“This is about taking union money”

As a matter of public importance, we provide here the transcript of Alan Jones’ 15-minute interview on Sydney Radio 2GB on Friday August 10 with Michael Smith on the four-year relationship of Julia Gillard with Bruce Wilson, who allegedly misappropriated union funds. This follows a previous interview of Smith by Jones on July 20. Both transcripts are by Tony Thomas. 

Alan Jones: Let’s away from Olympics to perhaps the most critical issue in Australia today. It is three weeks since I spoke to the former 2UE broadcaster Mike Smith on this very critical issue of Julia Gillard and her suggested involvement in the kind of stuff that has blown the roof off the union house, lived in by Craig Thomson, before he came into Parliament.

This is about taking union money. As I said three weeks ago, if you are a union leader and there are 1.8m unionists in the country and they are paying $10 a week minimum union fees, you have $18 million a week to play with, that is nearly $1 billion a year. Who is going to miss a couple of hundred thousand here or there? Who would know?

If it had not been for Thomson, and to be fair, a couple of journalists from the Sydney Morning Herald, and this man Mike Smith, this affair would never have seen the light of day. If then you have 72 Labor members in the House of Representatives and 32 are former union officials, how many of them might have done what Thomson did? So the best thing is to shut up and certainly don’t make waves about Thomson.

If you have 23 out of 32 Labor senators who are former union officials would they pass the kind of scrutiny being applied to Thomson?

Enter Julia Gillard who has not raised a finger or syllable against Thomson, mouthing platitudes about the presumption of innocence. As I said three weeks ago, such a presumption was not afforded to the then Governor General Archbishop Hollingsworth and there was not a scrap of evidence against him. So commonsense would tell you that the failure to speak out and act on Thomson by Julia Gillard must mean there is more to this than meets the eye.

Enter Bruce Wilson… In 1992, a senior union official in WA, married with children, and a reputation for militant behavior and known to act outside the law if it suited him. Wilson meets one Julia Gillard, she is a partner in the law firm Slater & Gordon. She becomes a partner of Wilson’s in a different context, a romantic relationship.

In April 1992 Julia Gillard writes out an application clear in her handwriting to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission to register a new legal entity, an incorporated association, not the kind of arrangement undertaken by a respectable business because it allows the association to set up bank accounts, appoint people like treasurers etc.

Can you imagine the local manager of Telstra NSW going to a lawyer,    asking the lawyer to set up the Telstra NSW Accounts Receivable Association and then the local manager of Telstra stuffs Telstra money into the account. Would someone say the lawyer who set up this structure knew nothing about it? And frankly the Telstra manager would be in the dock for thieving, and so most probably would the lawyer.

Unions don’t operate through such associations but Julia Gillard wrote out the application to register the AWU Workplace Reform Association way back in April 1992, her handwriting is on it.

As I said three weeks ago, Detective Sergeant McAlpine of the WA Fraud Squad appeared Before the Australian Industrial Relations Court in WA because that is where this association was registered, and he was investigating this quote unquote ‘fraud’. He found that only two people knew about the existence of this association, Wilson and a union mate Ralph Blewitt.

Remember Julia Gillard had written out the application on Wilson’s behalf. The formation of this association had not been authorized by the AWU. One of the objects was supposed to be to promote the development of unions. McAlpine, a Detective Sergeant, in investigating this fraud, described how Wilson would go to  large building companies and bully them: pay up or there would be a strike. They paid up and allegedly $540,000 went into this association.

And Wilson and Blewitt even got a private letterbox address presumably so that the AWU would know nothing about it. So consider this: Julia Gillard is a partner in a law firm. She is in a relationship with this bloke Wilson. He asks her to set up a brand new legal entity. She apparently asks for no resolution of the union, no authorization that this should happen, asks for no minutes of the union meeting which would authorize this to go ahead.

She doesn’t point out to the boyfriend that the rules of the union prohibit the existence of this association that she is helping him to form. And yet she is part of the law firm that represents the union. 

Then of course, with the money stashed away, Wilson takes out a contract to buy a house in Fitzroy. A deposit of $23,000. He needs that.

