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Gillard’s ex calm under pressure at unions commission

Julia Gillard’s former boyfriend appeared in front of a packed house, giving evidence regarding his (and Gillard’s) possible involvement in a union slush fund.

It was a packed hearing room in Sydney this morning when star witness Bruce Wilson took the stand at the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. Wilson, more famous for being a former boyfriend of Julia Gillard than for his role with the Australian Workers’ Union, took the stand at 10.20, looking as if he would rather be anywhere else.

However, he is proving to be a phlegmatic witness, not going down the Obeid-like path of failing to recall anything, and giving concise answers to questions. Counsel assisting Jeremy Stoljar kept suggesting that parts of his statement, as yet untendered, were false, to which Wilson issued calm denials. There’s little sign of the famous hot temper on display when he lashed out at a News Corp photographer a month ago, pushing the man on a public street.

The former union official is giving evidence about the events of 1992, when he established a secret “slush fund” with self-confessed bagman Ralph Blewitt. The fund, the Workplace Reform Association, was used to issue sham invoices to the Theiss construction company for safety services for a Perth project, none of which were provided.

This morning he admitted that he sent invoices from the AWU-WRA to Theiss for January to March 1992 even though he knew no work had been done. He told counsel assisting that this was not a problem because it was like a lawyer’s retainer. “If for whatever reason, you don’t do the work, you still send the bill, I bet.”

Under repeated questioning about this, he said that the agreement was “from the nominated start date of the contract to the nominated finish date of the contract”, irrespective of whether anything had been done.

To date, the exchanges inside the commission have been of the “he said, she said” variety, with counsel assisting trying to show that the WRA was bodging up invoices, and Wilson saying that while the work hadn’t actually been done, the invoices were entirely legitimate.

It was previously alleged in the commission that money from this fund was used to buy a house for Wilson in Melbourne, and counsel assisting has mentioned the possibility of criminal charges.

Gillard is involved because when she was at law firm Slater and Gordon, she provided legal advice for Wilson about setting up the WRA; she has denied any wrongdoing. Gillard’s biggest failing may be bad taste in men, but if that were a crime, there would be more female inmates than houseflies.

The problem for Bruce Wilson is that thanks to the activities of Michael Williamson and Craig Thomson, the public is convinced that parts of the union movement are cesspits of rorting and corruption. When it was discovered that the two former officials of the Health Services Union had used union funds for activities ranging from house renovations to escorts, the public image of union leaders took a steep nosedive. “Right-wing union powerbroker” is now a synonym for “dodger”, creating a bit of an issue for the current Opposition Leader, former AWU secretary Bill Shorten, who is inexorably being dragged into the current proceedings.

Yesterday former AWU Victorian branch president Robert Kernohan told the commission that he was  “bloody horrified” by what he had discovered about Wilson in 1996. He said that when he raised the alarm with Shorten about the alleged fraud in 1996 he was told, “think of your future. There’s been a payout, we are all just moving on.” Shorten denies this.

The biggest beneficiary of these proceedings, of course, is the Coalition government, which has paid a lot of money to have its opponents’ bad habits exposed to the public gaze. Whether it is in the public interest to have so much public money spent on this, as opposed to a topic like the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, is another matter.

The hearing continues.

31
  • 1
    Di Keller
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Whether it is in the public interest to have so much public money spent on this, as opposed to a topic like the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, is another matter.”

    Says it all really .

  • 2
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of the way Toady went after One Nation and Hanson (bank-rolled by Coleman) to prosecute and destroy her/them - then taking over their policies?
    Now he’s got a bigger wad - ours?
    Terms of reference for this witch-hunt centred on AWU (Gillard and Shorten), HSU (Thomson), and the fiery CFMEU, after his pink batts (Rudd) witch-hunt - while studiously ignoring the much more expensive Iraq (in lives and $tax)?

    Takes a bit of the “lyin’ light” of their Budget too?

