AWU Melbourne Property Scandal: PM Julia Gillard Reiterates Stance

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By Erik Pineda | November 23, 2012 12:48 PM EST

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has denied reports she was aware of a Melbourne property that was bought on money allegedly pilfered from union coffers, insisting that her role as lawyer for the Australian Workers Union (AWU) was strictly on setting up its 'slush fund'.

Ms Gillard maintained too that she was out of the loop regarding the activities of AWU officials Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt, the former her boyfriend while a salaried partner of law firm Slater & Gordon, and therefore was unaware of any wrongdoing committed by the two.

The prime minister was reacting to claims by Nick Styant-Browne, her former colleague at Slater & Gordon, that she had knowledge of the transactions that allowed Messrs Blewitt and Wilson to acquire a property in Fitzroy, Melbourne some time in 1993.

In an interview with ABC Thursday night, Mr Styant-Browne revealed that Ms Gillard "personally arranged for the mortgage insurance for the Kerr Street property through the Commonwealth Bank and the letter was faxed to her on March 22, 1993, from the Commonwealth Bank marked for her attention noting that the insurance had been renewed."

Documents made public by Fairfax showed a letter from Commonwealth Bank purportedly advising Ms Gillard that the purchased "building/s are insured for $200,000 with the Commonwealth Bank Insurance Scheme and the policy is renewed until 18th March, 1994."

The same letter also suggested that Ms Gillard had an active role on the whole transactions, belying her insistence during an internal Slater & Gordon probe on the matter in 1995 that "I didn't have any recollection of (the deal)."

"Those documents show is that there is no doubt Ms Gillard knew of the mortgage from Slater & Gordon in March 1993," Mr Styant-Browne told ABC last night.

But a statement from Ms Gillard also pointed to the released documents, which proved that it was Mr Blewitt alone who was "personally attending to dealing with the Commonwealth Bank about the certificate of currency."

The prime minister's office confirmed too that it was Slater & Gordon which had handled the conveyancing of the Melbourne property but was assigned to a paralegal named Olivia Brosnahan, whose handwritings appeared on the documents provided by Mr Styant-Browne.

"Ms Gillard has no recollection of seeing the correspondence from the Commonwealth Bank dated 23 March 1993. Ms Gillard stands by her statements in the Slater & Gordon interview of 11 September 1995 as her best recollection of events 2½ years earlier. There is no contradiction in anything," the prime minister's statement was reported by The West Australian as saying on Friday.

With the resurgence of the issue, the Coalition is expected to press on Ms Gillard to explain further on the matter during the Parliament's final sitting for the year.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey said this significant issue deserves a formal inquiry in order for the public to know if the prime minister indeed was telling the truth the first she addressed questions on her dealings with AWU.

"People are raising these issues because they are saying that the prime minister's story has been entirely inconsistent," Mr Hockey was quoted by the Australian Associated Press (AAP) as saying.

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