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PM goes on attack in AWU episode

Date

Chris Johnson

Julia Gillard.

Julia Gillard. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Prime Minister Julia Gillard blunted the opposition's attack over the Australian Workers Union scandal on Monday, savaging her chief accuser - union official Ralph Blewitt - in the process.

Ms Gillard staged another lengthy media conference about her involvement in a two-decade-old slush fund before question time on Monday.

She boldly denied any wrongdoing in the establishment of the union fund that was subsequently rorted.

Some of the money was allegedly used for fraudulent purposes by Ms Gillard's boyfriend at the time, Bruce Wilson, and his fellow union official Mr Blewitt.

Mr Blewitt has suggested Ms Gillard knowingly benefited from the association's funds.

''Mr Blewitt admits to using the services of prostitutes in Asia. Mr Blewitt has published lewd and degrading comments and accompanying photographs of young women on his Facebook page,'' Ms Gillard said.

''Mr Blewitt, according to people who know him, has been described as a complete imbecile, an idiot, a stooge, a sexist pig, a liar, and his sister has said he's a crook and rotten to the core.

''His word against mine? Make your mind up,'' she said.

''There's been a lot of focus on what I should have reported to authorities at that time. Well, you can't report things you do not know.''

She insisted she merely gave legal advice as a Slater & Gordon solicitor in 1995 on the incorporation of the AWU Workplace Reform Association.

Ms Gillard said she did not set up the slush fund.

''My role was as a legal adviser, providing advice about the incorporation of that association.

''I did not set up a fund, I did not set up a bank account. Any such claim about me is a defamatory claim.'' Ms Gillard fielded questions for 45 minutes while at times arguing with journalists.

She also took the opportunity to state that the only reason the issue was still alive was because the Coalition had embarked on a ''sleaze and smear'' campaign.

Ms Gillard said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's strategy was to bring down the government and have an early election, but his negative campaign, particularly against the carbon tax, was running out of puff.

''In those circumstances they've got to insert something in the vacuum, and what they've determined to insert in the vacuum is smear and sleaze, and we will see that on display during this final sitting week,'' she said.

Mr Abbott, who earlier in the day had called for Ms Gillard to explain herself, remained silent throughout question time.

He instead left the opposition's attack to his deputy Julie Bishop, who asked nine questions about the AWU scandal without landing a blow on the Prime Minister.

Ms Bishop asked why Ms Gillard had given legal advice to Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt on the incorporation of the association when ''she must have known'' it was in contravention of union rules.

''Will the Prime Minister now admit that she was fully aware of AWU rules about the authorisation to set up entities and bank accounts bearing the name of the union, and that the AWU Workplace Reform Association breached those union rules?'' Ms Bishop asked.

But the attack went nowhere.

Mr Wilson has stated publicly that Ms Gillard knew ''absolutely nothing'' about any misuse of the union fund.

And on Monday, Ms Gillard said she had no recollection of receiving a $5000 deposit into her account from Mr Wilson, as was reported by The Australian newspaper.

She said she had made inquiries with the Commonwealth Bank but was told by the bank that it was not possible to get records from 17 years ago.

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