Prime Minister Julia Gillard has held her second press conference on matters concerning her time as a lawyer with Slater & Gordon in 1993-95.
Speaking to the Canberra press gallery 50 minutes before Question Time in the House, a sharp and at times angry Gillard, her voice occasionally wavering, took questions for 48 minutes about her dealings with Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt and her role in the formation of a slush fund.
“I did nothing wrong,” Gillard repeatedly asserted.
- Listen to Gillard’s press conference (48m)
- Watch an ABC extract (4m)
Transcript of Julia Gillard’s press conference, as provided on the Prime Minister’s website.
Gillard: We’re here at the start of the final sitting week for 2012. During the course of this sitting week I will personally introduce into the Federal Parliament the Government’s legislation giving every Australian child an entitlement to an excellent education.
I will be doing that because education is the foundation stone of my plan for our nation’s future. We cannot win the economic race in this Asian century of growth and change unless we win the education race, and so I will be bringing that bill to this Parliament.
I will also during the course of this sitting week be introducing the bill to establish the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Like Medicare, this will be a Labor instrument of fairness in our society. In the way in which Medicare has ensured that illness striking a family does not end family finances, break families, the National Disability Insurance Scheme will ensure that if disability strikes your family that you get the support that you need and deserve.
These will be the defining issues for 2013, how in this Asian century we continue our track record of having a strong and resilient economy and how we build on that strength and resilience for the future. How we make sure every child gets a great education and a great opportunity in life, how we share the benefits of future prosperity through things like the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The Opposition has signalled that this week, from their point of view, will be about something else. It will be about the continuation of sleaze and smear. The Opposition has well and truly signalled that that will be central to their strategy in this final sitting week.
Well, I’m here to say that there is a reason that the Opposition has adopted that as their political strategy for this final sitting week, and that reason is crystal clear. The Opposition’s political strategy and particularly the strategy of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, since the 2010 election has been to use negativity to try and bring this Parliament to an end and have an early election.
We’re actually in the sitting week he didn’t want to have. He never thought that the Government would get here. He never thought that I would get here. He has been engaged in relentless negativity since Australians voted in 2010.
That negativity has also been displayed to the Australian people through the nature of his anti-carbon pricing campaign. It’s been a campaign of lies and deceit. And it’s a campaign that is running out of huff. It is apparent to Australians that their claims, the wild claims that Mr Abbott has made about carbon pricing are not true and that the very things that he said to them would happen, will not happen under carbon pricing.
In this situation, Mr Abbott has led the Liberals to where they’ve got nowhere else to go except sleaze and smear. His negativity is running out of campaign huff in terms of carbon pricing, they’ve got no positive plan for the nation’s future.
So in those circumstances they’ve got to insert something in the vacuum and what they’ve determined to insert in the vacuum is smear and sleaze and we will see that on display during this final sitting week.
There are many Australians who will contemplate over the course of coming months and into 2013 who to vote for in the 2013 election. Many of those Australians might be thinking to themselves that they’d like to exercise a vote for John Howard-style Liberals.
I’ve got news for those Australians; there are no John Howard-style Liberals anymore. The political party known as the Liberal Party in this Parliament is an entirely different creature from the political party led by John Howard.
John Howard believed in proper costings of policies. John Howard could speak with sophistication about the Australian economy. John Howard, whilst I didn’t agree with many of his ideas, had ideas for the nation’s future.
Mr Abbott doesn’t believe in proper costings of policies. Mr Abbott is an economic illiterate and cannot and does not speak about the future of our economy. And Mr Abbott has no ideas for our nation’s future.
In these circumstances, it is sleaze and smear that is filling the void. I think Australians are sick of it. Sick of stories they don’t understand about events 17 to 20 years ago.
But in circumstances where this Parliament’s time is going to be wasted on these matters I will take questions from the Press Gallery today on these questions. I’ll do it in the hope that that minimises the amount of parliamentary time that is wasted on these issues.
I’ll take questions now.
Journalist: Prime Minister, the last time we had one of these press conferences I asked you about the time when your colleague Bernard Murphy spoke to you about what had been uncovered within the AWU, the Victorian branch the AWU, and you explained that one of your reactions to that was to break-off your relationship with Mr Wilson.
I was wondering if you could give us a broader outline of exactly what took place, what was the context of that conversation and what did you and your legal colleagues do as a result of what was uncovered?
Gillard: Well it’s a matter of public record that rumours and concerns started in the AWU in around August 1995 about matters particularly involving the Victorian accounts of the AWU. It’s also a matter of public record that these concerns came to the attention of the Slater & Gordon partnership; consequently they came to my attention.