  • 3
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Funny too, the relevance given to some of these unionists and conjecture, that wouldn’t get the time of day from msm any other time?

  • 4
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Di - not to mention the reallocation of funds & resources.

  • 5
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Possible Involvement? She has already admitted she was involved in the presser in the blue room last year.

    Glad Cricky is covering, not on ABC News in Brisbane last night at all.

  • 6
    Margot Saville
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Di, Klewso and AR. Was just trying to give a bit of perspective - after all, it’s our money that is paying for this.

  • 7
    Steve777
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    If unions are rife with corruption why are they raking over the coals of events that took place 20 years ago? Rhetorical question.

  • 8
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    …whether it is in the public interest to have so much public money spent on this, as opposed to a topic like the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Oh god yes! The catholic church certainly would think so; after all sexual abuse on an industrial scale is their MO and will remain so once the current dark clouds have cleared. You can bet your house on that.

  • 9
    bushby jane
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Weird that between now and then Howard already had an inquiry or whatever into the union movement and didn’t find too much let alone anything about Gillard & co noteworthy. Or perhaps this wasn’t in his usually rigged Terms of Reference. Also isn’t it amazing that the HSU whistleblower seems to be in a heap of trouble herself?

  • 10
    Edward James
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Shorten some other Labor politicians Michael Williamson for example is circling the political drain. Politics being all about perceptions the damage is already done. It will be nice to put the iceing on the cake by watching a few more dodgy Labor party members get locked up. Are any Crikey readers aware of any politician calling publicly for certain party members to be expelled? Edward James

  • 11
    Patriot
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Got caught out lying to a Royal Commission, but hey, he was calm. Winning!

  • 12
    Ken Lambert
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    The biggest beneficiary of these proceedings, of course, is the Coalition government, which has paid a lot of money to have its opponents’ bad habits exposed to the public gaze.”

    What a squalid statement from Ms Saville. As if possible criminality on the part of Trade Unionists, was just a ‘bad habit’.

    Indeed ‘invoicing’ big builders to contribute to the union election campaigns of particular union leaders is just routine ho hum stuff.

    No possible chance of the bleedingly obvious at all. No chance that big builders are paying protection money for industrial peace delivered by said union leaders? They just do it for a slushy old health and safety campaign out of the goodness of their corporate hearts.

    Gillard admitted that it was a slush fund - and she knew nuttin else….no possible idea of what boyfriend and bagman were up to….no idea because she was just a bimbo wranger with a bad taste in men.

    And pigs might fly….Ms Saville’s piece is a disgrace to so called journalism.

  • 13
    Edward James
    Posted Friday, 13 June 2014 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    What Royal Commission are you reporting Margot. Edward James michaelsmiithnews.com supporter.

  • 14
    John Taylor
    Posted Friday, 13 June 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Where did he take the stand? Did he bring the stand back again? This country is not a US legal drama. The item of apparatus referred to is called a witness box - and you get to sit down when you give your evidence.

  • 15
    AR
    Posted Friday, 13 June 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    JohnT - thank you for reminding me.
    I cannot understand why this cricket mad meeja constantly use “step up to the plate”.
    I literally cannot recall the last time that I heard “stand at the crease”.

  • 16
    Bruce Carnwell
    Posted Friday, 13 June 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Ken Lambert, I am amazed that you read Crikey. All that truth must be really troubling to you.
    I would be a little careful about your statements when clearly the ‘Liberal’ side seems to be more than a little challenged when it comes to integrity. What was it … $250k for 20hrs work, including travelling time. Gee, most people would think that was fair … :)

  • 17
    John Ryan
    Posted Friday, 13 June 2014 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Lay down with dogs Edward you get get fleas, if you and Smith are lucky she will sue you both and a lot of others into bankruptcy

  • 18
    John Ryan
    Posted Friday, 13 June 2014 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Which would be fitting end to this load of concocted rubbish.