A few days earlier he has withdrawn $25,000 from the association’s bank account. Bear in mind that Julia Gillard knows nothing about why the boyfriend needed this  new association. She was young and naïve and, quote, terribly distressed when she found out what he had been up to. He was concealing it all from her. Really?

She wrote out the application to register the association. She worked for Slater and Gordon the union’s lawyers. Slater and Gordon did the conveyancing on the purchase of the house. Should Slater and Gordon be in the dock?

Slater and Gordon wrote a letter saying they wanted another $67,000 to complete the sale of the house. They wanted a bank cheque. Well Wilson gave no bank cheque. He just signed a cheque from the association that Julia Gillard had helped set up a few months before.

Wilson and Blewitt still didn’t have enough money in the account to buy the house. They needed an extra $150,000. Who lent them this money? Slater and Gordon, Julia Gillard’s law firm. They did the conveyancing for free. This bloke Wilson must have been an important client. Julia Gillard was in a romantic relationship with him. Four years, until he was caught out, as I understand it, in similar frauds using bank accounts in Melbourne. He was sprung in August 1995.

But by then he had renovated the house he had bought with the money he had taken out of the union in 1993. Julia Gillard owned a house. I understand it was renovated during the same time and the bank statements show huge amounts of cash coming out of this Workplace Reform Association, $50,000 here, $8,000 there, $5,000 there, every few days. It makes Craig Thomson look very respectable. Eighteen thousand dollars was paid directly to a women’s fashion boutique in Melbourne.

Julia Gillard produced a hand-written receipt from a builder to say she had paid for her renovations herself. By 1995 the game was up. Wilson left the union. They (the union) paid back tens of thousands of dollars to various construction companies. But the matter was becoming very public. It was raised in the Victorian Parliament.

It had been reported that Julia Gillard had been sacked from her job with Slater and Gordon. Because soon after the Australian newspaper ran a story in 1995, Julia was gone. Her desk cleaned out. She has never practiced law since. She was without a job. Joan Kirner got her a job with John Brumby [then Victorian State opposition leader]. Wilson was never charged. Blewitt sold the house.

Mike Smith tried to tell the story and lost his job. He is no dunce, Mike Smith. Things are happening. I thought we would talk to him. He is on the line. Good morning.

Michael Smith: Good morning.

Jones: Someone must be heavying someone for this to have been covered up for 20 years?

Smith: Look, cover-up is what generally brings people unstuck. That is what brought Nixon unstuck. And I have a feeling that it is the cover-up that is going to be much more interesting here than what went on in the first place.

Jones: The amounts of money make Thomson look a miser, don’t they?

Smith: Yes, they do. Huge amounts of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there are so many people who clearly have questions to answer, questions that have never been posed and never been answered to date. The first of them is Slater and Gordon. Slater and Gordon is a public company and it has got very serious reputational issues to safeguard. Slater and Gordon needs to come clean today and say this: Were those two senior industrial practice partners Julia Gillard and her offsider Bernard Murphy acting for the union, their genuine clients, when they set this association up, or were they acting for the two individuals who were trying to conceal this association from the genuine client, the union. Because on the face of it, by God, it looks like they were just acting for the two individuals, Wilson and Blewitt.

Jones: Absolutely. When they were also in fact acting for the AWU. Now you have spoken to Wilson and Blewitt. Are they prepared to talk?

Smith: Well Blewitt has certainly made it clear that with an immunity from prosecution he is prepared to talk. Wilson is a little more ambivalent about it, but I have put to Wilson that he may find it in his interest to speak with a good lawyer now who could go to the authorities and save the authorities and the State the expense of a protracted investigation into this matter and plead to the matters, you know, that on the face of it he may have a case to answer to. He would get a lesser sentence if he was to do that. And that would have this stuff cleared up fairly speedily. I can tell you that he is considering that at present.

If you go back to the association, setting up the association, I know that whatever lawyer did it, and it is Ms Gillard’s handwriting that is on the forms, had the legislation in front of them, because it is referred to in the rules of this association that was set up. And by God it just breaches it left right and centre. Amongst other things …

Jones: It is illegal, in other words?

