PM Julia Gillard Takes the Offensive in Addressing AWU Slush Fund Affair

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By Erik Pineda | November 26, 2012 5:17 PM EST

Prime Minister Julia Gillard jumped the gun on the opposition and her critics, denying them an effective platform by holding a press conference on Monday hours before Coalition MPs are expected to grill her on Parliament's Question Time.

And before deputy Coalition leader Julie Bishop was supposed to press for answers on the slush fund affair that Ms Gillard was reportedly enmeshed with while representing disgraced Australian Workers Union (Victoria branch) chief Bruce Wilson some 17 years ago, the prime minister clarified herself in front of media personnel.

Ms Gillard clarified that she was not a direct party to the setting up of the AWU slush fund, firmly insisting that connecting her to such fraudulent activity is tantamount to defamation.

"I did not set up a fund, I did not set up a bank account ... I provided advice as a lawyer about the incorporation of an association. I did not incorporate an association," the prime minister was reported by The Australian as saying on Monday morning.

"I acted on client instructions ... and in terms of the use of the word slush fund, I said very specifically I did not think that that helped with the understanding of this matter," Ms Gillard explained.

Any questionable dealings that were conducted using "the accounts of the AWU Workplace Relations Association," was just way beyond her role then as an industrial lawyer of Slater & Gordon, the Labor leader asserted.

She would have loved to address head-on allegations that a $5000 was deposited in a Commonwealth Bank under her account, but Ms Gillard has reiterated that "I do not remember $5000 being put in my bank account. I do not have a memory of this money going in to my account."

Even CBA officials, Ms Gillard said, have informed her that coming up with supporting documents on such claims, purportedly to prove or disprove the accusations, was next to impossible considering the amount of time that passed by.

As for Ralph Blewitt, the man responsible for resurrecting this controversy, she admitted that it would boil down to Mr Blewitt's words against hers.

"Mr Blewitt, according to people who know him, has been described as a complete imbecile, an idiot, a stooge, a sexist pig, a liar and his sister has said he's a crook, and rotten to the core," the prime minister reminded.

So come the Question Time, Ms Gillard simply countered "I have just dealt with this precise question at a press conference," when pressed for more explanations by Ms Bishop.

"I say to the deputy leader of the opposition, and really it goes to much of the sleaze and muck-racking the opposition has been engaged in, if she has a real allegation of wrongdoing by me, then put it," Ms Gillard was reported by the Australian Associated Press (AAP) as saying.

Analysts viewed Ms Gillard's handling of the matter as unlikely to stem of the flow of more questions from her critics yet for Michelle Grattan of The Age, the prime minister "has narrowed (the Coalition's) opportunity to get fresh momentum."

"Ms Gillard's tactic in holding the news conference was to go on the front foot, to take some steam out of the opposition's question time attack. She still had to face those questions in parliament, but she had done a lot of the spade work beforehand," Ms Grattan wrote.

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