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Gillard now faces a situation in which a senior Minister (Shorten) has effectively said the establishment by her and boyfriend Wilson of a slush fund was “inappropriate” and not authorised by the AWU. So far Gillard has not indicated her attitude to this comment (does she claim it was not a “wrongdoing”?). Shorten has himself has sought to downplay his statement by claiming she has no new questions to answer.

In his latest notes Larry Pickering asserts that, contrary to Shorten’s claim, he was on the AWU payroll when the Gillard/Wilson action became known and he then opposed the idea of having a Royal Commission (if correct this would help explain Shorten’s ongoing support for Gillard). Note also that Pickering claims that Gillard filed a defamation writ in the Supreme Court designed to stop any public revelation of the G/W action and that the file may have been passed to Roxon, who was then working in Maurice Blackburn.

A former senior colleague at Slater& Gordon has effectively rejected Gillard’s claim that she was not involved in arranging the mortgage on the house purchased by boyfriend Wilson with (in part) money obtained fraudulently. He did this for little obvious reason via a TV interview (the ABC’s 7.30 report lead seemed rather reluctant but more or less awake) all the way from Seattle. Gillard claims, through a spokesman, to have no recollection of the documents showing her involvement.

The awaking of the ABC has extended to more than one session of this morning’s radio news and to an interview by Jon Faine (previously on record as having pooh-poohed any problems for Gillard) with former radio programmer Michael Smith, who claims detailed knowledge of the issue. I understand Faine did not alter his position.

Blewitt is still to make a statement of his version of what happened. Shorten’s attempt yesterday to discredit Blewitt in advance suggests he may have something important to say.

Of additional significance in regard to the Government’s policies and attitudes in regard to the role of trade unions, The Australian has today referred to diary records suggesting that some current Labor MPs were, before becoming MPs, involved as unionists in attempts to extract money from large Australian companies. These records are from the diary of the then head of the AWU, Ian Cambridge, now a Commissioner at Fair Work Australia.

It is now difficult to see how Gillard can avoid making further substantive commentary. While she will doubtless wish NOT to make a statement in Parliament, the Opposition should offer her maximum opportunity to do so next week. As I have written elsewhere, action to deal with union power should be number one priority in Abbott’s policy list.

Des Moore

Former colleague challenges Gillard’s loan explanation

Mark Skulley, AFR, November 23, 2012

Former Slater & Gordon partner Nick Styant-Browne
Former Slater & Gordon partner Nick Styant-Browne: “There was deep disquiet amongst the partnership about Ms Gillard’s conduct and it was never necessary for the partnership to resolve that issue because Ms Gillard herself elected to resign.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard misled senior partners at Slater & Gordon over her involvement in a loan used to buy a house in Melbourne, a former legal colleague has claimed.

The former Slater & Gordon partner, Nick Styant-Browne, said Ms Gillard told senior partners in her exit interview from the firm she learnt in August 1995 it had given a mortgage loan to buy a Fitzroy property.

“There is absolutely no doubt that Ms Gillard not only knew of the Slater & Gordon mortgage in March of 1993, but was specifically involved in taking steps to facilitate that mortgage,” Mr Styant-Brown told the ABC’s 7.30 last night.

“That’s a matter of documents, it’s not a matter of assertion or hearsay.”

Mr Styant-Browne has released a new section of the previously redacted interview. It covers the purchase of the property by former union official Ralph Blewitt, who had given power of attorney to another official, Bruce Wilson, who was then Ms Gillard’s partner.

Mr Styant-Brown said he was trying to limit his role to giving an “accurate account” of Ms Gillard’s departure in 1995 from Slater & Gordon and he would leave it for others to make judgments about her statements.

Bank Letter cited

He cited a letter from Commonwealth Bank – which was previously released as part of Slater & Gordon’s file on the property deal – as proof that Ms Gillard knew the law firm had provided the mortgage.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister last night said the conveyancing was handled by Olive Brosnahan, a paralegal, under the oversight of Mr Styant-Browne.

