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Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Document contradicts Gillard fund claims
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard enabled the incorporation of a union slush fund from which her boyfriend later stole hundreds of thousands of dollars by formally denying to authorities that it was a trade union organisation.
A newly released document confirms that a letter Ms Gillard wrote to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission in mid-1992 rejected the commission's assertion that the Australian Workplace Reform Association was ineligible for incorporation because of its union links. The document also confirms that Ms Gillard, then a salaried partner with Slater & Gordon, drafted the rules for the association - without opening a formal file, without consulting the senior partners and without taking advice from expert lawyers within the firm.
The revelations contradict Ms Gillard's claims at media conferences and in Parliament that she played a limited role in the formation of the association, from which Mr Wilson and his crony, Ralph Blewitt, later misappropriated more than $400,000.
Asked by Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop on Monday whether she had written vouching for the bona fides of the association, Ms Gillard told Parliament: ''The claim has been made but no correspondence has ever been produced.''
Former Slater & Gordon partner Nick Styant-Browne has released further details from the transcript of a 1995 interview in which Ms Gillard was challenged by the firm's senior partners about her work in setting up the association.
She told them it was a slush fund for union election campaigning but the incorporation application form - filled out in her own hand - described its purpose as ''development of changes to work to achieve safe workplaces''.
Mr Styant-Browne said the disclosure by Mr Wilson of his legal instructions to Ms Gillard during an ABC interview on Tuesday night had lifted client privilege on the fresh portion of the transcript, other parts of which were made public in August.
Under questioning from senior partner Peter Gordon, Ms Gillard confirmed that after she drafted and submitted model rules for the new association they had been challenged by the WA authority.
She agreed the authority had written back a letter ''suggesting that it might be a trade union and therefore ineligible for incorporation'' under the WA Associations Incorporation Act.
She further agreed that ''we had prepared a response submitted on Wilson's instructions to that authority suggesting that in fact it wasn't a trade union and arguing the case for its incorporation''.
Asked whether all this had happened in or about mid-1992, Ms Gillard replied: ''I wouldn't want to be held to dates without looking at the file, but whatever dates the file shows are the right dates.''
While she did not keep a formal file on the work, an informal file of records found in her office was produced during the interview.
Slater & Gordon said last month that that file had disappeared and a file held in the WA archives relating to the establishment of the Workplace Reform Association is now reported to be empty.
In the new section of transcript, Ms Gillard confirms that she did not consult anyone else in the firm, including Tony Lang, another partner and acknowledged expert on forming non-profit associations, when she drafted the Workplace Reform Association rules.
''I had just in my own personal precedent file a set of rules for [the] Socialist Forum which is an incorporated association in which I am personally involved,'' she said.
''I've just kept them hanging around as something I cut and paste from for drafting purposes, and I obtained, I don't quite recall how now, but I obtained the model rules under the WA Act and I must have done the drafting relying on those two sources.''
She said she also did not recall asking anyone else in the firm about what might be ''acceptable or appropriate'' in framing her response to the WA authority.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said they had ''no comment'' when asked to confirm whether or not she had written to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission.