The Princess and The Pea
I can't help thinking about the Princess and the pea. You remember that old Hans Christian Andersen fable? It's been on my mind a bit lately.
There's our dear leader lying on a dozen soft mattresses, yet she can't sleep at night. There's a pea under the lowest mattress that keeps irritating her. No matter how hard she tries to ignore it, that pea will not go away.
Cartoonists think in images and metaphors. This one will probably become a cartoon.
The pea is Gillard's past. Her murky affair with a crook in the mid-1990s keeps coming back to haunt her. Why? Because she refuses to answer questions about it. There are so many questions and no answers. Her only official responses have been general brush-offs such as, "I was young and naive" and "please refer to my previous answer" (ie. "I was young and naive").
If you're not up on the enveloping scandal, Julia Gillard was a union lawyer and partner working at Slater & Gordon in Victoria in the early to mid 1990s. She handled the affairs of the Australian Workers Union (AWU), the most powerful union in the country; the same union that recently arranged for the knifing of popularly elected sitting PM, Kevin Rudd, to replace him with the union-aligned Gillard.
While working for the AWU at Slater & Gordon, Gillard fell for then AWU official, Bruce Wilson. Wilson had Gillard set up an incorporated association in WA. She has confirmed this (but says she did not know what it was used for). Her handwriting is on the documents.
This was a dummy association, a fraud. It was set up without any authorisation from the AWU. Then lawyer Gillard did not consult the AWU about it. She applied for it to be named the AWU Workplace Reform Association knowing it was not within the rules of the AWU and that a union cannot be an association. That dummy incorporated association was then used to set up a bank account for the purpose of siphoning hundreds of thousands of dollars from a West Australian Government training scheme, the Building Construction Industry Training Fund (BCTIF) into which developers and contractors paid a levy meant to fund training in the construction industry.
Wilson funnelled funds meant to train construction workers into the bank account of the Gillard-established dummy association for his own benefit. He arranged for developers such as Thiess to pay into this account which became Wilson's personal cash cow for expenditures such as a home purchase at 85 Kerr Street, Fitzroy, (in the name of Wilson's partner in the bank account, fellow unionist, Ralph Blewitt, with Wilson's signature on the cheque), renovations and thousands of dollars spent at a women's fashion house.
Gillard arranged for a large loan on the Kerr Street house from her law firm, Slater and Gordon and for the conveyancing.
The bank account operated between April 1992 and April 1995 at which time the fraud began to unravel when tradesmen and contractors pursued the AWU for unpaid renovation works at the Kerr Street house (where Wilson and Gillard were reported to be living, according to union witnesses at the time), and on Gillard's Abbottsford home. The AWU had no idea what these unpaid invoices were for. They had not contracted the works.
AWU officials Bill Ludwig and Ian Cambridge went straight to the lawyers and had a 38 page itemised forensic affidavit drawn up by then partner at Sydney firm Turner Freeman, Robert McClelland, who later got dumped by Gillard as Attorney General when he backed Rudd, not her, at the last leadership ballot. The police needed more evidence on the house. Slater and Gordon closed ranks, refused to release the files based on 'client privilege', with the client being Ralph Blewitt, Wilson's partner. Those files remain hidden - possibly until now.
The accounts operated by Wilson and Blewitt, established by Gillard's dummy association, have been described by Ludwig and Cambridge as 'unauthorised', 'invalid', 'irregular' and used for 'possibly illegal purposes'.
Ian Cambridge (now a Fair Work Australia Commissioner), swore in the McClelland-prepared affidavit, "I am unable to understand how Slater & Gordon, who were then acting for the Victoria Branch of the Union, could have permitted the use of funds which were obviously taken from the union, in the purchase of private property of this nature, without seeking and obtaining proper authority from the union".
Gillard was sacked from Slater and Gordon. The firm tried to distance itself from the affair. She never practised law again and was unemployed for six months, later getting a Joan Kirner arranged job in the Victorian Opposition Leader, John Brumby's office to try to resurrect her fortunes. The Kerr Street house was soon sold and the money from the sale never recovered by the AWU (believed to have benefited Wilson). Wilson and Blewitt were removed from the AWU. Blewitt ended up in self imposed exile in Asia. Wilson is believed to have changed his identity and hiding out as a cook in a club in Newcastle in NSW.