The Slater & Gordon partnership then did things like the internal review, the transcript of which is in the public domain and you’ve had the opportunity to read it, as has anybody else who is wanting to follow the details of this matter.
As for me, obviously at the time these matters came to the attention of the partnership they came to my attention too. I did not have in front of me any evidence of criminality or wrong doing but there was a lot of rumour about what was happening in the Victorian branch of the AWU at that time.
In those circumstances I came to a personal decision about ending my relationship with Mr Wilson and I did so. Then of course the Slater & Gordon internal review went through and you see the outcome of that review.
I know that there’s been a lot of focus on what I should have reported to authorities at that time. Well you can’t report things you do not know. I did not know about transactions on the accounts of the AWU Workplace Relations Association. My role was as a legal adviser providing advice about the incorporation of that association. This is a common misreporting and let me clean it up right here and right now.
I have been defamed on a number of occasions with forms of words saying that I set up a fund or a bank account. Those defamations have been apologised for and retracted on a number of occasions. Despite that, those kinds of references are now littered through media coverage of all sorts: electronic, print and radio.
I did not set up a fund. I did not set up a bank account. Any such claim about me is a defamatory claim and I’d look to this Press Gallery to try and show some leadership in standards and accuracy here.
What I did was I provided advice as a lawyer about the incorporation of an association. I did not incorporate an association. The only entity that can incorporate an association is the Registrar of Incorporated Associations.
Let’s use an analogy here. If a lawyer provided advice on the incorporation of a company, would you say that they incorporated the company? No you wouldn’t. Would you say that they are responsible for the conduct of that company after it is incorporated and in operation? No you wouldn’t.
Well, the same circumstance applies to me.
Journalist: The AWU Workplace Reform Association had the AWU name in it and you knew it was not a workplace safety association; in fact the slush fund phrase was your own phrase in that transcript. So were you a party to a deception against the union?
Gillard: I dealt with this extensively at the marathon press conference that I did in August and before I answer your question let me just go to some of the issues here about the amount that I’ve dealt with this on the public record.
There has been an emerging kind of consensus amongst the media, perhaps egged on by the Opposition, that I need to give a full and frank account of these matters. Let me just remind, I first answered these matters on the public record in 1995, when they were raised by a Liberal Party minister.
I then dealt with these matters on the public record again in 2001 when they were raised by a Liberal Party backbencher. I dealt with these matters on the public record in 2006 when I filmed an Australian Story. I dealt with these matters on the public record in 2007 after the shopping around of a dirt file by persons employed then in the ministerial office of the Liberal Party. It might be a question some of you want to ask as to whether that person is still employed by Mr Abbott.
I dealt with these matters on the public record in a marathon press conference in August, one of the longest prime ministerial press conferences ever held. I have dealt with these matters at press conferences in Melbourne, in Brisbane. And so let me come to your question.
I refer you to my answers in the marathon press conference in August where I explained to you that I acted on clients’ instructions, that in terms of the use of the words ‘slush fund’ I said very specifically, I did not think that that helped with the understanding of this matter, that my understanding on the instructions provided by my clients was that this was an association which would support the re-election of union officials running on a particular platform of change, hence its name.
Journalist: One of the allegations made by Ralph Blewitt is that the power of attorney here, which you witnessed, you weren’t actually present when it was witnessed. I think he told Michael Smith as recently as October that he can remember signing it or thereabouts on 4 February and yet it was dated 23 February. So were you there to witness this power of attorney?
Gillard: I’ve said publicly on more than one occasion I did nothing wrong, and I did nothing wrong in the witnessing of this power of attorney. I witnessed thousands and thousands and thousands of documents for clients during an eight-year – I’ll answer your question – I witnessed thousands and thousands of documents over an eight-year legal career for clients and I did that witnessing properly.
So it’s going to come down to Mr Blewitt’s word against me. Let me remind you who Mr Blewitt is. Mr Blewitt is a man who has publicly said he was involved in fraud. Mr Blewitt is a man who has sought immunity from prosecution.
Mr Blewitt is a man who has fled Indonesia to avoid a police interview in relation to land fraud, although he denies wrongdoing in the case. Mr Blewitt says he owes money on another Asian land deal.
Mr Blewitt admits to using the services of prostitutes in Asia. Mr Blewitt has published lewd and degrading comments and accompanying photographs of young women on his Facebook page.
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. His word against mine, make your mind up.
