved by her own admissions … her own statements show that she well understood the real purpose of the association was to fund election campaigns—a far cry from the idealistic objects set out in the incorporation documents.
“As to the second question, clearly Wilson and Blewitt were the principal parties.  What of Gillard’s involvement?  Blewitt, for what it is worth, has her actively involved in the incorporation exercise.  But in any event, by her own admission, she is the one who put together the documents necessary for incorporation.
“As to the third question, receiving proceeds of money obtained by dishonest means, Blewitt, by his own admission, is guilty.  Wilson is implicated by Blewitt.  In Gillard’s case, a builder, Athol James, says he did work on her Abbotsford house.  He has the quotes, invoices and bank deposit records to prove it.  He says that, although she paid him with cheques, she told him Bruce was paying for this, and he saw Wilson hand her a ‘very substantial’ amount of money.
“Gillard’s counsel challenged (James) on these two statements, but he did not budge.  Without having seen him give evidence, but going on the transcript of his evidence and his documents, I don’t see any reason why a jury could not accept his evidence.
“Apparently some apologists for Gillard seek to brush his evidence aside on the basis that he is 84 years old.  This is ridiculous. Gillard herself admits he did work on her house for her.  His critics need to come up with a more sensible reason for disbelieving him than sniggeringly pointing to his age.  Try that one with a jury.”
Hanson says that weight has been lent to James’s evidence by Hem, who testified that Wilson gave him $5000 cash to deposit to Gillard’s account, which he did.  Hem said Wilson told him “no one else is to see it”.
Hanson says the suggestion that Gillard did not pay for all of the renovation work done on her house has been lent weight by her Slater & Gordon 1995 interview, in which she said, “I can’t categorically rule out that something at my house didn’t (sic) get paid for by the association … or by the union or whatever”.  […]
Hanson says: “I understand that her apologists see this evidence as exculpating her. How this could be so escapes me.
“Far from exculpating Gillard, I see his evidence as consistent with the picture painted by James of payments by cheque which were funded by cash from Wilson.  If Hem’s deposit into her account corresponds in time and amount with payments by cheque to Spyridis, then the evidence from Spyridis consolidates the case against her of receiving cash payments from Wilson for her renovations.
“There is no exculpation here.
“In addition to the above witnesses, Blewitt also gives evidence that in September or October 1994 he went to Gillard’s house, where she directed him to go through the house to where Wilson was out the back.
“At Wilson’s direction he then gave $7000 cash, which had come from the WRA account, to a tradesman working there on renovations. Gillard was not present.  This evidence is consistent with the evidence of James as to Wilson paying for Gillard’s renovations.  On that occasion, Blewitt gave further cash to Wilson.”
Hanson says that if building company Thiess was unaware that its donations were not to be used for the association’s stated pur­poses of improving worker safety and skills, then Thiess was deceived into parting with its money, and each time there was a payment, an offence of obtaining money by false pretences was committed by those perpetrating the pretence.  He says that if the deception of Thiess were planned, then all those who were a party to that plan were parties to a conspiracy to defraud.
Alternatively, if Thiess were aware that there were no “training” services provided by the associati­on but paid up for the sake of industrial peace, then the offenc­e committed was obtaining money by menaces—blackmail.
“Blewitt and Wilson are shown to be involved in these offences, as set out above,’’ Hanson says.  “In Gillard’s case, once it is seen that she drafted the objects of the asso­ci­ation, while knowing that its true purpose was otherwise, she is shown to be a party to a plan to defraud donors to the fund (conspiracy to defraud), or a party to a plan to extract money from ‘donors’ by blackmail.  Proof that the association’s purpose was other than as stated is in her own words, where she describes it as a ‘slush fund’ for finan­cing election campaigns.
“In Gillard’s case, the evidence from James that Wilson was paying is both confessional and direct. She told him Bruce was paying (confessional evidence) and he saw cash handed to her by Wilson (direct evidence.)
“There is also her acknowledgment that she could not rule out that money from the association paid for her renovations.
“Whether or not the money Wilson gave her and her builders came from the association, and whether or not she knew that to be so, are matters of inference.  In my opinion, they are inferences a jury would be entitled to draw.”
The Australian adds an editorial “Why we are publishing this”:
Today The Australian is publishing an important story about Julia Gillard’s involvement in the AWU slush fund scandal.  The story contains the considered opinion of a respected Queen’s Counsel—Russell Hanson QC—who has reviewed sworn testimony given at the union royal commission.
The Australian does not publish this story lightly. However, the conduct and background of a person who would, just a few years after these events with the AWU, become an elected federal parliamentarian and, ultimately, be elevated to the highest office goes to the very heart of government and political matters in Australia.  […]
[A]s Hanson notes, there is enough evidence to suggest that the matter should now be properly considered by a court and a jury.
UPDATE V (10 September):  see “You Be the Judge: It’s the AWU Slush-Fund Finaleby Hedley Thomas:
There are precedents, but royal commissions run by judges are generally reluctant to call other judges to give evidence that might verge on the tawdry or unbecoming.  […]
“Please have a seat, Justice Murphy,’’ said Dyson Heydon QC, the retired High Court judge heading the royal commission into union corruption, to the Federal Court’s Bernard Murphy about 10am.
