The Australian’s smear campaign against the Prime Minister hasn’t had a lot of new material lately. Having devoted months and acres of newsprint to investigating the minutiae of what Julia Gillard did in the 1990s and not turned up a single actual claim of wrongdoing, the brains trust at Holt St must be ruing that after such a big investment of resources in smearing her, all they got for their troubles was a few points’ fall in her approval rating.

Still, The Oz didn’t get where it is today — a dying paper for angry old conservative men — without a willingness to flog a dead horse. So today, it carried over 1000 words on the AWU matter about how there’s “a prima facie case that she could have been charged”, by one Terry O’Connor.

O’Connor, The Australian informs us, is “a former head of Western Australia’s Anti-Corruption Commission”. And, indeed, O’Connor clothes his attack on Gillard in a kind of legalese:

“There has been considerable recent media discussion about the 1992 incorporation of the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association Inc and the involvement of Julia Gillard in its incorporation. In particular there has been conjecture as to whether or not Gillard has committed any offence in her role in the incorporation of the association. Before discussing that question, it is necessary to establish the facts …”

You get the sense that O’Connor is almost doing us a favour, having noticed by chance that there has been “considerable media discussion” and being anxious to resolve the issue for us, as a kind of disinterested observer. Just a helpful retired barrister wanting to set us all straight.

Except, who is Terry O’Connor AM QC? O’Connor came to Crikey’s attention back in 2002. He’s a former WA Liberal Party member who was appointed to the WA ACC by Richard Court’s government. He also has some national profile courtesy of being turfed off the AFL Commission in 2000. These days, O’Connor heads the advisory board for the USAFL. Among other board appointments, he’s also long-time chairman of mining services company Ausdrill, as well as an African-based mining services company.

In 1999, then-state Labor leader Geoff Gallop wanted to know why Ausdrill was organising anti-Labor rallies in Kalgoorlie when its chairman was also head of the Anti-Corruption Commission.

O’Connor’s Liberal connection strangely went unmentioned by The Australian today.

O’Connor also has perhaps a more direct link to the campaign being run against the Prime Minister. Over a decade ago, O’Connor commendably became chair of the Secure Community Foundation, a business-funded group established in the wake of a string of notorious abductions around Claremont to help police improve security and investigative capacity. The group raised over $600,000 for WA police. A number of Perth’s business élite were also on the Foundation. And a prominent Perth lawyer … one Julie Bishop.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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