  • 19
    Edward James
    Posted Friday, 13 June 2014 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    It’s a mistake to assume I have a different opinion of Liberal politicians John. There is a reason why I started using the term “two parties not much preferred” years ago when attacking political shonks and cheats in paid announcements. Most of them have fleas. Edward James

  • 20
    Ken Lambert
    Posted Friday, 13 June 2014 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Bruce Carnwell

    This was my comment of 3APR14 on the gentleman in question:

    This man was supposed to be John Howard’s smart gatekeeper.

    He has obviously been bought for quite a tidy sum, with a super big payday for winning Govt contracts. In some countries this would be jailable corruption through influence peddling.

    Don’t insult us with the BS about being a know-nothing Arthur. Nobody gets paid a $20 million bonus unless a killing has been made - a killing out of taxpayer’s funds somewhere.

    And just think - you are Chairman of a company and you don’t know who the owners are with Eddie Obeid’s son just hanging out for no reason?? And they pay you $200,000 for 30 hours work and $20 million bonuses and you still don’t know who the Owners are?

    How did John Howard employ such an unknowing guy??”

    I write even blunter stuff to Abbott when I see him screwing up a huge opportunity to fix the mess left by Labor.

  • 21
    PDGFD1
    Posted Friday, 13 June 2014 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Dear M. Saville,
    Speaking of corruption…
    I’d like to know why it was that the ‘vital’ (snerk) Barangaroo ‘Casino’ development was awarded to Mr. Packer’s group without going to tender.

    Similarly, I’d be delighted to know why the design (and plot ratio) for the development of this area seems to have ‘blossomed’ under the hand of the ever-present Lend Lease.

    Thanks for your work, always a pleasure to ‘clock in’ with you.

  • 22
    Edward James
    Posted Saturday, 14 June 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    There is no secret about what information runs on the web site michaelsmithnews.com The efforts of Mr Michael Smith and many of the MSN community in supporting M Bob Kernohan. With cash and considered advice and comments is the reason why the truth is finally being aired in main stream media! Like the NSW enquiry prompted by the Newcastle Herald Shine The Light series of reports, written by Joanne McCarthy and the related Federal Royal Commission into Institutional responses into child abuse put in place by failed Prime Minister Julia Gillard which Bill Hilliger above mentioned. These things happen because people are beginning to realise our politicians react out of fear, fear of being booted out of government and off the tax payer funded gravy train. In my opinion if after the next few elections at Local, State and Federal levels. There are many of the current political weeds still in government Australian voters are not exercising their votes to full effect. So many politicians have told me while I spent years protesting outside NSW State Parliament that politics is all about the voters perceptions. With that in mind the outcome of any court cases which may flow in the years to come from what is being exposed now. Should not have much effect on the next judgements of Australian voters in another place. The biggest court of them all. The peoples court of public opinion. Edward James from the long paddock, Alice Springs

  • 23
    phuque uguugle
    Posted Saturday, 14 June 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    You are so full of — it.You cut and pasted this article from the Sydney moaning herald.Bruce Wilson lied and failed to recall and generally made an fool of himself.Sadly in front of a nearly empty room.<:o)

  • 24
    Ken Lambert
    Posted Saturday, 14 June 2014 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I notice my comment at #12 which challenged Ms Saville’s credentials as a journalist has aroused no comments from the lady herself.

    If the cap fits - wear it sweetie.. (as Eddie from Abfab would say)

  • 25
    Edward James
    Posted Sunday, 15 June 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I can’t wait to get my hands on the Weekend Australian here in Alice Springs. Based on what I read last night on michaelsmithnews.com main stream media will have to do a lot of catching up if it doesn’t want to continue to be shown up by public trust journalist with access to the www and the ability to work around those who once controlled what got oxygen in the media. Edward James

  • 26
    Di Keller
    Posted Sunday, 15 June 2014 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    @ Ken Lambert

    Perhaps she didn’t rate your comment worthy of a response ? After all it was pretty ridiculous :)

  • 27
    bluepoppy
    Posted Monday, 16 June 2014 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    There is nothing wrong with having an inquiry into union corruption and in particular into whether there are sufficient accountability and transparency measures (mainly for the benefit of members).

