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Ralph Blewitt has returned from Malaysia, where he has apparently been living since, as admitted, he and Gillard’s boyfriend Wilson acted fraudulently to deprive the AWU of funds raised on (supposedly) their behalf. This has led to a discovery by the ABC viz, that public controversy has existed for some time about the role played by Gillard in the establishment and operation of slush fund(s) by Wilson. Last night’s 7.30 report did a non-interview with Blewitt and ABC radio news ran the story on the 7.00 am news but then dropped it in later editions.

It appears that Blewitt expects to be given immunity from prosecution and then intends to tell the full story (as he sees it) about the operation of the slush fund(s) to the police and, presumably, to the general public.

Former Labor leader, Mark Latham, claims in today’s AFR that there is no story and accepts Gillard’s claim of no wrongdoing: perhaps he is seeking a job at the ABC. As previously outlined, serious questions have been raised as to whether Gillard’s explanation of only a limited involvement is correct. This goes to her integrity as Prime Minister. There are also serious questions as whether her past experience with the union movement, and the past experience of some other Ministers, have influenced government policies and attitudes favouring the role of unions both in society generally and of workplace relations in particular.

Tongue in cheek, Andrew Bolt has suggested that Julia is “in clear” - because Attorney General Roxon says so and she is known to be impartial! Bolt notes that Bill Shorten is also satisfied with Gillard’s explanations even though he was aware of a Bill Kelty letter saying (at the time) that unless a proposed Royal Commission was stopped “we are all history”. Shorten has however acknowledged that the establishment of the slush fund (?funds) was “inappropriate” and not authorised by the AWU.

Gillard has now sought corrections to two aspects of the slush fund story as published in The Age and is reported as complaining to the CEO of Fairfax Press. The Age has not accepted any need for a correction, although it has “explained” its position.

Three articles in The Australian do not add much to those in other papers, although one does quote a unionist expressing the view that Gillard has become “a problem for the union movement and the Labor party”.

More to come.

Des


Shorten: PM slush fund inappropriate

Mark Skulley and Natalie Gerritsen, AFR, November 22, 2012

Ralph Blewett in Melbourne on Wednesday
Ralph Blewitt in Melbourne on Wednesday .?.?. I was a party to a fraud. Photo: Jesse Marlow

Mark Latham – The likes of Michael Smith and Andrew Bolt (who has also promoted the “sinister cover-up” theory) make the Obama Birthers look like intellectuals.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has described the union slush fund that Prime Minister Julia Gillard helped establish when she was a young lawyer as unauthorised, inappropriate and out of bounds.

Ms Gillard has admitted to helping set up the AWU Workplace Reform Association on behalf of her then boyfriend, Victorian AWU secretary Bruce Wilson, and another unionist Ralph Blewitt when she worked at the law firm Slater & Gordon. She later referred to the association as a slush fund.

Asked on the ABC’s Lateline last night about the fund, Mr Shorten said: “Well, that account was unauthorised by the union and was an inappropriate account that account as far as I can tell. So that was out of bounds.

“When that account came to light, what I do know is that the union took action. I know that the union leadership of the day reported it to the police.

“In terms of the Prime Minister’s explanations, I am satisfied with them,” Mr Shorten said.

Unions set up re-election funds from time to time: Shorten

He said that unions set up re-election funds from time to time to assist the leadership but that the money must only be used for the purpose it has been donated for by members.

Mr Wilson has been accused of siphoning off $400,000 in union funds, some of which it is alleged was used to buy a house in Melbourne in the name of Mr Blewitt.

Mr Blewitt, a self-confessed fraudster, returned from Malaysia yesterday vowing to seek indemnity from prosecution in return for telling police all he knows about the union funding scam in the mid-1990s that involved Ms Gillard’s former boyfriend.

Mr Blewitt will make a statement to the Victoria Police fraud squad in coming days. He said he was sick of being pursued by the media.

“I’ve had media chasing me since 2010 on this, on and off,” Mr Blewitt told The Australian Financial Review, when interviewed on a footpath in the Melbourne CBD.

In the public interest to know the truth: Blewitt

“I’m just sick of the whole damned thing. I’ve heard and watched what’s going on in the media and . . . it’s in the public interest that people know the truth, to the best of my recollection.”