“A note in Ms Brosnahan’s handwriting appears on the publicly available file dated March 22, 1993,” the spokesman said.

“It states that Ralph [Blewitt] was chasing up the Commonwealth Bank in relation to the certificate of currency. It also records the making of a phone call to Ms Gillard which resulted in a message being left for Ms Gillard. The file contains no evidence of Ms Gillard returning this call.

“What this entry on the file shows is that Mr Blewitt was personally attending to dealing with the Commonwealth Bank about the certificate of currency.”

PM had ‘no recollection’ of seeing letter

The spokesman said the Prime Minister had “no recollection” of seeing the correspondence from Commonwealth Bank dated March 23, 1993. “Ms Gillard stands by her statements in the Slater & Gordon interview of September 11, 1995, as her best recollection of events 2½ years earlier. There is no contradiction in anything you have put to us.

“She did not personally arrange for the mortgage insurance for the Kerr Street property through the Commonwealth Bank.”

Mr Styant-Browne argued last night that Ms Gillard’s role in setting up the AWU Workplace Reform Association, and in the property trans­action, had “removed the trust between the partners and Ms Gillard”.

“There was deep disquiet amongst the partnership about Ms Gillard’s conduct and it was never necessary for the partnership to resolve that issue because Ms Gillard herself elected to resign,” he said.

Previously released sections of the transcript refer to broader tensions, including the tactics used by the then head of its IR practice, Bernard ­Murphy, in pursuing claims against a Victorian Liberal minister who later won a big payout.

‘Most unusual that a file was not opened’

Mr Styant-Browne, who is now based in the US, said Ms Gillard stated in the interview that she did not open a file when helping establish the AWU Workplace Reform Association, a slush fund Workplace Relations Minister and former AWU head Bill Shorten this week described as unauthorised and inappropriate.

“This was not passing advice to a rank-and file union member, this matter involved the incorporation of a legal entity and it was most unusual that a file was not opened,” he said. “Fees were waived in relation to the work that was done on the file.”

In August Mr Styant-Browne told The Australian the Kerr Street conveyance and mortgage were “both unexceptionable transactions”.

“Like many law firms, Slater & Gordon regularly did discounted or free conveyances for clients who held office in its client corporations or organisations,” he said.

The Australian Financial Review

Tell-all unionist a ‘self-confessed fraudster’: Shorten

Joanna Heath, AFR, November 22, 2012


Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has moved to discredit the former unionist who has sworn to “tell all” about the union slush fund set up by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, labelling Ralph Blewitt a “self-confessed fraudster”.

At a Unions NSW rally in Sydney on Thursday morning, Mr Shorten described the allegations made against Ms Gillard as a “baseless smear campaign”.

“The campaign currently run against her is grubby, it relies on a self-confessed fraudster, and there still hasn’t been any specific allegation made,” Mr Shorten said.

“It’s got nothing to do with the Prime Minister as far as I’m concerned. If this self-confessed fraudster wants to own up to the police, well, that’s his choice.”

Mr Shorten said he did not believe Ms Gillard had any new questions to answer, and denied the slush fund imbroglio would be an issue into the next election.

The slush fund in question, the AWU Workplace Reform Association, was set up by Ms Gillard during her time as a lawyer, on behalf of Victorian AWU secretary Bruce Wilson and Mr Blewitt.

Mr Blewitt returned to Australia from Malaysia on Wednesday, looking for indemnity from prosecution in return for telling police all he knows about the union fund. He will make a statement to the Victoria Police fraud squad within the next few days.

Mr Shorten made a staunch defence for the union movement in the face of the allegations.

“I do not accept the proposition that the union movement is going down the wrong track,” he said.

