'So what?': PM rejects new AWU claims | The Australian:
Thursday, November 29, 2012
'So what?': PM rejects new AWU claims
Hours after Tony Abbott claimed the Prime Minister may have broken the law, and the Coalition called for her resignation, she released a statement declaring the document backed her own account of her role in relation to the AWU Workplace Reform Association.
“After months of speculation about a smoking gun, the Liberals have nothing,” Ms Gillard said through her office.
The document reveals Ms Gillard, as a lawyer in the 1990s, wrote to a government agency to help overcome its objections to the creation of the association for her then boyfriend and client, union official Bruce Wilson.
A record of interview between Ms Gillard and her law firm, Slater & Gordon, in September 1995, reveals the AWU Workplace Reform Association was initially regarded as ineligible because of its “trade union” status.
Ms Gillard overcame the obstacle by writing to the Commissioner for Corporate Affairs in Western Australia in 1992, arguing that the decision to bar it should be reversed.
She also wrote the association's rules, which emphasised worker safety but made no mention of its true purpose of funding the elections of union officials.
Ms Gillard's spokeswoman said there was nothing in the document that contradicted her statements on the matter so far. The Prime Minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said she had no knowledge of the workings of the association.
“So, the Prime Minister wrote to the WA Commissioner. So what? She did what lawyers do. Act on instruction. Provide legal advice,” the spokeswoman said.
“So, the Prime Minister can't remember writing one letter from 20 years ago. So what? Lawyers write thousands of letters in their careers.
“And what does the transcript show? That the PM said the association wasn't a union. So what? It obviously wasn't.
“In fact, the unredacted transcript backs up what the Prime Minister has been saying.
“The transcript supports the Prime Minister's account that she had nothing to do with the association once it was incorporated.
“The transcript also supports the Prime Minister's account that she didn't have anything to do with setting up bank accounts operated by the association.
“The opposition's central claim goes to the Prime Minister's knowledge of alleged fraud. The unredacted transcript shows those claims to be empty and false.”
Earlier, Mr Abbott told the Nine Network the latest revelation was “very serious”, saying the Prime Minister may have broken the law in arguing the case for the association to be incorporated.
“It demonstrates that she misled the West Australian Corporate Affairs Commission, and that is obviously a very serious matter,” he said outside parliament.
“That would certainly appear to be a breach of the law.”
As both parties prepared for a bruising final question time of the year today, manager of opposition business Christopher Pyne said it was time for Ms Gillard to go.
“I think her position is entirely untenable and if the Prime Minister had any respect for the parliament, for the Australian public or for the Labor caucus she would resign as Prime Minister today and allow the Labor party to select a new leader and to move to put this sordid mess behind us,” he said.
But cabinet Minister Craig Emerson said Ms Gillard had done nothing wrong, and likened the allegations against Ms Gillard to the Godwin Grech affair, in which former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull pursued false allegations against Kevin Rudd, dramatically undermining his authority.
“The Prime Minister has behaved honestly at all times and for the Coalition now to say inside and outside the parliament that the Prime Minister has behaved criminally is obviously an outrage,” he told ABC radio.
“They went through these processes in relation to the so-called `ute-gate' affair with Godwin Grech.
“We saw what happened then: Malcolm Turnbull's leadership was terminally weakened, and to have Mr Abbott send out Mr Pyne to accuse the Prime Minister of criminal behaviour, and Mr Abbott himself to do it ... just shows that this is the zenith of a smear campaign that's been orchestrated because their fear campaign associated with carbon pricing fell to the ground from the first of July.”
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said there was “no smoking gun” in the fresh revelations.
“Let's be really straight, what do you think it is that the Prime Minister has done wrong? What law has she broken?” Mr Shorten told Sky News.
“People just want to make this great fuss about a 20-year vendetta against the Prime Minister.”
PETER GORDON: All right, well, let's talk about the AWU Workplace Reform Association Account. That account, as you've said, is an account which was the account belonging to an incorporated association by the same name which was incorporated by Slater & Gordon at (Bruce) Wilson's, on Wilson's instructions following your advice to him which you described earlier.
JULIA GILLARD: That's right.
PG: And that happened in or about mid-1992.
JG: That's right.
PG: And last Monday I think you gave to Paul Mulvaney a follow-up which demonstrates that Slater & Gordon had drafted model rules for, for that, had submitted those rules to the relevant Western Australian government authority, that there'd been a letter from the authority suggesting that it might be a trade union and therefore ineligible for incorporation under that legislation, and 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. My recollection is that all of that happened in or about mid-1992. Is that right?
JG: I wouldn't want to be held to the dates without looking at the file, but whatever the dates the file shows are the right dates, so . . .
PG: Yes. And to the extent that work was done on that file in relation to that it was done by you?
JG: That's right.
PG: And did you get advice from anyone else in the firm in relation to any of those matters?
JG: No I didn't.
PG: Did Tony Lang have anything to do with the model rules or the drafting of them?
JG: No, I obtained, I had just in my own personal precedent file a set of rules for Socialist Forum which is an incorporated association in which I'm personally involved. Tony Lang and I drew those rules some years ago. Tony more than me. And 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 just relying on those two sources. I don't have any recollection of sitting down with Tony or any other practitioner and talking through the draft of the rules.
PG: Do you recall whether when it was necessary to argue the case with the, with the relevant Western Australian authority, whether you consulted anyone else in the firm as to what would or would not get, become acceptable or appropriate?
JG: I once again don't recall talking to anybody else in the firm about it.
PG: Beyond that, and it seems from the file that after that letter it was successfully accepted as an incorporated association and duly was created and presumably accounts were set up. I should ask did we have anything to do with the setting up of the accounts or was that done by the officers of the incorporated association?
JG: Slater & Gordon didn't have anything, did not have anything to do with setting up bank accounts for that association. We attended to the incorporation.
PG: Can I ask you then following the last thing that we did to setting up the incorporation, which appears from the file to be the letter arguing that it ought to be not construed as a trade union, did you have anything personally to do with that incorporated association afterwards?
JG: No I did not.
PG: Right, to the best of your knowledge did anyone at Slater & Gordon?
JG: To my knowledge no one at Slater & Gordon had anything to do with it post that time.
'So what?': PM rejects new AWU claims | The Australian: