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Nov 21, 2012

Latham's Bolt Watch: meep, meep, it's Coyote and the Road Runner

To examine the criticisms by Andrew Bolt and others (including Julie Bishop) that Julia Gillard should have reported to police about her ex-boyfriend's "slush fund", Mark Latham speaks to the Victorian Legal Services Commissioner, Michael McGarvie.


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.

Welcome to round three of Latham’s Bolt Watch …

Bolt’s claims: “[Julia] Gillard’s failure to go to the police may have helped her ex-boyfriend [Bruce Wilson] get away with more cash.” (November 5, 2012) / “[Gillard should] have gone to authorities when she knew of her boyfriend’s scams … because it was the law.” (November 4, 2012) / “Gillard should have gone to the police.” (November 4, 2012)

Latham’s response: In dealing with the various allegations against the Prime Minister in the Slater & Gordon matter, it is prudent to check the facts with the relevant legal and government authorities. Accordingly, I contacted the Legal Services Commissioner in Victoria, Michael McGarvie (the official who regulates lawyers and deals with ethical complaints against the legal profession) for comment on the obligations of lawyers in dealing with clients who may have broken the law.

While he would not reflect on the specifics of the Julia Gillard/Slater & Gordon matter, he was willing to answer the following hypothetical question: If a lawyer acts for a client and provides advice for the establishment of some kind of financial instrument but then years later believes that the client, in their use of the instrument, may have broken the law, such as in defrauding money, what are the lawyer’s obligations to report this matter to the police?

McGarvie answered: “The lawyer has a duty of confidentiality to the client, meaning that he or she is under no obligation to report the client to the police. The lawyer has a permanent obligation not to disclose material relating to a person for whom they have acted.”

Given the number of media outlets (not just Bolt) who have made allegations against Gillard on the question of reporting Wilson to the police, one might reasonably expect McGarvie to have received a high volume of inquiries from journalists seeking comment. He is, after all, the key authority in Victoria dealing with questions of lawyer/client obligations and ethics. McGarvie said I was the first person in the media to contact him on this particular issue.

Bolt is wrong in saying that Gillard was obliged under the law to report Wilson to the police. It was beyond his research capacity and duty of care to his readers to pick up the phone and ask for McGarvie’s opinion. That is, Bolt is not interested in hard evidence in spraying around allegations against the Prime Minister. He just invents claims for their political impact — smearing rather than reporting. He owes Gillard a retraction and apology.

Unfortunately, the Bolt technique is common among the Murdoch press. For example, Chris Kenny (a former Liberal chief of staff and failed Liberal preselection candidate who now writes for The Australian), has also claimed Gillard was obliged to report Wilson to the police. He argued this point on Sky News on November 12. He too failed to contact the Victorian Legal Services Commissioner. He too owes Gillard a retraction and apology.

On the Sky News Viewpoint program on November 14, Kenny asked the deputy Liberal leader, Julie Bishop, about Gillard’s obligation to report Wilson to the police. Bishop replied that anyone arguing against this proposition “shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the obligations, the legal obligations of a lawyer and the obligations of a lawyer as an officer of the court. It also overlooks the citizen’s duty to inform authorities when you know there’s been a wrongdoing.” She obviously thinks she knows more about legal ethics than the Victorian Legal Services Commissioner.

Last month in Parliament, Bishop asked the Prime Minister questions without notice based on “professional conduct and practice rules … as a practising lawyer in the state of Victoria”, again asserting that Gillard had an obligation to go to the police. Bishop’s questions were based on a falsehood, a significant blow to her credibility as a parliamentarian.

Bolt’s claim: “This is money that essentially came from taxpayers.” (Radio 2GB, November 19, 2012)

Latham’s response: Bolt is making false claims faster than Bolt Watch can scrutinise them. In claiming that the money paid into the AWU Workplace Reform Association (the so-called “slush fund”) came from taxpayers, Bolt is repeating one of the myths presented on his favourite website, Michael Smith News. The Bolt/Smith argument is that Western Australian taxpayers paid training and workplace safety funds to the construction company Thiess which, in turn, paid them into the AWU-WRA.

Colin Barnett’s Liberal Western Australian government, however, has rejected this claim. On October 31 its Minister for Training and Workforce Development, Murray Cowper, answered Smith’s complaint on this issue by writing:

“Whilst there is documentary evidence that the Building and Construction Industry Training Board committed $516,000 to a training project involving Thiess Contractors at the Dawesville Cut in 1993 and 1994, there is no evidence to substantiate that any embezzlement of those funds occurred … Given that 18 years has elapsed since the project and what records are available indicate that training outcomes were actually achieved from the funding, I can see no justification in taking any further action.”

That’s a Liberal Minister dismissing the nonsense peddled by Smith and Bolt. Again, the evidence suggests Bolt has invented this claim — a worrying pattern of fabrication on all things Gillard.

Bolt’s claims: “Julia Gillard is suddenly in deep trouble over the slush fund”, (November 5, 2012) / “Gillard is now tripping over the internal contradictions of her story. Still coming, revelations on another front”, (November 9, 2012)

Latham’s response: Bolt even makes false claims about his false claims. Since the Slater & Gordon matter was resurrected in August, Bolt has regularly forecast the Prime Minister’s demise. Every week, the knockout blow is coming next week. Watching Bolt trying to catch Gillard is like watching the Coyote and Road Runner cartoon. Bolt sets a new trap every second day and Gillard easily skips free. Meep. Meep.



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36 thoughts on “Latham’s Bolt Watch: meep, meep, it’s Coyote and the Road Runner

  1. Edward James

    Perhaps reading the above string from Mark Latham. It is a good thing voters are not required to rely on the law courts for the information which influences their votes. Edward James


    Why does Crikey give over so much space to Mark Latham

  3. Edward James

    He was chosen then bailed on those who elected him. That alone makes him a resource for Crikey. Is he paid or like the rest of us subscribers? But he dose have a point when he tells Crikey readers he contacted the Legal Services Commissioner in Victoria, Michael McGarvie (the official who regulates lawyers and deals with ethical complaints against the legal profession) for comment on the obligations of lawyers in dealing with clients who may have broken the law. Edward James

  4. heysoos

    Seems obvious to me – Andy’s in love with Julia and Julia is not reciprocating – poor Andy.

  5. Edward James

    With Labor nationally stinking and rotting from the head down like a dead fish. They and their supporters must be so enamored with all those members Williamson, Thomson, Obied, Sir Lunch a lot Mcdonald, Roozendaal and those others caught rorting payment claims who are working so hard at bringing the Labor Party into disrepute. Edward James

  6. geomac62

    Posted Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Why does Crikey give over so much space to Mark Latham
    Could you elaborate as to what your above comment means ? Do you resent Latham the person or the topic he is writing about ? Maybe you think something else but hard to gauge what your question entails . Picking Bolt comments apart is like shooting fish in a barrel I guess but surely thats not the gripe .

  7. John Bennetts

    Edward has thrown a bunch of stuff together in hope that quantity will trump quality and that some link between (say) the Prime Minister, circa 2012 and Obeid, circa 2000, will emerge.

    Well, Edward, real persuasion is different than slagging off.

    I, for one, enjoy the light relief provided by Mark Latham’s thoroughly researched exposures to facts and to logic of the Bolt’s splenetic nonsense.

  8. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Edward James, none of the listed (alleged) “rorters” were members of federal parliament and there is no suggestion that Thomson is currently rorting. You are entitled to your view that the current Labor leadership is rotten “from the head down” but there’s little evidence for it. Sure, people are unhappy with the Rudd coup but that’s in-house business, it’s now years ago and frankly the Labor leadership team that will go to the next election would be enviable under almost any circumstance. Minority government has not been good for image development but it hasn’t actually done any harm either.
    I’m sure you aren’t overly influenced by conservative and ‘old white man’ media so I can’t understand why you expect that Julia Gillard will change any of her spots at this late stage? Labor looks electable now – are you going to go the protest vote and bring on a Tony Abbott Coalition government? I doubt it.

  9. iggy648

    Maree “Why does Crikey give over so much space to Mark Latham?” (I added the ?) Can you be more specific? What is it that he says that you object to?

  10. Edward James

    Hugh (Charlie) McColl Those others caught rorting payment claims were State level Labor party politicians but Labor party members never the less. While what their rorting was, is not in the same league as those other Labor Party Members including Obied, Macdonald, enough to result in Labor leader NSW John Robertson calling for the approved leases to be stopped. Currently what is being considered by voters in the court of public opinion is evidence of those Labor party members lined up outside ICAC in NSW, so close to Christmas. When it suits the Labor party tax payer funded spin doctors, are quick to use the dodgy claim Labor Party activity is defined by their Local, State and Federal members. This garbage distinction dose not stop Labor party members from political inbreeding. Edward James

  11. geomac62

    Speaking of dose ED . Did Howard using taxpayer funds to get his brothers company out of trouble give you a dose Epsom salts like it would have if it was a Labor PM ? What did you think about Wooldridge and the RMI machine info he leaked ? Anderson , Vaille , Moore and Prosser come to mind but I haven,t thought long on this . 11 or 12 senior Liberal figures dumped by Howard in the first term for not abiding by the rules , thats a lot . Thats one big dose of not doing the right thing . Does , not dose , that satisfy your sense of outrage or did you let that slip to the keeper ?
    If one is outraged at impropriety but only at one side of politics is that outrage genuine or manufactured ? Maybe the angst is not about misdeeds at all but political bias disguised , who knows , bias or bilge .

  12. klewso

    “Blot – the Australian Glen Beck”?

  13. Edward James

    At this time approaching Christmas those of us taxpayers many of whom still subscribe to Crikey are wanting to bring about an effective political change. To the way we have been misgoverned. Those of us paying attention are focused on doing as much political damage to the Labor Party nationally, Federal, State and Locally as is possible. I have no doubt you can’t grasp or understand this move. By the peoples to bring about political change. Because you are busy dribbling about my bad speeeling. I expect other subscribers to the crikey network or perhaps crikey itself may take the trouble to point out to you. You are just too political biased to make much sense of what I have published on Crikey in years gone by! Edward James 0243419140

  14. geomac62

    Full of it as always even to the royal we . Your more biased than a one eyed sports fan but feign your against all political parties . Perhaps you even convince yourself , perhaps you like seeing your name on the page . geomac62
    Just in case its missed . geomac62
    Must get a cheap mobile then I can add the number , I,m important you know !

  15. klewso

    “Let’s get Abbott’s Coal-ition in to fix Gillard/Labor”?
    ….. like introducing the cane toad “to fix the cane beetle”?

  16. geomac62

    Good analogy klewso

  17. geomac62

    Good comparison klewso .
    Curious as to if klewso is a reference to the pink panther inspector with a different spelling ?

  18. klewso

    Correct – if you knew my name and where I’d worked, it would all slip into place, like a set, if flawed, diamond.

  19. klewso

    I also went to school with Charlie – a few years before Latham.

    [And I don’t mean Timbertop]

  20. drmick

    It looks like Voldemort & a current affair have paid another prostitu*e to say what they want them to say. He is very old , a convicted wife beating paedo*hile fraudster & has the credibility of a used car salesman or an ex politician like Ed, and claims to have been informed of the unsubstantiated facts, that never happened and is prepared, for a sum and immunity to repeat them.
    Yeah… Right… Lets make this front page boys.

  21. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Political inbreeding, so close to Christmas. Sounds like a case for the Bolt Report.

  22. zut alors

    I enjoy Latham’s jousts with hubristic journalists, keep ’em coming.

    Suggestion to Mark: email McGarvie’s phone contact to Blot whose research skills clearly fall short of sourcing a publicly available number.

  23. iggy648

    I forget what happened, but the journalists have been filling me in, so pretty soon it will all come back to me

  24. Achmed

    klewso – is that comment copyrighted or can I use it…..I reckon its great…

  25. Merve

    According to John Faine, Latham is correct.

    Lawyers have an obligation to protect their clients confidentiality, not report them to the police, which would break that confidentiality. This is well accepted for all other legal matters.

    Lawyers are not responsible for setting up something legal that is then used illegally. That is, they are not required to predict how their work will be used. Just as a mechanic cannot be held responsible for repairing a car that is used in the commission of a crime.

    He goes further.

    Lawyers are often asked to give their client a way to make the illegal legal. Just ask Bishop and her help with James Hardie industries to wriggle out of their obligations to their victimes.

    The whole corruption that was taking place in the AWU stinks, and for years was more or less completely ignored, till now. I am hearing plenty of evidence of wrong doing by those involved and named, but all the accusations to Gillard amount to nothing more than guilt by association.

  26. Robyn Chee

    Latham has thrown a huge red herring here & you have all latched on to it for dear life.
    Bruce Wilson was NEVER Gillard’s client – he was her boyfriend/partner/lover (take your pick). Wilson was an employee of the AWU which WAS Gillards client.
    Gillard discovered that Wilson had defrauded the AWU (her client) using an association she had assisted him in creating behind the AWU (her client’s) back.
    So the question is: Should she have done the right thing by her client The AWU & reported it & done everything to assist in recovering the money that Wilson had stolen from the AWU (her client).
    So Mark, how about putting that scenario to Michael McGarvie & doing a blog post on it.

  27. klewso

    Achmed, which one?
    The reference to “Boofus moronis” (The “Cassocked Cane Toad”) – or the actual “Pink Panther”?

  28. geomac62

    Robyn Chee
    Wilson was the face , rep or negotiator for the AWU , take your pick . He wasn,t the typist or driver type employee who has no say in decisions of management and direction . Wilson was the representative of the AWU so your distinction or relegation to boyfriend is also a red herring . Its a case of including both because both are relevant .
    What is more important to me is intent and on that score the PM comes out clean while Wilson and his cronies not so . Gillard comes out with better credentials than Downer and Vaille concerning AWB . The PM took the right action Downer and Vaille did nothing , hoping it would never be known .

  29. Robyn Chee

    I notice you haven’t answered the question about whether she should have reported the fraud to the police.
    As for him being the AWU representative & therfore could do as he liked – you have got to be kidding!
    Wilson did not have the authority to create an association & open bank accounts without anyone else at the AWU being aware of it. There is no file for it at Slater & Gordon & there was no fee to the AWU for her work.

  30. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Robyn Chee, I think you undo your own logic. Your central claim is that:
    “Gillard discovered that Wilson had defrauded the AWU (her client) using an association she had assisted him in creating behind the AWU (her client’s) back.”
    I don’t see how you can do something ‘for your client’ but ‘behind their back’. If the association was created for Wilson on his instructions (“..behind the AWU’s back”), then for that particular, discrete matter, Wilson was the client. Wilson might have been a naughty boy and the AWU might have been mighty miffed about it (maybe) but it suggests that Gillard could have been, as she claims, completely out of the loop. You can’t just write her into the loop by inventing some possible, but fictitious, chain of connection.

  31. geomac62

    ” I notice you haven’t answered the question about whether she should have reported the fraud to the police. ”
    I have left that to others who have set out the legal requirement of lawyers , see posts above ie Faine etc .
    Where did I say he could do as he liked ? My very clear point was that Wilson was not merely a friend , acquaintance or boyfriend but also a senior representative of the AWU and both must be taken into account . Your posts would be better if you looked at the full picture rather one side or to verbal me . I was very clear in my original post to you .

  32. Graeme Weber


    I have some serious doubts about your arguments. Firstly Julia was working surely for the AWU not Wilson. She may have been instructed by Wilson and assumed (incorrectly) he was and had clearance from the AWU. She knew as early as 1995 that Wilson was under severe scrutiny for the misuse of Victorian AWU Funds, but the AWU did NOT know about the WA, AWU-WRA fund and as her client was the AWU she should have immediately alerted them to that account which included the Kalgoorlie Bereavement & Accident Fund stolen from miners with her help by Wilson.

  33. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Graeme Weber, the trouble with these ‘associations’ is that everyone knows (and knew back then) that they are fronts for some other purpose. This does not make them illegal just naughty or even nefarious. You could ask why the AWU didn’t seem to know or care why stuff was being done in its name without the union being fully informed. You could also ask why those big firms like Theiss were and are looking the other way. They don’t want to publicly account for payoffs that were never intended to be made public.
    Election and other political funding is always a grey area. Look at the dodgy schemes our major political parties create simply to get around immediate public disclosure of political donations. Our legislature creates new rules which they know beforehand can be easily circumvented. The same or similar rules apply to all kinds of elections – look at the billions spent on the US presidential election. The ‘nod nod, wink wink’ arrangement seems to be universal. Which is why no one can demonstrate that Julia Gillard did anything wrong back in the 1990s, why she can’t prove that she didn’t know something and why the Coalition might as well keep the story on the front page – it looks better than anything they can come up with themselves.

  34. Achmed

    Klewso…cane toad…thats classic….

  35. ian Hammond

    A Latham with-a-sense-of-humour (and irony) is immeasurably more powerful than the previous incarnation of Latham with-a-chip-etc. We need someone who is not a lightweight to take it back to the looney right, and Mark would seem to be the right person at the right time. Get the man some staff to help expand the message. Perhaps “The Latham Report” somewhere on a Sunday.

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