Smith: That is correct. It breaches the law in several respects. They are quite important ones. For example, you can’t set up an incorporated association if it is a trade union, you must have at least five members. They didn’t even have a pretense of having five members. It was just Wilson and Blewitt. It was secret…

Jones: She was a partner in the law firm…

Smith: Correct. They went to her because Wilson…

Jones: Young and naïve…she was over 30…

Smith: I tell you what Alan, “young and naïve”, you have Bruce Wilson who at present is flipping hamburgers at a kitchen up the coast here, who was young and naïve? The other person involved has been able to manoevre herself into the position of Prime Minister of the country. I wonder who was the more naïve here.

Jones: Well, you have got the former Attorney General Robert McClelland (a) raising the matter in Federal Parliament and (b) he acted for AWU officials at the time, Bill Ludwig and Ian Cambridge, and didn’t Cambridge…he was the first union official was he not, to call for a Royal Commission into his own union…

Smith: Ian Cambridge’s pursuit of this has been entirely honorable. It has been unwavering. He has not recanted from the affidavit he made that really sets this out chapter and verse as to what went on. When Wilson was sprung…

Jones: Except Julia Gillard has appointed Cambridge to Fair Work Australia.

Smith: Actually the operative appointment was Cambridge being appointed to the Industrial Relations Commission here in Sydney. And I think you might want to have a chat to Graham Richardson and Bob Carr about that appointment. The subsequent appointment to Fair Work Australia is more sort of mechanistic.

But I really would like to point this out. In the meeting in Melbourne that set up this association, and all of the documents associated with the association tell lies about themselves, there were four people present: Blewitt, Bruce Wilson the boyfriend, Julia and another lawyer, a partner in the Slater and Gordon practice, Bernard Murphy. Julia Gillard or her government has just appointed Bernard Murphy to be a federal court judge. I would like to take a very close look at that appointment and more importantly, I would like to see Slater and Gordon make an unequivocal statement about the conduct of those two senior partners in its firm. Who were they acting for?

Jones: But if there were a Royal Commission, it would have to look at some of these appointments that were made, that might have been made to keep people quiet?

Smith: Who knows? Yes that is right. You must ask questions. Most importantly, I have asked the questions. I have put them to the Prime Minister. She just says, one: ‘I did nothing wrong’; two: ‘It is all on the public record’. And that is just manifestly crap. It is untrue. The fact is the media in Australia has accepted that, almost as if it is conventional wisdom. ‘Well the Prime Minister said she did nothing wrong, how dare you ask further questions of it?’

Goodness gracious, when you read the articles of association that she put together for this association, that was used to rip off $540,000, it clearly breaches legislation. She must as …

Jones: But the simplest story you have to say is that you have a senior union official Ian Cambridge swearing an affidavit. If you perjure yourself in so swearing, you finish up in gaol.

Smith: Yes, too true, and when Wilson’s frauds in Melbourne were discovered, he went away for the weekend with his girlfriend. They realized it was over.  Cambridge’s affidavit says that Slater and Gordon continued to represent one of the parties, that is Wilson. He came back to work and this is the first time I have ever heard of the union doing this: the union paid back huge amounts of money to the employers from whom Wilson had been active in getting money paid into the union: Phillips Fox, Thiess Construction, Fluor Daniel, Chambers Consulting, James Holland. There is heaps of money, tens of thousands of dollars paid back.

Jones: Where is the Law Council with lawyers and legal firms behaving in this way? A lawyer setting up accounts into which extorted funds are diverted. Where is the Law Council?

Smith: Very good question. I would think the Law Council would take a keen interest in this: one, the establishment of this association that so clearly breaches the rules of the association in setting up like entities; and two, the undisclosed conflict of interest where (there is) the romantic relationship with the boyfriend, giving of advice to the boyfriend.

Jones: We are beaten for time. Here’s a quick one. Where do we go from here?

Smith: The evidence that I have in front of me pleads the police brief. It includes Mr Cambridge’s statements etc. It is now in the hands of an eminent criminal barrister, a QC.

Jones: It is in the hands of a barrister and?

Smith: He will have a view about the charges about any misconduct.

Jones: OK we will talk again when I return to Australia.

Source: Audio of the 2GB interview is here…

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