Monday, August 20, 2012

The end of Gillard as PM?

She has repeatedly failed to address the salient points. She has had Journalists sacked for asking these questions. Is this the end?



Column: AWU scandal - the questions Gillard must answer



EACH time Julia Gillard is asked about a union corruption scandal involving her then-boyfriend and client, she gives the same non-answer.
The Australian got it last week: the Prime Minister “was not involved in any wrongdoing and has dealt with these allegations previously”.
Same from her yesterday on Sky: “I am not dignifying all of this scurrilous campaigning by going through these things point by point ... We are talking about matters 17 years ago, which have been dealt with on the public record for most of that time.”

Actually, they haven’t been dealt with - and Gillard’s evasions are no longer good enough. 
(Subscription required to read full column.)
UPDATE
The Australian’s Hedley Thomas asked similar questions of the Prime Minister - but with some very telling detail from what seems to me a detailed knowledge of her 1995 interview with Slater and Gordon. Read them here.

AWU scandal: Gillard’s non-answers deepen the crisis


PRIME Minister Julia Gillard is facing new leadership concerns among key cabinet and caucus supporters over the revival of an alleged 17-year-old union slush fund scandal involving her former boyfriend…
Those fears were compounded yesterday during a fiery interview on Sky’s Australian Agenda, when Ms Gillard refused to address allegations raised against her…
Slater & Gordon late yesterday released a short statement, claiming to have been given permission by Ms Gillard, confirming it conducted a review into the AWU/Wilson affair…

“The review found nothing which contradicted the information provided by Ms Gillard at the time in relation to the AWU/Bruce Wilson allegations and which she has stated consistently since the allegations were first raised.”
Allegations were raised at the weekend by a former partner at the firm, Nick Styant-Browne, suggesting Ms Gillard may have acted improperly in helping set up a slush fund for Mr Wilson…
Mr Styant-Browne said yesterday that he stood by the article and the claims made....

“I am not aware of any denial by the PM or her spokesperson of any specific allegation about what she said in the Slater & Gordon internal interview,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

Late yesterday, the firm’s managing partner, Andrew Grech, issued a statement that was elaborately qualified, as only the best lawyers know how. It stated that the firm was commenting “on the basis of records it now holds”, as none of the individuals then involved remains in the employment of Slater & Gordon.

Grech stated: “Upon the Slater & Gordon partnership learning of what has been described as the AWU/Bruce Wilson allegations in August 1995, it conducted an internal legal review, as it would do, and has done, whenever any such allegations might be made. Ms Gillard co-operated fully with the internal review and denied any wrongdoing. The review found nothing which contradicted the information provided by Ms Gillard at the time in relation to the AWU/Bruce Wilson allegations and which she has stated consistently since the allegations were first raised.”

The tone is different, but when you boil it down all of that from Grech is consistent with what Styant-Browne said. But Grech omits that as a result of the internal probe, according to Styant-Browne, the partnership “took a very serious view of these matters and accepted her resignation”.
Moreover, to say the information Gillard provided is consistent with what she’s said since is not to say Slater & Gordon endorsed what she did.
UPDATE
But Slater & Gordon’s carefully worded statement is enough to convince Michelle Grattan that all was sweet:
SLATER and Gordon, the law firm for which Julia Gillard worked in the 1990s, yesterday revealed that an internal inquiry had found nothing against herover a scandal involving her former boyfriend, Bruce Wilson.
Fellow Fairfax reporter Phillip Coorey goes even further:
JULIA GILLARD’S former employer Slater & Gordon has cleared the Prime Minister of wrongdoing following claims she left the law firm due to an internal investigation into legal work she did for her then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson, a union boss accused of corruption.

The law firm released a statement yesterday saying that Ms Gillard had co-operated fully with the investigation in 1995, denied any wrongdoing, and that this was upheld.
That’s a very odd way to paraphrase what Slater & Gordon actually said:
The review found nothing which contradicted the information provided by Ms Gillard at the time in relation to the AWU/Bruce Wilson allegations and which she has stated consistently since the allegations were first raised.

UPDATE
The Financial Review is less eager than Grattan, Coorey, Insiders and Peter van Onselen to excuse and move on:
A decade and a half later, there is no evidence to reject the now Prime Minister’s claim that she did nothing wrong. Yet the unanswered questions from this controversy are clearly a legitimate matter of public interest.

An agitated Ms Gillard yesterday sought to shut down ­questions about the matter, claiming it was dealt with on the public record 15 years ago. She said that she would not dignify a scurrilous and malicious internet campaign against her, arguing that the issue had nothing to do with her responsibilities as Prime Minister today…
But as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott noted yesterday, the issue has bubbled to the surface following comments made in federal Parliament two months ago by former attorney-general Senator Robert McClelland and reported by The Australian Financial Review…
Contrary to Ms Gillard’s protests, the media has not asked enough hard questions about her matter.
UPDATE
...it’s impossible to ignore new statements by a former partner at Slater & Gordon. Nick Styant-Browne says Gillard resigned from the law firm after an official internal review of her work for allegedly corrupt former Australian Workers Union leader Bruce Wilson – her then boyfriend as well as her client.
This clearly challenges Gillard’s reputation for personal and professional integrity. Given the focus on union corruption after the Health Services Union scandal, it’s going to arouse a lot of attention....
But Gillard’s fundamental problem has not been the campaign, no matter how vicious. It’s the detail of the allegations and how that comes across to most voters and her own party....
Despite her angry insistence yesterday that these allegations are “nonsense” and have been dealt with previously, Styant-Browne’s version was both new and news.
UPDATE