“What I do think is inappropriate is, when you have the conduct of a few, be it 20 years ago or in recent times, doing the wrong thing by union members. What I do think is inappropriate is when credibility is given to those who have done the wrong thing by the opposition as if these people are now saints.”

The Australian Financial Review

Pickering 22 Nov 2012

Article One.

As the truth closes in on Gillard and the rats start scratching at portholes, Bill Shorten is the first to prepare to desert the front line and leave his “mates” in the trenches.

His pitiful attempt at fending off questions on the (previously asleep) ABC was unconvincing for good reason because Bill Shorten knows more than anyone about Gillard’s complicity in the AWU fraud. It was Shorten who went to great lengths to have it covered up.

Shorten sat there, on the Lateline program, wriggling in his seat, alternating between shades of crimson, “I can’t recall...I wasn’t there”, he blustered. But you WERE there, Bill Shorten.

As campaign manager for Bob Kernohan in 1992, you produced pamphlets documenting his opponent’s (Bruce Wilson's) fraudulent activities. Are you sure you weren’t there Shorten?

Are you sure you know nothing about this Gillard/Wilson thing?

If I presented you with one of your pamphlets, would you perhaps remember then?

You had just completed your articles at Maurice Blackburn lawyers and on the AWU’s payroll under Bob Kernohan when the extent of the Gillard/Wilson fraud became known. It was you, Bill Shorten, who stood there with Bill Ludwig and tried to convince Ian Cambridge to drop his demands for a Royal Commission and asked him to refuse to co-operate with the police investigation.

You were successful with Cambridge (and Gillard has repaid him well) but even your union thugs couldn't convince Kernohan to back off, could they?

“If this gets out, we are all history!” That was how you described it, wasn’t it Shorten? Union members were not a priority for you, were they?

Gillard’s “slush fund” Shorten described as, “...unauthorised, out of bounds and inappropriate.” Really, Shorten? Then why did you do everything possible to bury the scam in the same way as you have recently attempted to bury the HSU’s lost $20 million? It looks like you will fail on both counts, eh?

So, you were being groomed by Big Bill Ludwig as a future Labor leader eh? A labor leader who lies through his teeth, cares nothing for workers, covers up scams and can’t keep his dick in his trousers?

Come to think of it, you might fill the role admirably.

- Larry Pickering. 22/11/12.

Article Two.

Last night on the ABC, Bill Shorten lied. Not only his body language, but documented evidence, confirms he lied and he is not very good at it.

He claims he, “wasn’t working for the AWU” when the Gillard/Wilson scandal broke. That’s lie number one. He was. At that time he was paid as an AWU organiser.

He claims he didn’t know about this scam. Lie number two. He was instrumental in trying to cover it up.

Shorten was living with Nicola Roxon at the time. She was working at Maurice Blackburn lawyers. Shorten was completing his articles at the same office. Let’s assume there was no pillow talk regarding something as momentously illegal as this. Unlikely I know, but let’s assume that for the sake of the dear Ms Roxon.

Gillard claimed she did not report the fraud to the police because it was "already under investigation". Not true. After the fraud was discovered it wasn't until the following year that it was reported to the police.

Gillard also claims she did not open a file on the matter. Not true. She herself says a file was somewhere in her office but became “mislaid”.

Gillard was instrumental in filing a defamation writ in the Supreme Court effectively gagging those in the union who were trying to disclose the fraudulent activities. It is impossible to file a Supreme Court writ without a file having been opened.

Where is this file? Okay, stay with me here... Gillard was sacked from Slater & Gordon at the same time as the complicit Bernard Murphy was paid out as an equity partner.

Gillard never worked in law again. Gillard’s file disappeared at the same time Murphy moved to Maurice Blackburn. Now, I can’t confirm this but I have been told by a senior ex-Maurice Blackburn lawyer that Murphy gave the file to Roxon for safe keeping.

We are unlikely to ever see that file as it almost certainly was destroyed by Roxon when the temperature recently became dangerously hot.