    However, this inquiry by the Abbott government is nothing but a political action and smacks of a tit-for-tat Lab/Lib politics. When Labor wins the next election they may as well open another AWB inquiry with a broader terms of reference to ensure Howard government ministers and public servants are able to tell the full story and be held accountable. Or an inquiry into into liberal slush funds. And so it goes on.

  • 28
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 16 June 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Bluepoppy,the Royal Commission is happening because Mr Bob Kernohan found someone who cared. It helped that Mr Michael Smith had the skills and experience to go out on his own with the allegations about what Bruce Wilson and some others are alleged to have done,and covered up. Today’s Australian has a follow up from Thomas Hedleys weekend work product which is so explosive there is already a pod cast of the talk between Alan Jones and Michael Smith doing the rounds. As for claiming this is a biased Liberal party attack on Labor. That’s just silly because the allegations were first taken to liberal years ago and they dogged it perhaps because as we see now , with those liberal politicians on the central coast of NSW liberals are not above rorting slush funds too. It is interesting to note so many who are helping expose Wilson Gillard and shorten are or were labor party stalwarts. This is about exposing criminals when it gets into court the judge won’t be bothered by political membership unless it’s old mate Bernard Murphy perhaps. Edward James

  • 29
    Di Keller
    Posted Monday, 16 June 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    @ Edward James . It has taken years because they still can’t find good old fashioned hard evidence . Someone saw someone with a wad of cash?? As against actual bank cheques ?? Please !! What you are trying to drum up support does’t even remotely make sense. You don’t put black money into bank accounts so you can write cheques. Haha!! If Julia Gillard was as dodgy as you claim, that would be rule number 1 :)

    This whole thing is just wasting a whole heap of money that could be put to far better use. Plus maybe just taking away interest in far more important issues. ?

    I really wish you just would take your delusional, vengeful posse and ride off into the sunset.

  • 30
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 16 June 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    From the time Mr Bob Kernohan approached Mr Michael Smith is only a few years. Michael Smith has been able to expose evidence not hearsay which is what got the interest of the Victorian Police fraud squad. The ones who obtained a search warrant for the premises of Slater & Gordon. old mate Wilson will need to prove there was no illegal activity if he is to keep the documents sized with that confidential. Up to date Wilson has made admissions which would be funny if the allegations were not so serious. I think Hadley Thomas covered things so far with this Exclusive front page above the fold weekend Australian. Bid to send AWU inquiry down side show ally destined to fail. Anyone with internet access may click michaelsmithnews.com where they can access electronic copies of much of the information including one important AWU cheque which Ralph Blewitt deposited with Slater and Gordon which was used in the purchase of the house in Kerr Street Fitzroy. If people are interested in informing themselves they can access a published copy of the written approach which Michael Smith made to the law society with his concerns about how union money could be used in the private purchase of a house. There is heaps of access to documents and information which is being used to build a fence around alleged criminals. One thing for sure these people are already finished politically. The balance of their defence is an attempt to limit any penalties in another place. I may even buy today’s Australian just to see how much is being heaped up on some of the one time top Labor players. I must remind you I have no better opinion of Liberal. Edward James

  • 31
    Edward James
    Posted Monday, 16 June 2014 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    @Di Keller when as sometime happens a person is found to be corrupt. Guilty of perjury as a policeman or being bought when it comes to making decisions in court, which are assumed to be based entirely on the relevant facts. Sometimes their decisions as Judges and evidence as policemen and women is vacated. While Julia Gillard was Prime Minister , I wonder can we be certain she did not make any decisions which may need to be vacated. Should she be exposed as unfit to have held such a high public office? Now that would be important I reckon. Edward James

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