Mr Blewitt is a former secretary of the West Australian branch of the Australian Workers Union. He worked with Mr Wilson when he was Ms Gillard’s boyfriend.

Ms Gillard has strongly denied any wrongdoing and Mr Blewitt denied yesterday that his push to make a statement to police was due to her going on to become Prime Minister.

“It wouldn’t matter who it was,” Mr Blewitt said. “I was a party to a fraud. I was a major player in that with other people. The other parties are, at this point in time, refraining from making comments about it and are in denial. Someone needs to clear the decks.”

Mr Shorten told Lateline that if Mr Blewitt had information for the Victorian police he should provide it. “If he wants to confess to any wrongdoings, if he feels he has got things to tell the police that’s what he should do.”

Mr Shorten, who is a former national secretary of the AWU, said that by the time he had taken over, the wrongdoings within the union had been dealt with.

Labor has introduced strong governance rules

He said Labor had introduced strong union governance rules. “There is no condoning of illegal behaviour. We have created the strongest laws that have ever existed in the history of Australia to make sure there is good governance of employer associations and unions.”

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said she understood that Mr Blewitt wanted to “clear his conscience and tell the police what actually occurred when hundreds of thousands of dollars of union funds went missing”.

“If Mr Blewitt is prepared to clear the air and tell the Australian people about his role in this fraud, so should Prime Minister Julia Gillard honestly and directly answer legitimate questions about what she knew and her involvement in this massive fraud,” she said.

“This goes to not only the Prime Minister’s professional and ethical conduct at the time, but it goes to her integrity and honesty today, as I believe her answers at press conferences have been less than honest, and that has misled the Australian people about her involvement.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said: “The Prime Minister has dealt with these matters extensively on the public record, and has repeatedly made clear that she was not involved in any wrongdoing. In the many reports on this matter not one substantiated allegation of wrongdoing has been made.”

Mr Blewitt said he had returned to Australia at the urging of Harry Nowicki, a former lawyer for the Builders Labourers’ Federation, who is researching a book on the AWU.

“I have returned to Melbourne at the request of Harry Nowicki, who’s running this research into that story,” Mr Blewitt said. “The intent of my return here is to meet with [Melbourne lawyer] Robert Galbally, to seek further legal advice as to where we go from here.

Blewitt invited to speak with fraud squad

“I have been invited by the Victoria Police fraud squad to make a statement to them. Subject to advice from Robert Galbally, that may or may not occur, I’m not sure yet. My thoughts are that it will occur.”

Mr Blewitt is a Vietnam veteran and yesterday dressed in a colourful T-shirt remembering his “brothers” in the Royal Australian Regiment.

“I am sorry to, and on behalf, of the AWU members for any harm this may have caused them. And I don’t know that it did. But I sincerely apologise to them. I never disenfranchised members of any of their entitlements. I was just mixed up in the whole thing.”

Ms Gillard did some paperwork to help establish the AWU Workplace Reform Association in 1992. She also witnessed a power of attorney document that allowed Mr Wilson to buy and sell a property in inner-city Melbourne on behalf of Mr Blewitt.

The WA police investigated allegations that employers paid about $400,000 to the association. They decided not to lay charges after concluding the money did not belong to the union and builders such as Thiess Contractors declined to lodge a complaint. The Victoria Police also did not lay charges

Mr Blewitt said he had three reasons for speaking out, which included the bashing in 1996 of a Victorian AWU official, Bob Kernohan by “union thugs”. Mr Kernohan was still fearful of repercussions after raising allegations about the AWU finances in the mid-1990s.

Mr Blewitt said two journalists had recently lost their jobs for pursuing the AWU allegations– News Limited journalist Glenn Milne and 2UE broadcaster Michael Smith – and influence was being applied to shut down freedom of speech. Mr Smith is now pursuing the allegations as a blogger and accompanied Mr Blewitt in Melbourne yesterday.

Mr Blewitt has also alleged that a $25,000 payment had been made by a building company in return for using contaminated soil in a Victorian road project.


Julia Gillard in clear over AWU, say Labor mates

Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun, November 22, 2012

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says she is totally satisfied Julia Gillard has "not done anything improper or anything unlawful''.

