JULIE BISHOP started the day alleging the Prime Minister was like a bank robber's knowing accomplice who had benefited from the heist - a Bonnie to her then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson's, Clyde. ''She provided the stolen vehicle, she drove him to the bank and she looked away while he robbed the bank,'' she told her party room, according to the official party spokesman.
''She [the Prime Minister] and Wilson and [sidekick Ralph] Blewitt wanted to hide from the AWU the fact that an unauthorised entity was being set up to siphon funds for their benefit and not for the benefit of the AWU, '' she told reporters.
AWU slush fund mystery
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AWU slush fund mystery
Former AWU boss Bruce Wilson speaks out in Julia Gillard's defence, as the opposition weighs how far to take its attack on the AWU slush fund controversy.
But by day's end the deputy Liberal leader was trying to make her own get-away from her defamatory and unproven allegations. No, she was not alleging that the Prime Minister had benefited personally from the fraud perpetrated by her then boyfriend. No, she was not even suggesting the Prime Minister had been a ''knowing party'' to it.
Her allegation had shrunk to the Prime Minister being a ''knowing party to breaches of the laws in Western Australia'' because she had provided legal advice which led to the improper incorporation of an association.
The main reason for the possible breach, Ms Bishop said, was because the application to set up the association - prepared in 1992 with Ms Gillard's advice - claimed it was for the purpose of the ''development of changes to work to achieve safe workplaces'' when in fact it was a slush fund from which Wilson and Blewitt took money.
But in another part of the same document - a 1996 affidavit that has been publicly available since July - it lists objectives broad enough to encompass almost anything, including ''to support and assist union members and union members who are contributing to the adoption of the aims of the association and its policies''.
Since the association had only two members (Blewitt and Wilson) and they are alleged to have siphoned up to $400,000 from various bank accounts associated with it, it certainly achieved that.
The reason these allegations have hung around is the available evidence allows a circumstantial case to be built against Ms Gillard. The reason they have never amounted to anything is that there is - to date - no evidence to prove wrongdoing.
The Coalition's broader political purpose was also clear in Ms Bishop's party room speech, which linked the 17-year old affair with the recent explosive HSU scandal.
''Perhaps if your life experience is with dodgy union officials,'' she said, ''you are more comfortable standing next to Craig Thomson,'' she said.
Union misdemeanours are fair game for the Coalition. But if you are going to accuse the Prime Minister of robbing a bank, you really need to have proof.