No smoking gun but loaded words have already damaged Gillard
The gulf between the circumstantial case and anything actually linking Julia Gillard to knowingly having done something illegal as a lawyer 19 years ago is a cause of frustration among the Prime Minister's pursuers.
The opposition has been building expectations about this week, the final sitting of Parliament for 2012, and how it was going to go after the Prime Minister.
Bishop will not try to convict Gillard this week but damage her by questioning her conduct as a lawyer, her integrity and trustworthiness.
The shadow attorney-general, George Brandis, and the Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, have been teasing about new information that has come to light and Bishop, the head prosecutor, will lead the charge in the House of Representatives on Monday.
"I'm not looking for a smoking gun. I'm looking for a full and frank explanation from the Prime Minister" ... Julie Bishop. Photo: Andrew Meares
On Friday, Bishop, who has been preparing her case for weeks, played down expectations somewhat when she said: ''I'm not looking for a smoking gun.''
''I'm looking for a full and frank explanation from the Prime Minister of her role in setting up an incorporated association that ultimately led to a massive fraud being perpetrated against the Australian Workers Union by Ms Gillard's then boyfriend [Bruce Wilson] and I think the Australian people deserve to hear the Prime Minister's full and frank explanation in the Parliament as to what she knew,'' she told Laura Jayes of Sky News.
It was an effective admission that no smoking gun has been found and it was not the first.
Robert McClelland, the Labor backbencher and former attorney-general, is a rusted-on Kevin Rudd supporter who cannot abide Gillard. He gave the opposition the green light to pursue this matter in June with a speech to Parliament on union corruption.
Two decades ago, McClelland was one of the lawyers representing the Australian Workers Union against Wilson but he tells people today nothing was unearthed back then that could nail Gillard to illegality.
Wilson broke his silence on the weekend to say Gillard knew nothing of the fraud.
Yet Gillard's pursuers ask how she could set up a slush fund for Wilson, in the belief it would be for legitimate purposes, and then be unaware of the true nature of that fund for two more years.
Money from the fund was used to buy a property in Fitzroy, Melbourne. Wilson bought it and it was put in the name of his bagman, Ralph Blewitt. Gillard frequented the house when she was going out with Wilson.
When the whole scam was uncovered in 1995, Gillard said she dumped Wilson straight away. She has refuted allegations she knew the nature of the fund, knowingly benefited from it in any way, or did the conveyancing for the purchase of the Fitzroy property.
A former partner, Nick Styant-Browne, cast doubt on the latter claim last week when he stated ''that there is absolutely no doubt that Ms Gillard not only knew of the Slater & Gordon mortgage in March of 1993 but was specifically involved in taking steps to facilitate that mortgage''.
This was based on the re-emergence of a piece of paper showing she helped arrange the mortgage insurance in 1993.
Gillard told her inquisitors at Slater & Gordon in 1995, after the scandal was uncovered, that she did not know bent money was used to buy the property and she had no recollection the mortgage was done through the Slater & Gordon mortgage register. The 425-page conveyancing file shows she did not handle the conveyancing.
Bishop says Wilson's statement exonerating Gillard does not gel with the material she has seen.
''The recollections of many other people, the opinions of many other people are what counts.'' One assumes she does not mean Blewitt.
The conveyancing file contains eight documents suggesting he knew about the mortgage yet he has claimed the first he knew of it was this year.
Bishop will not try to convict Gillard this week but damage her by questioning her conduct as a lawyer, her integrity and trustworthiness, all to reinforce negative perceptions many voters have of the Prime Minister.
Bishop will ask why Gillard did not report the fraud to the police when it was uncovered and why, when setting up the fund, she thought it was legitimate when Bill Shorten, a former Australian Workers Union national secretary, said last week it was unauthorised, inappropriate and out of bounds.
And what about the $5000 that Wilson allegedly asked another official to put in Gillard's bank account?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, spoke for much of the nation when he said he found the stories on this saga so impenetrable he struggled to make it to the fifth paragraph.
But neither proof nor a thorough understanding among the public of events two decades ago matter so much. Run everything written so far through a word cloud and you would end up with ''union, slush fund, boyfriend, lawyer, corrupt, Gillard'' and that's all that needs to filter out.