AUSTRALIA'S top law officer has kindly cleared the Prime Minister of any crookedness in helping create a "slush fund" used to steal workers' money.

As Attorney-General Nicola Roxon put it: "I'm totally satisfied that Julia (Gillard) had not done anything improper or anything unlawful."

And being young and naive, I am totally satisfied with the say-so of Roxon - who, like half a dozen government figures, was involved in this scandal in the 1990s and possibly knows more than she's letting on.

Hmm. Labor sure has a tiny gene pool when so many ministers and faction bosses have personal involvement in a scandal that started with what we're told was totally proper legal work by a solicitor and partner of Slater & Gordon, as Gillard then was.

Some might say such a tight clique breeds a culture of cover-up, but surely that sells the Attorney-General short?

After all, Roxon is famous for her impartiality ever since she even-handedly helped sleazy Speaker Peter Slipper to slime a staffer who'd accused this upstanding abuser of expenses of being a sexual harasser as well.

Now Roxon is showing that even-handedness by clearing Gillard of doing anything woofy when she helped her then boyfriend, Australian Workers Union boss Bruce Wilson, create a personal "slush fund".

It was an incorporated association they called the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association, but it wasn't actually the union's and wasn't just for workplace reform. It was essentially Wilson's and it was for him.

Roxon professes to be totally satisfied Gillard acted properly even when she failed to go to the police on learning Wilson actually used the fund to steal $400,000, some of which he spent on buying himself a house - again it seems with Gillard's help. (Gillard says she didn't know the money was stolen.)

And the $5000 of Wilson's cash reportedly dropped into Gillard's account? Also no problem, says Roxon.

Attorneys-general don't lightly clear people of impropriety, so I'm sure Roxon undertook extensive investigations before clearing the Prime Minister.

But what investigations exactly?

I'm sure her inquiry wouldn't have been hard. Roxon could have started simply by consulting her own diary.

You see, when Slater & Gordon, whose clients included the AWU, discovered what Gillard had done, she left under a cloud and Slater & Gordon's AWU account moved to rival firm Maurice Blackburn.

One of Maurice Blackburn's solicitors was the young Roxon, who reportedly went through some of the files to hand over documents to an investigation into the scams.

Other Labor MPs could have told Roxon more.

Backbencher Robert McClelland, the former attorney-general, was the solicitor who helped AWU national secretary Ian Cambridge try to recover the money stolen by Wilson, which included calling on the Keating government for a royal commission.

He is said to be privately critical of Gillard's role and could have told Roxon why.

Workplace Minister Bill Shorten could also help Roxon. An AWU official in 1996, he was copied in on a letter from a senior colleague to ACTU secretary Bill Kelty, warning if a royal commission was not headed off "we are all history".

Shorten later took over the AWU branch Wilson had led, eventually becoming the union's national secretary.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson was president of the ACTU at the time Kelty was reported by AWU figures to be "supportive" of attempts to stop a royal commission. He is believed to disapprove of how the scandal was resolved, or not.

AGRICULTURE Minister Joe Ludwig was another employee of the AWU. In 1996 he was alerted by a company that had paid $29,000 into Wilson's "slush fund", thinking it was legitimate, and was upset at being asked to call it a donation.

Ludwig's father, Bill Ludwig, was then and now the AWU's federal president, and is a key leader of the faction keeping Gillard in power. He was first Wilson's patron, but later fought to get back the stolen money.

Backbencher Chris Hayes, chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, was an AWU assistant national secretary who countersigned redundancy cheques to get rid of Wilson and his bagman, Ralph Blewitt.

Senator David Feeney, a faction boss, was in 1995 the union official who asked Gillard to explain why a builder wanted AWU payment for work done on her own house.

Gillard told Slater & Gordon partners in a formal interview she spoke to Feeney about her renovation, and he relayed her reassurances to the man who ousted her boyfriend as the AWU's Victorian secretary, Bob Smith, later president of Victoria's Legislative Council.

Astonishing how many Labor MPs know something of a scandal about which Roxon now claims she has no concern - not about Gillard's role, anyway.

Some are much less forgiving than Roxon, but what would they know?

Australia's highest law officer has declared Gillard above any suspicion and Roxon would tell us true, right?


