Julia Gillard: After months of acusation, nothing of relevance appears to have surfaced.
The media usually agree on big stories but The Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) scandal has split opinion over the past weeks as several prominent journalists declared the story a dead end, while others ploughed on and on.
New Matilda wrote, “The nation’s political media has become increasingly occupied with the minutiae of Julia Gillard’s involvement in a union fraud 17 years ago. Acres of newsprint and server farms worth of web space have been devoted to the issue… And what have we found out? Nothing of consequence. The current controversy about Julia Gillard’s role in a scandal in the AWU in the early 1990s has little relevance to her fitness for office, and no relevance at all to public policy.”
The AWU affair happened in the early 1990s when Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt used money donated by construction companies to the AWU Workplace Reform Association to buy a house at 85 Kerr Street, Fitzroy. The association was not illegal but because it was created “off the books” of the AWU – for Wilson and Blewitt’s re-election campaigns; it was in a grey area. It was termed a “slush fund” because some of the money was allegedly used for personal gain by Wilson and Blewitt, for example, the house at Kerr Street.
After months of media pressure Gillard has held two press conferences where she has faced journalists’ questions about the affair. No new allegations have emerged.
The latest twist in the saga has the Labor government calling on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to sack his deputy, Julie Bishop. Fairfax reports that although Ms Bishop claims her meeting with Blewitt was unplanned, she spoke on the phone with him before what she called a “chance meeting”.
“The deputy Liberal leader was trying to make her own get-away from her defamatory and unproven allegations. No, she was not alleging that the Prime Minister had benefited personally from the fraud perpetrated by her then boyfriend. No, she was not even suggesting the Prime Minister had been a ‘knowing party’ to it.”
Police have been reported to be considering the possibility of re-opening their investigations into the matters, but so far no charges have been laid and there have been no convictions. There has never been any substantiated evidence that Gillard received money from the AWU Workplace Reform Association.
Hedley Thomas of The Australian wrote a report alleging that $5000 from Wilson was deposited in Gillard’s bank account in 1995 but Thomas did not publish the supporting bank records. Wilson told Steve Lewis of News Ltd that he did not specifically recall putting the money in Gillard’s account but that it was possible.
Coverage of the story has raised concerns “about who is really running this story and what’s really motivating its players”. — Nigel Gladstone