Gillard launches attack on Blewitt
Prime Minister Julia Gillard launches an extraordinary, blistering attack on Ralph Blewitt as the Opposition ups the ante over the AWU affair.PT4M48S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2a4ae 620 349 November 27, 2012
THE Prime Minister might have devoutly wished her marathon media conference and intensive parliamentary grilling would be the last word on the AWU slush fund scandal, but her responses on two key issues have ensured her wish will not be granted.
Ms Gillard's confirmation that she was representing infamous union cronies Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt - and not the union they supposedly represented - when she advised on the setting up of the now notorious AWU Workplace Reform Association raises a rash of fresh questions about the wisdom and appropriateness of her role.
And in refusing to deny that she wrote to WA authorities in mid-1992 vouching for the bona fides of the slush fund, Ms Gillard remains exposed to further accusations that her role was more substantial than admitted.
Indeed, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop was hammering both issues no sooner had Ms Gillard ended her media conference with a triumphant flourish and headed straight into parliamentary question time.
As a salaried partner at Slater & Gordon in the early 1990s, Ms Gillard was both a lawyer representing the AWU and the girlfriend of Mr Wilson, the union's WA and later Victorian branch secretary.
But she made clear at her media conference that it was Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt, his successor as WA secretary, who were her clients when she advised on the incorporation of the Workplace Reform Association - from which the pair later stole in excess of $400,000.
She said the role of the association - which she has branded a slush fund but which was incorporated as a body to promote workplace safety - was to promote the pair's re-election in the union. ''Did I need to separately advise the AWU this was occurring? Of course I didn't. The people I was dealing with were elected officials of the AWU,'' she said.
That was not the view of her senior partners at Slater & Gordon, who came close to sacking her when they discovered in 1995 the work she had done without keeping a formal file or taking their advice, and not the view of the AWU national leadership who sought a royal commission when the full magnitude of the scandal was exposed in early 1996.
Ms Gillard can expect further scrutiny over her part in establishing the association after refusing to deny in Parliament that she had been instrumental in securing approval for the incorporation of the association by writing to dispel concerns of WA Corporate Affairs Commission about its bona fides.
She said the correspondence referred to in an Age report in October had not been produced ''and so it's a claim that has been made but no correspondence has been produced''.
Ms Bishop has now flagged the opposition will pursue Ms Gillard not just on the allegation of breaching AWU rules in the setting up of the association, but also for allegedly breaching the WA Associations Incorporation Act and creating a false document.
Ms Gillard defended herself by portraying Ralph Blewitt not only as the bumbling fraudster of his own admission but also as a sex fiend, an imbecile, an idiot, a stooge, a sexist pig, a liar, a crook and someone who was ''rotten to the core''.
This, of course, was the same Ralph Blewitt in whom Ms Gillard apparently saw no character issues when her legal advice was used to install him as frontman for perhaps the biggest union rort in Australian history.