Ex-union official to tell all on slush fund

The Age, November 22, 2012, Mark Baker

A FORMER union official at the centre of the slush fund scandal dogging Prime Minister Julia Gillard has promised to give police a detailed account of his knowledge of the events.

Former Australian Workers Union official Ralph Blewitt returned to Melbourne yesterday from his home in Malaysia after being promised immunity from prosecution in return for his co-operation.

The Victorian fraud squad is considering reopening a 17-year-old investigation into corruption involving then AWU state secretary Bruce Wilson, a former boyfriend of Ms Gillard.

Mr Blewitt - who admits his involvement in fraud - will give evidence about the purchase in 1993 of a Fitzroy property partly paid for with more than $100,000 from an AWU slush fund in Western Australia.

The property was bought in Mr Blewitt's name by Mr Wilson using a power-of-attorney drafted by Ms Gillard - then a salaried partner with law firm Slater & Gordon. She insists she had no knowledge of the corruption in the union at the time.

The federal opposition has signalled it will renew its attack on Ms Gillard over the issue when Federal Parliament resumes next week.

''The Prime Minister has been less than honest in her answers to legitimate questions asked by the press and in the Parliament,'' Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said on Wednesday.

Lawyers representing Mr Blewitt, who is scheduled to meet police on Friday, have prepared a statement for them detailing his knowledge of the use of money from the AWU Workplace Reform Association in the purchase of the Fitzroy property and other matters.

A Victoria Police investigation into the AWU in 1995-96 was shut down, finding no evidence for prosecution, before WA police had uncovered the extent of fraud involving the association.

Mr Blewitt apologised on Wednesday to AWU members for his involvement in the fraud, but denied that he had benefited personally.

''I am ready to give an open and full statement to the police of all I know,'' he said.

''Yes, I did participate in the fraud, but we need to finish this.

''The public have a right to know what really happened.''

Interviewed on ABC TV last night, Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said Ms Gillard had dealt with the issues.

''I know that they've been raised before and she's dealt with them and then she's dealt with the matters most recently in August of this year,'' he said.

''At no stage, to my knowledge, has she ever... had to deal with any specific allegations of wrongdoing and that still remains the case. ''Across 20 years periodically she's had to deal with this issue of who she went out with and what happened then and she has answered those matters and I believe her.''

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said today he had tried reading articles about the AWU situation but that his attention flagged by the fifth paragraph.

"I never understood what the alleged impropriety is [by Ms Gillard]," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday. "In the acreage of print, I've never got to that killer accusation."


Age publishes PM's complaints over its AWU reports

The Australian, November 22, 2012 9:09AM

The Age has today published an article detailing complaints from Prime Minister Julia Gillard about its reporting of the ongoing AWU slush fund scandal.

The story, headlined "The Age and the Prime Minister", carries no byline and reports both Ms Gillard's responses to several stories written by the Fairfax broadsheet's editor at large, Mark Baker and that of the law firm she used to work for, Slater & Gordon.

"Prime Minister Julia Gillard has challenged The Age over its reporting of her involvement in the Australian Workers Union controversy," the report says.

"Law firm Slater & Gordon has also claimed that The Age misrepresented its position on the matter."

The story follows reporting by Diary on Monday that it was understood Ms Gillard had complained directly to Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood about the reports, just as she had complained directly to former News Limited chief executive John Hartigan in 2011 concerning The Australian's reporting of the issue.

Hywood would not comment on this when contacted by Diary.

The prime minister's complaint centres on two articles published on November 13.

The first reported that Slater & Gordon managing director Andrew Grech had confirmed Ms Gillard "acted directly'' in the conveyancing work on the purchase of a Fitzroy property at the centre of the claims. Both Ms Gillard and Slater & Gordon have refuted this but The Age says it has asked for further clarification from the law firm.

Ms Gillard has also complained to the newspaper that a second story on November 13, "implied that she gave legal advice to assist the perpetration of a fraud.

"Ms Gillard acknowledges that she gave legal advice regarding the establishment of the Workplace Reform Association (WRA). The WRA was later used by others to commit fraud."

The Age has declared "it did not intend to imply that Ms Gillard was involved in any fraud or that she had knowledge of it".