The two people who assisted Gillard at the time were well rewarded by Gillard as PM. The complicit Murphy was promoted to the Federal Court Bench and the unqualified Roxon to the highest law office in the land as GG. Make of that what you will.

In response to recent questioning, Gillard stated categorically that when she discovered the fraud, “...I immediately broke off my relationship Bruce Wilson.” That is another lie.

When Gillard was sacked from Slater & Gordon, she and Wilson went on a holiday. They had in the past frequented a resort in Lorne and another favourite getaway was the Healesville Hotel. They had often invited other couples to go with them. This time just the two of them went to the Healesville Hotel for a week.

Of course we have no idea what they talked about but Gillard told a close friend they needed time to figure out what the hell they were going to do. Apparently they both agreed on a course of action.

Gillard disappeared for the six months that is still missing from her resume. Wilson went back to his wife and two boys in Perth.

Both had their stories right and fortuitously the fraud was covered up by the very union they stole from and the very law firm she worked for.

They were as safe as their money-laundered houses (lots of them) and no-one would have been the wiser, except...

Except that one of these two people decided she wanted to be Prime Minister.

- Larry Pickering. 22/11/12.

Pickering 23 Nov 2012

Bruce Wilson could have paid cash for any house (on occasions he did) but he was smart enough to know it would attract attention in Melbourne. A deposit and mortgage was an exercise in normality and barely caused a ripple. But there was another reason.

Union officials are paid “LAHA” (living away from home allowance). In Wilson’s case it would have been at least $700 per week or $100 per day, plus extras (in today’s money around $2,000). He was also drawing two AWU wages. One from his WA position and one from his self-promotion to Victoria.

The LAHA alone would have been sufficient to service the mortgage and conduct the usual renovations. Renovations to a house, including Gillard’s, was an excellent money-laundering technique as it was lost in normal housing inflation rates.

The latest media interest surrounds a piddling amount of $400,000.

When Left wing journos finally get around to following trails west they may begin to at last understand the extent to which their beloved little Julia was involved in union corruption.

Only then will they begin to understand what we blogging “nutjobs” have been harping on about for months.

Known amounts that have been extorted from construction companies including Thiess, who knew of and were complicit in the corruption, amount to over $2million (God knows how much that is in today’s money). The total figure is almost certainly higher than $2million because we have only been able to scratch the surface.

Those companies that weren’t complicit were documented in Ian Cambridge’s diary: "Wilson then went on to make astounding revelations about the nature of the construction industry and some of the things that occurred such as the requirement to have a barbeque and beer put on at the return to work after any stoppage. He also then revealed that he and others such as Ralph Blewitt had been involved in the practice of damaging plant and equipment, such as setting fire to backhoes or other earthmoving equipment, or getting a battery-operated drill and drilling out tyres, essentially rendering the tyres useless."

Most disturbing of all is the extent to which the AWU was determined to cover this up. When the AWU fraud was discovered, incredibly they paid the culprits $100,000 in severance pay including Wilson and his bodyguard “Bill the Greek” (aka Vassilis Telikostoglou).

This money was used to hurriedly pay back extorted funds to confused developers. A stupid idea really as that only highlighted the fraud.

Now, Bill the Greek was responsible for Wilson’s welfare and Gillard’s renovations. He is a 6’ 3’’ overweight bouncer with a long black ponytail.

No-one argued with Bill even when he rorted his own Greek community of thousands of dollars. Stories abound of Bill the Greek. He has now fled the country (but that’s another story).

It is believed his cousin “Con” owned the now defunct Town Mode through which the renovations money was laundered.

Bongiorno, Grattan, Oakes and minor Gillard sycophants Pascoe, Murray and van Onselen are still in embarrassing denial. So here’s a little something for you all to chew on:

Australian Bar Review, vol 5 No 1 March 1989 page 1 refers to conspiracy to defraud and aiding and abetting a breach of the law as the two areas of the criminal law which potentially apply to professional advice.