PARTNERS in law firms who undertake work for clients without opening a file are embarking on a course of action that could cause friction with their partners.
Senior law firm partners have warned that unless files are opened on new matters the risk-management procedures used by most law firms can be bypassed—potentially exposing other partners to damages claims.
This could also result in the loss of major clients because most firms usually had strict protocols in place that prevented files being opened until a search had confirmed there was no conflict of interest, they said.
These consequences have been outlined by partners at several firms ... after it was revealed in The Weekend Australian that Julia Gillard left law firm Slater & Gordon 17 years ago after the firm learned she had undertaken work without opening a file. Ms Gillard, a salaried partner at the time, left the firm after an internal investigation into that work, which was undertaken for her then boyfriend Bruce Wilson, a union boss accused of corruption.
The Prime Minister repeatedly has denied that she was involved in any wrongdoing.


How Gillard came to insult Kelly


 Julia Gillard insulted Paul Kelly on television, making a critical error. It wasn’t the only mistake, however: 
The interview went like this: PK: “Well, I think when accusations are made about the integrity of a prime minister, going to the professional position she had before she came into politics, surely that is relevant?” JG: “And, Paul, I did nothing wrong. Are you challenging that?” PK: “No, I’m just asking questions.” JG: “Well, and this is the issue, isn’t it? Because I understand you are being asked to ask questions today.” PK: “No, no, I’m sorry. There’s no one asking me to ask questions.” JG: “Right. Well, that wasn’t my advice from a little bit earlier before this show.” PK: “I’m sorry, Prime Minister. I ask my own questions.”
Kelly does not ask anyone’s questions but his own.
Van Onselen yesterday explained Gillard’s staff simply misheard Kelly: 
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Now it seems Gillard’s staff actually misheard van Onselen, too:
Both he and Kelly let one of the PM’s staffers know before the interview that “we have to ask the PM about this”, referring to her time at Slater & Gordon and her relationship with former union official Bruce Wilson. Somewhere in transmission “have to” came to mean “told to”. “Telling the PM’s staffer was meant as a courtesy,” says van Onselen. “It was on Page 1 of The Weekend Australian, so of course we were going to ask about it.”


Has Gillard permitted Slater & Gordon to release the interview?


 On Saturday:
Nick Styant-Browne, a former equity partner of the firm, broke a 17-year silence yesterday to reveal that the firm’s probe included a confidential formal interview with the Prime Minister - then an industrial lawyer - on September 11, 1995, which was ”recorded and transcribed”.
In the interview, Ms Gillard stated that she could not categorically rule out that she had personally benefited from union funds in the renovation of her Melbourne house, according to Mr Styant-Browne.
On Sunday: 
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On Monday:
Does Gillard’s permission extend to the recorded and transcribed record of her interview with Slater & Gordon’s partners in 1995, and can the firm please release it?

How Gillard left Slater & Gordon: comparing the stories

 Story 1 - statement today from Andrew Grech, Managing Director Slater & Gordon: 

Ms Gillard worked in the industrial department of Slater & Gordon in 1988 through to 1995....
Upon the Slater & Gordon partnership learning of what has been described as the AWU/Bruce Wilson allegations in August 1995, it conducted an internal legal review as it would do, and has done, whenever any such allegations might be made.
Ms Gillard co-operated fully with the internal review and denied any wrong doing.
The review found nothing which contradicted the information provided by Ms Gillard at the time in relation to the AWU/Bruce Wilson allegations and which she has stated consistently since the allegations were first raised.
In September 1995 Ms Gillard took a leave of absence from Slater & Gordon in order to campaign for the Senate.
Ms Gillard’s resignation from the firm became effective on 3 May 1996 when, Slater & Gordon understands, she commenced employment with the then Victorian Opposition leader as an advisor.
Story 2 - last week:
JULIA Gillard left her job as a partner with law firm Slater & Gordon as a direct result of a secret internal probe in 1995 into controversial work she had done for her then boyfriend, a union boss accused of corruption, The Weekend Australian can reveal.
Nick Styant-Browne, a former equity partner of the firm, broke a 17-year silence yesterday to reveal that the firm’s probe included a confidential formal interview with the Prime Minister - then an industrial lawyer - on September 11, 1995, which was “recorded and transcribed”.
In the interview, Ms Gillard stated that she could not categorically rule out that she had personally benefited from union funds in the renovation of her Melbourne house, according to Mr Styant-Browne.
She said in the interview that she believed she had paid for all the work and materials, and had receipts, which she later produced.
The firm’s probe revolved around Ms Gillard’s work since mid-1992 for the Australian Workers Union and her then boyfriend - the AWU ambitious leader at the time, Bruce Wilson - as well as her direct role in establishing the AWU Workplace Reform Association for Mr Wilson…
Story 3:
From the Australian Parliament’s biography: 

Solicitor 1987-95; Partner 1990-95.
Chief of Staff to the Victorian Leader of the Opposition, J Brumby, MLA 1995-98.
From the National Archives:

Employment:
Solicitor (1987–95); Partner (1990–95); Chief of Staff to the Victorian Leader of the Opposition, J Brumby, MLA (1995–98)
Story 4 - from 1995: 
Phil Gude in the Victorian Parliament, October 1995:
I am informed that Ms Gillard is no longer with Slater and Gordon due to commitments as an ALP Senate candidate. That may not be the only reason she is no longer working at Slater and Gordon.
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Story 5 - from Jacqueline Kent’s biography The Making of Julia Gillard, Prime Minister:
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