"The Prime Minister has also told The Age that the claim in the second story that she organised finance for the conveyancing is wrong. While it is clear that the PM had some involvement with the conveyancing file, The Age did not claim that she personally arranged the $150,000 loan from her then firm, Slater & Gordon."


Bagman Ralph Blewitt returns to reveal all on AWU fraud

PIA AKERMAN, The Australian, November 21, 2012

FORMER AWU official Ralph Blewitt has returned to Australia and apologised to union members for his role in misappropriating union money from a secret slush fund.

Mr Blewitt arrived in Melbourne from his home in Malaysia this morning to speak with his lawyers.

He then plans to meet with Victoria Police and has vowed to reveal everything he knows about the fraud in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

Mr Blewitt has previously admitted he engaged in the fraud with then AWU Victorian secretary Bruce Wilson, issuing bogus invoices and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I'd like to say I deeply regret and sincerely apologise to the membership of the Australian Workers Union for any harm or problems I would have caused them throughout this whole - what would you call it - business," he said.

"Naturally union members would be angry. I personally didn't do them any harm."

Mr Wilson was in a long-term romantic relationship with Julia Gillard, who was a solicitor at Slater & Gordon at this time and acted for the AWU prior to her departure in September 1995 after she admitted helping to set up a "slush fund" for Mr Wilson.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly and vehemently denied any wrongdoing, saying she knew nothing of the operations of the fund, and Mr Wilson has so far remained silent.

Mr Blewitt would not comment when asked whether Ms Gillard should have any concerns about his potential testimony.

"I'm sorry, I don't know what's going on in Julia Gillard's head," he said.

Mr Blewitt said he felt guilty he had not spoken to authorities earlier about the fraud.

Asked why he was prepared to cooperate now, he said he had recently learned that former AWU Victorian president Bob Kernohan tried to make the fraud public in 1996 "and got a bloody belting by union thugs for trying to disclose this."

"(He) is still scared and still gets a bullet in the mail with his name on it," Mr Blewitt said.

Mr Kernohan, who has been a friend and political ally of ex-AWU national secretary and current Labor minister Bill Shorten, wrote an affidavit in 2010 in which he described wrongdoing by a number of people.

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said Mr Blewitt's return to Australia was an opportunity for Ms Gillard to “honestly and directly answer legitimate questions” about what she knew about the fraud.

“She's not answered questions, which if she'd done nothing wrong, she should have found easy to answer," Ms Bishop said in Perth.


Shorten says AWU fund 'inappropriate, unauthorised'

Harry Edwards and Joe Kelly, The Australian, November 22, 2012

WORKPLACE Relations Minister Bill Shorten has described the association Julia Gillard helped set up in the 1990s for her then boyfriend, union official Bruce Wilson, as "inappropriate" and "unauthorised".

Mr Shorten, who became national secretary of the Australian Workers Union long after the fraud scandal had been exposed at the union, said last night he was satisfied with the Prime Minister's explanations on the matter.

But he told the ABC's Lateline the association that Ms Gillard helped to set up for Mr Wilson, her client when she was a lawyer for Slater & Gordon, was "unauthorised by the union" and "inappropriate . . . as far as I can tell". "It was out of bounds," he said.

Ms Gillard has admitted to providing legal advice for the creation of the AWU Workplace Reform Association, which Mr Wilson later used to defraud the union of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and says she knew nothing about the operation of the association, which she has described as a "slush fund" for the re-election of union officials.

The federal secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineer's Association Steve Purvinas last night warned that Ms Gillard was becoming a problem for the union movement and the Labor Party.

"Julia is going to become a liability to the labour movement if allegations continue to fly like they are," he said on Sky News's View Point program.

Earlier, ACTU president Ged Kearney said a draft report to improve union governance would go before the national executive at the beginning of next month.

Ms Kearney told the National Press Club in Canberra the report would be used to set ground rules, educate and provide assistance to thwart fraudulent conduct, but she stopped short of providing an assurance it would help wipe out corrupt conduct altogether.

The panel compiling the governance report, headed by former judge Rod Madgwick, is poised to recommend improvements to union financial transparency, accountability disclosure and grievance handling.

While the ACTU has no formal authority to change the rules of individual unions, Ms Kearney said the report could be used to establish "ground rules".

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