His Honour McHugh J said (in part) “...when the lawyer goes beyond advice and draws documents for the purpose of enabling a client to achieve an objective, it is, I think, almost impossible to contend that the adviser does not aid the commission of any offence which results.”

Welcome to the real world of investigative journalism, fellas, you have all been asleep.

- Larry Pickering. 23/11/12.

Labor MP Chris Hayes drawn into AWU controversy

Hedley Thomas and Pia Akerman, The Australian, November 23, 2012

LABOR MP Chris Hayes has been drawn into the Australian Workers Union controversy by allegations made by disgraced AWU boss Bruce Wilson that as a union official in the 1990s he was involved in talks with a major Australian company that later put "donations" into a slush fund.

The Labor member for Fowler in western Sydney yesterday declined to comment on allegations, which are contained in the diary of Ian Cambridge, the Australian Workers Union joint national secretary who in the 90s was trying to root out corruption in the union.

But another union official who became a Labor senator, Michael Forshaw, rejected as "absolute rubbish" any suggestion contained in the diary that he was involved in the meetings with the oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum.

The diary of Mr Cambridge has been obtained by The Australian. Mr Cambridge, now a commissioner for Fair Work Australia, has confirmed that the diary is an accurate reflection of what he was told during a tumultuous period in which he and AWU president Bill Ludwig led a crackdown on fraud perpetrated by Julia Gillard's then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson. The Prime Minister has admitted setting up an association for Mr Wilson, which the then AWU state secretary and his bagman Ralph Blewitt later used to defraud hundreds of thousands of dollars by soliciting payments from companies.

The companies, including Woodside, later said they believed their payments were for legitimate purposes.

Ms Gillard later described the AWU Workplace Reform Association as a "slush fund" for the re-election of union officials. She has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, saying she knew nothing of the operations of the fund.

The diary discloses that on August 15, 1995, Mr Cambridge met Mr Wilson in Melbourne to discuss Mr Wilson's attempts to "get (redundancy) money and be allowed to get out" of the union.

"During the course of the evening discussion emerged regarding some of the moneys in the funds in Victoria and at one point Wilson indicated that we were in the same restaurant which is Cerabonas in which discussions regarding the payments by Woodside in respect to one of these employer 'donations' was concluded and that involved discussions with himself, then secretary Michael Forshaw, assistant secretary Chris Hayes and two representatives from Woodside who he named, but I cannot remember their names," the diary says.

"Wilson then went on to make astounding revelations about the nature of the construction industry and some of the things that occurred such as the requirement to have a barbeque and beer put on at the return to work after any stoppage. He also then revealed that he and others such as Ralph Blewitt had been involved in the practice of damaging plant and equipment, such as setting fire to backhoes or other earthmoving equipment, or getting a battery-operated drill and drilling out tyres, essentially rendering the tyres useless."

Mr Hayes, who was the assistant national secretary of the AWU in the 90s before entering politics by winning Werriwa in 2005 after the resignation of Mark Latham, declined to answer a series of questions from The Australian. "Given you have not provided me with these alleged documents, I do not believe I am in a position to comment," he said.

However, Mr Forshaw, who was a high-ranking official of the AWU and then a Labor senator for NSW from 1994 until his retirement last year, strenuously denied the account attributed to Mr Wilson in the diary, including that he and Mr Hayes were present at such a meeting.

He told The Australian yesterday that any claim he had discussed underhanded payments with Mr Wilson and Woodside was "absolute rubbish".

"I never had anything to do with any meetings that Bruce Wilson had with Woodside to get money out of (them)," he said. "I certainly didn't know about the existence of these accounts."

Mr Forshaw said while he had dined with Mr Wilson when visiting Melbourne from head office in Sydney, and also dined frequently with Mr Hayes, he could not remember any specific meal which Woodside staff also attended.