For yesterday’s hearing—and for the probable finale today when Julia Gillard goes into the witness box—the controversial matters canvassed include the real concerns by some of the senior partners of law firm Slater & Gordon in 1995 that their colleague, who 15 years later would become prime minister, might have been embroiled in corruption with a bent union boss boyfriend, Bruce Wilson.
As Murphy bluntly told yesterday’s hearing: “The concern that was conveyed was that Julia Gillard had created an association (union slush fund) which might have been set up corruptly and might have involved corrupt moneys and it involved the firm in the conveyance of these moneys.
“She was being accused of wrongdoing by others in the firm. She assured me there was nothing in it.”
Like many of Gillard’s supporters, he did not believe it then.  Nor, he added, does he believe it now.  He told the inquiry that he did no investigations and asked few questions.  Gillard assured him she had done nothing wrong.
Nineteen years after these concerns were first confidentially raised and caused great alarm in the firm, Heydon’s royal commission is now at the pointy end of a remarkable chapter in politics, law and the media.
Just as it is unusual for a serving senior judge to be called to a royal commission into corruption, so it is rare for a former prime minister to be compelled to account for her own conduct as a lawyer for an ­allegedly corrupt boyfriend and client.  Her entrance at 55 Market Street in Sydney’s CBD to give evidence today will ignite powerful responses.
Former Labor leader Mark Latham leads those who condemn the commission’s work as a deplorable witch hunt, fuelled, he claims, by Labor enemies, dodgy witnesses, innuendo, and The Australian.  This is despite an ongoing police investigation and the evidence collated, including sworn statements suggesting the probable proceeds of fraud—thousands of dollars—were funnelled into Gillard’s bank account and into home renovations.
The other camp includes Gillard’s former rivals such as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, a former lawyer herself who was deeply troubled by the evidence. She doggedly pursued the then prime minister in question time in November 2012 until Tony Abbott as opposition leader promised a judicial inquiry.
There are, too, the key witnesses such as Ralph Blewitt, who recalled paying off tradesmen at the future prime minister’s house with ill-gotten cash; the builder, Athol James, who has told of seeing Wilson hand Gillard “wads of notes”, while she told James that he would be paid for his work by her as Wilson gave her cash; and AWU staffer Wayne Hem, who said he put $5000 in her bank ­account.
Murphy did not know about these details in 1995, but he spoke with authority yesterday as one of the firm’s equity partners, and Gillard’s then manager.  Their offices were side by side on the ground floor of a building off Melbourne’s Little Bourke Street, and they worked together with union ­clients including the AWU and its now-infamous Wilson
As Murphy plainly stated in his testimony, the concerns at Slater & Gordon back in 1995 were neither trivial nor the product of the feverish imaginations of misogynists or nut-jobs on the internet.  They were the concerns of senior partners, such as Peter Gordon and Nick Styant-Browne, who could scarcely believe the predicament the firm had been placed in because of the work, which was not disclosed by Gillard, for her boyfriend.
The misleadingly named AWU Workplace Reform Association (the slush fund) that was set up with her legal advice and her letter-writing to West Australian authorities was for her then boyfriend.  It is alleged it would be used fraudulently by Wilson and his sidekick, Blewitt, to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from building company, Thiess.
Gillard has always denied any wrongdoing and has strenuously insisted she knew nothing about the operation of the slush fund.
Murphy would not have meant to make her position more difficult on the eve of her giving evidence, but he didn’t help by volunteering yesterday that he “would have opened a file in those circumstances”, in relation to the work on establishing the association (she didn’t open a file and this meant her partners were in the dark about the slush fund’s existence for three years of its operation).
Murphy also agreed, as he read the rules and objects of the formal legal entity, that he could see nothing relating to it being an election slush fund.
He reinforced the seriousness of the case.  He told how partners were also “very concerned” about Gillard’s role in the conveyancing of a property that would be purchased with money from the slush fund.  He said he had also heard the rumours about AWU funds going towards payment for renovations at Gillard’s property.  But in the end, her word sealed it.
They stayed friends while both were estranged from the firm, which they regarded as having dealt with them very unfairly.  She went into the political arena and became Australia’s first female prime minister.  And in her first 12 months as the nation’s leader, Murphy became the first solicitor from Victoria to be appointed to the Federal Court.
UPDATE VI (20 July, 2015)the former PM continues to try to rewrite history, and her lackeys in the media continue to aid her attempts:
Julia Gillard has revealed in a new interview she should have addressed the blatant sexism and misogyny she endured as Australia’s first female prime minister early on in her tenure.
“I should have recognised that if I didn’t deal with it up front, it would build,” she told The Times in an interview in London.
Yeah, sure, that was her one big mistake.  See how “network writers” of News Corp Australia provide historical background, complete with a censored but historically inaccurate “b***h” and a casual “of course”:
(During her run, Gillard was subjected to blatantly sexist attacks; from Tony Abbott pointedly making speeches in front of placards stating ‘Ditch the b***h’, to Alan Jones saying Gillard should be put in a bag and thrown out to sea, among many, many others.)
Gillard, of course, made global headlines in 2012 when she stood up in parliament and gave her PM-defining speech on sexism and misogyny.
Mr. Abbott inadvertently spoke in front of two signs whereon were written, in capitals, “ditch the witch” and “Juliar…. Bob Browns [sic] bitch”.

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