Journalist: Can you just clarify the point about whether it was wise to include the name of the union in the association when it was set up? And secondly on the matter of what happened in 1995, given the problems that have emerged, or the suggestion of problems, was it appropriate for you to advise the AWU about the existence of the reform association, or was there a client issue there about who was your client?
Gillard: Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It’s a wonderful thing over 20 years. But put yourself in my shoes incorporating that association. This did not strike me as a non-standard transaction; unions incorporate associations to support the re-election of union officials.
As I made clear in August at the very long press conference in fact that is done to better assist with the management of these funds, that there had been circumstances in the past where a team of people who are all going to support each other at the next election decide at the time of the election that they’re going to go separate ways and create new tickets.
And if the only way in which you’ve done the fundraising for your re-election is that it’s kept in a shoebox as cash or it’s popped in someone’s personal bank account, it means that when you then divide and go your separate ways it can be very difficult to work out what’s what, what money is whose.
So it is common for unions to incorporate associations for this kind of purpose. In those circumstances dealing with this matter during my legal career, a matter which at the time struck me as pretty routine, pretty low level, indeed so low level I didn’t even charge for it, a matter of that nature, then it was being set up to support the re-election of a team of union officials in the AWU – hence the name – and they were intending to stand on a certain platform, hence the objects of the association.
So, and the second part of your question was?
Journalist: In 1995, given that there were questions being raised about the funds of the union, would it have been appropriate, or should it have been appropriate that you advised the AWU of the association?
Gillard: The questions then in circulation in the AWU related to arrangements and circumstances in the Victorian branch. But I think it is true to say, and history records very extensively, that the AWU was well and truly seized of this matter.
And then in terms of who else was involved in looking at the matter, Mr Gude who first raised claims about me publicly in October 1995, advised the Victorian Parliament at that stage that the National Crime Authority was involved in the investigation, that the matter had been referred to the Victoria Police and he personally was referring it to the employee relations commission in Victoria. So, AWU involved in its own investigations and other authorities getting involved as well.
Once again, you can’t report things you don’t know and I didn’t have before me any details or any evidence about transactions on the accounts of the association, any bank accounts, that had been established by the association.
Journalist: You’ve described that association as fairly routine just now. Is Bill Shorten then wrong in saying it was inappropriate, unauthorised and out of bounds?
Gillard: Well I refer you to that interview by Bill Shorten where he says, he’s crystal clear about my conduct, and crystal clear that I engaged in no wrongdoing. What he was talking about 17 years later, 20 years later, after all of this is on the public domain, is the AWU-view of those transactions. Well, yes, it’s 20 years later. But Mr Shorten is crystal clear about my conduct and about no wrongdoing by me.
Journalist: Can I ask you about a report about Mr Wilson putting $5,000 into your account? Can you remember that happening and do you know what it was for if it did happen?
Gillard: I’m happy to address that but let me say this about that claim. On the day that claim came out publicly I referred to it as smear because it is a matter associated with my personal life. And whilst I’m going to answer your question, I just ask you for one moment to assume that that is true, that $5,000 was put in my bank account by a person I was then in a relationship with, who the witness involved said had had a big night out at the casino. Can you piece together for me the personal wrongdoing involved in that? I doubt you can.
Number two, in terms of that being personal smear, The Australian newspaper that published that report said in a comment piece by Hedley Thomas and in other ways in that edition of the newspaper, that this was a claim that had some particular veracity about it because it relied on diaries which were contemporaneous notes from the time, hence all of this needed to be viewed very seriously.
What The Australian didn’t tell you is on the day that that edition of the newspaper was reported, as is clear from the next day’s edition of the newspaper, The Australian at the time of that report was in possession of information that showed at least one entry in the diary did not accord with an individual’s recollection.
So we are told on one day, well this is a diary, all very serious, contemporaneous. We’re told on the next day, actually this bloke reckons the diary’s not right and this information, that the diary’s not right, was available to The Australian newspaper when they published this edition. Hence my degree of dissatisfaction with that reporting.
On the actual assertion, I do not – to the best of my knowledge – I do not remember $5,000 being put in my bank account. Across most of my working life, my engagement with ATM machines has been like everybody’s else’s, you get a surprise on the downside when you put your card in and check your account balance, not a surprise on the upside. You’re normally very unhappy about how little is in your account rather than happily surprised that there is extra there. That has been my experience over most of my working life.
Now I do not have a memory of this money going into my account. However, it is a long time ago. And so I have taken steps to try and check. I specifically made inquiries of the Commonwealth Bank, the Commonwealth Bank was mentioned in the report, I did have a Commonwealth Bank account at the time. They have advised me it is not possible to get records from 17 years ago.
