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PM should answer AWU matter
(letter published in The Australian Financial Review, 7 August 2012.)

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Serious questions are raised by your report (and others) that, when employed at lawyers Slater& Gordon, Prime Minister Julia Gillard was closely associated with a senior Australian Workers Union official who allegedly threatened major construction companies with union disruption unless they handed over substantial funds (“AWU tells of a costly lesson”, August 4-6).

One obvious question is what stopped the AWU from seeking recovery of the misappropriated funds after it failed in actions taken in the then Industrial Relations Court based on advice by future Attorney-General Robert McClelland.

Another is whether Gillard’s denial of benefiting can be sustained now that an associate of the AWU official has returned from Malaysia and is prepared to provide evidence publicly, subject to receiving an indemnity.

A major concern, however, is whether the threat of detailed exposures centred around the incident might have unduly influenced decisions to give unions greatly expanded powers under the Fair Work Act, which was drafted by Gillard.

Related to this is whether they might also have unduly influenced her claim, made before the just published whitewash review, that the legislation strikes the right balance.

The Australian polity is engaged in an important debate on the extent of union power, including the continued ability to disrupt. There is a clear need for the Prime Minister to make a comprehensive statement on her involvement in the AWU incident.

Des Moore Institute for Private Enterprise South Yarra Vic

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