Federal Politics


Attack in overdrive but the tank's running dry

As the Comcars rolled up the hill early on Tuesday morning, both storm clouds and a rainbow had gathered over Parliament House.

Confused? You wouldn't be the only one.

Only the day before, Julia Gillard had answered question upon question about the AWU affair, insisting she had simply provided legal advice to her then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson, about setting up a union ''slush fund'' in the 1990s. And had no knowledge of any wrongdoing.

Yet here was Julie Bishop, amid the clouds and 'bow, insisting the matter had to be ''thoroughly investigated''. ''[Gillard] created the stolen vehicle that the bank robbers took to the bank, to rob the bank,'' Bishop offered, for the sake of the nation's understanding. Then she dropped this clanger: ''The reason she didn't open a file within Slater & Gordon … was because she and Wilson and [Ralph] Blewitt wanted to hide from the AWU the fact that an unauthorised entity was being set up to siphon funds through it for their benefit.'' The getaway vehicle screeched to a halt. Yikes.

At this point, some people may have thought it wise to lay low for a decade or two.

But a few hours later, Bishop addressed reporters for a second time, noting that when she bumped into Blewitt in Melbourne last week, she saw Labor frontbencher (and Ruddite) Martin Ferguson on the same street.


''Isn't it a small world?'' she mused, allowing everyone to leap to skyscraper-sized conclusions. But just as the intrigue began to swirl, Ferguson explained he'd been having lunch with his staff on Little Bourke Street. He had never even met the infamous bagman.

On Bishop pressed. In question time, she made her third appearance of the day.

Again, she asked all the Coalition's questions. Again, they were all to Gillard on the AWU. And again, they failed to land anything like a bull's-eye. Two and a half of them were even scuttled by Speaker Anna Burke.

Meanwhile, Gillard seemed about as fussed as a hippy on a meditation retreat. ''Dear me,'' she observed.

Then, about 4pm, Bishop called another press conference, to repeat what she had just asked in Parliament.

Funnily enough, the gathered crowd was more interested in whether the Deputy Opposition Leader had earlier accused the Prime Minister of profiting from fraud.

''No, I did not say that,'' Bishop said, clarifying she had just been talking about Wilson and Blewitt.

Was Gillard a knowing party to a fraud then? ''I still have questions to ask of the Prime Minister,'' Bishop replied.

At the risk of raining on the parade, it might be time to consider a getaway Comcar.