Mr Forshaw said major companies would sometimes contribute funds for industry training bodies and other causes as a show of goodwill during negotiations.

A spokeswoman for Woodside said company staff "periodically met with Mr Wilson in the 80s and 90s in his role as an official for the AWU in Western Australia and Victoria as per normal business practice". "Woodside participated in the Victorian Fraud Squad investigation in 1996 regarding payments made to the AWU and no action was taken in relation to Woodside's conduct," she said.

Mr Wilson, who has been implicated in the fraud by Mr Blewitt, has repeatedly declined to comment.

The Victorian slush fund, the AWU Members Welfare No 1 Account, received significant payments from large companies including Woodside, and building giants Thiess and John Holland. Those companies later said they were led to believe their payments of more than $150,000 were for legitimate union purposes.

Bank documents show that Woodside, through the company's lawyers Phillips Fox, made two payments totalling $59,000 which went directly into Mr Wilson's Victorian fund in June 1995.

Mr Wilson controlled two slush funds, one in Victoria and the other in Perth which Ms Gillard helped set up.

'Birther' slur is a feeble ploy to bury AWU issue

The Australian, November 23, 2012

FORMER leaders play an invaluable part in civic life as elder statesmen. Bob Hawke, John Howard and Paul Keating are valued contributors to our national debate while Kim Beazley serves Australia as ambassador in Washington. Another former Labor leader, Mark Latham, chooses to serve his country as an eccentric commentator, reminding voters with each contribution of a fundamental strength of our democracy - the voters always get it right.

Latham derides anyone who takes an interest in the AWU/Slater & Gordon issue as a "birther" - equating them to US extremists who doubt Barack Obama's birth certificate. But he was exposed when his latest birther rant appeared on the front page of The Australian Financial Review yesterday alongside a prominent story quoting Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten. Mr Shorten, a former AWU boss and one of the factional powers behind Julia Gillard, is no birther. Yet he told the ABC's Lateline program the association Ms Gillard helped to establish, which was used as a secret slush fund, was "unauthorised by the union". Mr Shorten said the fund was "inappropriate" and "out of bounds".

This gives the lie to Mr Latham's attack on this newspaper, a range of journalists, and anyone else who dares ask questions about this matter. He knows full well that public interest in this matter was reignited by the Prime Minister's former attorney-general and current ALP backbencher Robert McClelland. He must also know many union officials and Labor MPs are privately concerned. To dismiss this unsettling issue as an extremist invention is not a serious defence.

Mr Latham also seeks to absolve Ms Gillard from one of the most important questions in this affair on spurious grounds. This is the question of whether - once she was concerned about the activities of her boyfriend Bruce Wilson in 1995 - Ms Gillard should have alerted the police or the AWU to the existence of the slush fund. Mr Latham says lawyer-client privilege would have prevented Ms Gillard from doing so. He fails to comprehend that Slater & Gordon's client was the AWU, not Wilson. Neither the AWU nor Slater & Gordon had been aware of Ms Gillard's work establishing Wilson's slush fund. Ms Gillard is yet to explain what action she took to alert the AWU or police to the slush fund.

While Mr Latham fancifully complains the coverage intrudes into the personal, our investigations have been strictly confined to professional conduct. Further, our revelations have been supported by documentary evidence. Many in the Canberra press gallery ignore or talk down this story. It is hard for them to persist now the ABC has been either shamed or ordered into serious coverage. Many of the naysayers are close to elements of the cabinet and union movement united in their antipathy towards Kevin Rudd. They, like Mr Latham, seek to delegitimise the story for fear it could precipitate a Rudd leadership return.

But this is not a proper consideration for journalists. The Australian is not interested in the political repercussions for those involved. We are interested, on behalf of the public, in exposing the truth. The implications, however minor or significant they turn out to be, can sort themselves out. As they happen, we will dutifully report on them.

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