For those who tuned in lately, ex-Labor leader Mark Latham has turned his special skills toward analysing blogger Andrew Bolt’s crusade to bring down Julia Gillard over the Slater & Gordon AWU story. Latham claims to have uncovered a series of false, ridiculous and “outright outrageous” information on Bolt’s blog, a claim rejected by Bolt in a lively exchange of emails and telephone calls between the pair.
In Friday’s Crikey, Latham tackled a series of assertions made by the News Limited polemicist. Welcome to round two of Latham’s Bolt Watch.
Bolt’s claim: “If the AWU scandal and Julia Gillard’s actions as a solicitor had been fully known and investigated at the time, it would have been impossible for Gillard to even stand for election for the Labor Party.” (October 30, 2012)
Latham’s reponse: This is a ridiculous proposition. Gillard’s actions were investigated internally by Slater & Gordon in 1995, which took no disciplinary action. The “AWU scandal” was then investigated by the police, who took no action against anyone. The Liberal Party also raised a series of allegations against Gillard in the Victorian Parliament that went nowhere.
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Without evidence of any wrongdoing (then or now), there was no reason for Gillard not to advance through the ranks of the ALP. After leaving Slater & Gordon, she became chief of staff to the Victorian Labor leader, John Brumby, and then the Labor member for Lalor in 1998. Bolt has made the claim above, not because it is true, but because it is the kind of thing his readers love to hear: don’t just attack Gillard’s prime ministership today, but seek to airbrush her entire career from Australian political history.
Bolt’s claim: “Logic suggests [Mark Baker’s] source is the publicly redacted parts of the record of interview between Gillard and her Slater & Gordon partners in 1995 — an interview in which Gillard was questioned over the file which had been found and about which the partners wanted answers. I have little doubt Baker has a copy of that record of interview, no doubt at all that he read it, and none on who showed him.” (November 13, 2012)
Latham’s response: Bolt arguably has a history of inventing claims against people. I know this from my own time in politics, when he publicly accused me of organising for a union official to abuse him in a Canberra bar. Earlier this year when tackled on this, Bolt was unable to provide proof for this claim: he thought it might have been true, so he decided to say it was true.
Now Mark Baker, a journalist at The Age, has received similar treatment. First some background: on October 13, Baker wrote of his “belief” in the existence of correspondence in 1992 between Gillard (a lawyer at Slater & Gordon) and the Western Australian Corporate Affairs Commission concerning the registration of the AWU Workplace Reform Association. Baker claimed (incorrectly) this was inconsistent with statements made by the Prime Minister in August 2012. Baker offered no source for this “belief” and subsequently, it was revealed that neither Slater & Gordon nor the WA government had any record of the correspondence.
Ever keen to support false claims against Gillard, Bolt jumped into print on November 13 (see quote above) to identify Baker’s source, claiming to have “no doubt” about it. Just one problem, when I questioned Baker about this, he wrote back to say: “Andrew Bolt knows as much about my confidential sources as you do — nothing. I have not spoken to him about any of these matters and have no intention of doing so.”
Oops. The evidence suggests Bolt is guilty of yet another invention, this time concerning a fellow journalist’s sources. He will say and do anything to get at Gillard.
Bolt’s claim: Gillard is focusing on Tony Abbott’s character as a “diversion from waste, bungling, division, deceit and allegedly corruption”. (November 13, 2012)
Latham’s response: This is a favourite Bolt technique in smearing the Prime Minister: raising a corruption allegation in the context of another issue (in this case, Abbott’s character). Based on the facts, he cannot support a charge of corruption against Gillard on the AWU matter, so he just leaves it hanging for his readers to absorb. Courage is not part of Bolt’s character. He specialises in the politics of smear.
Take, for example, his comments on Radio 2GB on November 12, when he said he was more convinced of the need for a royal commission into the AWU matter than the need for a royal commission into child s-x abuse in Australia — a bizarre and disturbing set of priorities. Bolt was so sceptical about the child abuse royal commission, his co-host Steve Price had to interrupt him to find out where he stood on the issue.
This is one of the striking features of the extreme Right: in their fanaticism about Gillard they are out of touch with public sentiment on issues like child s-x abuse, preferring to obsessively think and talk about party politics. On 2GB, Bolt even analysed the child abuse royal commission through the prism of electoral tactics and possible polling increases for Gillard. Sadly, this is what Australian conservatism has become — a morally empty cadre of political fanatics.
Bolt’s claim: “Now Blewitt tells all, it was backdated and Gillard wasn’t even there … [She witnessed] a power of attorney in favour of her then boyfriend that the donor insists was not signed in her presence or on the day she claimed.” (November 1, 2012)
In this allegation, Bolt is relying entirely on the word of Ralph Blewitt, a self-confessed fraudster who some might argue is trying to stitch up Gillard so he can secure immunity from criminal prosecution. This suits Bolt’s agenda perfectly. Mr Conservative Values is more than happy to associate himself with the likes of Blewitt, setting aside his law and order campaign in his desperation to get at Gillard. The criminal element Bolt normally condemns has become his political ally.
The facts, however, suggest this is just another Blewitt fraud. As Laura Tingle and Mark Skulley reported in the Australian Financial Review on November 10, “The Slater & Gordon documents do not support queries on the dates of the power-of-attorney documents witnessed by Ms Gillard”.