In 2007, Sunday Telegraph reporter, Glenn Milne interviewed then deputy opposition leader Julia Gillard about this unresolved affair. Rather than clarify, she went on to say she was 'young and naive' at the time she was involved. Her birth date shows she was around 34 - 35 years old at the time (1993 - 1995) and a partner in an industrial law firm working for the biggest and most powerful union in the country. Young and naive? How many law firms appoint young and naive people as partners?
Unsatisfied (like an itch that needs constant scratching), Milne revisited the story a year ago for The Australian in print and online.
Gillard went ballistic. She called News Ltd Chairman, John Hartigan at 8:00 am on the morning of publication, August 29, 2011, making threats and demands. She threatened a UK style phone hacking enquiry and media regulation unless he (a) pulled the story from the online edition (b) issued an apology and (c) assured her the story would never see the light of day again. Hartigan complied with the first two of her three demands. The last thing he wanted was Rupert put through the wringer in Australia, too. Radio 2UE broadcaster, Michael Smith was about to interview former AWU official, Bob Kernohan, who had signed an affidavit exposing much of the scandal. Kernohan has been bashed and had bullets mailed to him as he has sought to recover the missing monies and hold Wilson, Blewitt and Gillard to account. Smith's interview was pulled at the last minute before it was due to go to air, believed to be by intervention from senior management. Smith was sacked from 2UE. It had been previously cleared by lawyers. Some other force had intervened senior management.
Irritated, then angered by Gillard's threats and muzzling of the free press, legendary Aussie cartoonist Larry Pickering has been digging deep and spoken to many of those involved. Some weeks ago, he established a new investigative website, The Pickering Post (www.pickeringpost.com). Here, he would run stories others feared to run. Larry asked me to get involved as a contributor and co-founder and editor. I've seen first hand the documents and material that support the story(s). I've witnessed dozens of correspondence emails. I've come to the conclusion the Prime Minister was not as 'young and naive' as she would like us all to believe.
The Pickering Post launched with the headline, Gillard: The Story She Tried To Kill.
• Union Corruption
• Fraudulent Accounts
• 'Young and Naive' Law Partner
• Media Threats
• Serious Questions To Answer
Five days later, radio broadcaster, Alan Jones devoted a half hour to the story, on Sydney's highest rating morning program, reading word-for-word from The Pickering Post. Andrew Bolt is now running regular updates on the scandal on his blog page and has revisited it on Channel 10's Bolt Report. This past weekend The Weekend Australian splashed as its lead story that bagman Ralph Blewitt has returned from Malaysia to tell all (first revealed in The Pickering Post nearly three weeks ago).
It was Blewitt's files that Slater and Gordon refused to release to the police for investigation into the house and Gillard's involvement. Now Blewitt is ready to sing like a canary for police in exchange for indemnity. This is about to explode. Gillard replied by trying to discredit Blewitt. Wayne Swan says there is nothing in it (but how would he know unless he has seen the Blewitt files, which he hasn't?) and Bill Shorten was quoted as saying, "I know at the time my predecessors certainly did take all the material to West Australian and Victorian police and what I understand is those authorities chose not to take the matter any further, not to prosecute".
Former AWU National Secretary Bill Shorten knows why the police could not go further. Slater & Gordon claimed 'client privilege' on the Blewitt files and would not release them, which will now soon come to light along with other material. Shorten also well knows it was not before his time. According to Kernohan, Shorten who was an AWU organiser at the time of the fraud was one of those who argued to keep a lid on the whole affair. In short, Shorten knows and is involved much more than he is letting on. There's good reason why Shorten's temper is inexplicably exploding in an innocuous pie shop as this scandal threatens to engulf this Prime Minister, the ALP, the unions and his own Prime Ministerial ambitions.
There's more, much more to come on this story.
This will be a gripping TV series some day.
It's got power, it's got corruption, it's got sex, it's got politics, it involves an Australian Prime Minister - Australia's first female Prime Minister - it involves media threats, intimidation, journalists losing their job, unionists being bashed and bullets sent in the mail, it's got fear, intrigue, reprisals, high drama, it has it all.
Better than anything on Underbelly.