I had hoped to be in a position to produce my bank records to help verify recollections here but I cannot be put in that position because the records are not available.
Journalist: What’s your thoughts about companies such as Woodside and Thiess putting money into a Workplace Reform Association and that money being used for electioneering? This is company money.
Gillard: You have to speak to the companies about it and you would have to speak to their state of knowledge about what they thought the funds were being used for. I can’t speak for them.
Journalist: In August you said that the money for the renovations on your house you paid for, you’re quite clear on that. In the statement from 1995 you seem to leave some doubt or area of possibility that perhaps there might have been some other supply that went in towards the renovation on your house, that was closer obviously to the time, the 1995 statement. Can you explain why you are so emphatic and certain that you paid for everything now?
Gillard: I refer you to the Slater & Gordon transcript and what I say on that transcript is that I’d spent some time on the weekend trying to look through my receipts about my renovations. Subsequent to that interview with Slater & Gordon I spent more time getting my receipts together and adding it up and thinking about it. And having done so at the time, which I did in 1995, I am confident that I paid for the renovations on my home. And I did it in the way in which people normally do it.
I did things like extend my mortgage, I renovated over time. There was the time when the bathroom was demolished and all the rest of it which I detail extensively and perhaps in colourful terms in the Slater & Gordon transcript. But I believe I paid for all of my renovations, I took steps to check in 1995. I took some steps before the Slater & Gordon discussion and I took other steps afterwards.
Can I just, and this is a bit frustrating with all of these matters, if anybody has a piece of evidence that says I knowingly received money to which I was not entitled for my renovations, please feel free to get it out. If anybody’s got it, it’s only been 20 years.
Journalist: Did you reimburse anybody for your renovations?
Gillard: No, no I did not. And I’ve been dealing with this allegation over the best part of two decades as well. I refer you to the Slater & Gordon internal review where I discussed, again in colourful terms about the quality of trades personship in our society, or perhaps in those days, or the ones I was dealing with. Where I discuss all of this in colourful terms and I very, very clearly say that there was an incident where a person who I hadn’t paid because of my dissatisfaction about the work had gone to the AWU looking for payment and was sent away and I paid that person’s account.
Journalist: Just going back to the specific power of attorney which was mentioned a little bit earlier. It says on this, signed, sealed and delivered by Ralph Blewitt with his signature underneath. It says then witnessed by you. Did you see him sign this document?
Gillard: As I said in answer to the earlier question, I witnessed thousands of documents across an eight-year legal career for clients. I can’t point you to the moment in time and the decor of where I was sitting when I signed this one, but I witnessed documents in my legal career for clients properly and you are talking about a contest here between me and Mr Blewitt, and you can work out who you believe: the person who is standing here, Prime Minister of Australia who has done nothing wrong, or the man who says he’s guilty of fraud and is looking for an immunity. Work it out.
Journalist: He says he was there, was it your memory that he was with you?
Gillard: I’ve done the best I can. It’s like asking you to remember the colour of every jacket or every tie anybody’s ever worn whilst you’ve interviewed them for the 7.30 Report. That’s what it’s like asking you to remember. I witnessed thousands of documents for clients during my legal career.
Journalist: Back to the original issue of the advice that you provided in the establishment of the AWU Workplace Reform Fund. Did you seek advice from the AWU, or seek authorisation from the AWU as your client, to use the AWU in the title of the incorporation? And did you seek advice or get that advice direct from Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt as your clients? Who was your client in this and did you have any specific authority to use the AWU’s name?
Gillard: Well, let’s be clear about this and let’s be common sense about it. Unions aren’t big blamange things that wander around talking for themselves in the some way that companies don’t. Companies speak through company office bearers, unions speak through elected officials. The people I was dealing with, Mr Blewitt and Mr Wilson, were both office holders of the AWU.
My client in creating the Workplace Reform Association was Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt acting as representatives as a team of officials who were going to run together for election in the trade union. But did I need to separately advise the AWU this was occurring? Of course I didn’t. The people I was dealing with were elected officials of the AWU.
Journalist: Did you or did anyone connected directly or indirectly speak to Bruce Wilson before he made his comments at the weekend and why do you think he chose this time?
Gillard: Look I’m not a mind reader and no I didn’t speak to him.
Journalist: You said to Laura that you didn’t know about the association accounts and so forth, the transfer of money, but did you have a duty to the AWU in August 1995 to at least tell them that the association existed? Would that not have been useful information for them at that point in time?
Gillard: The existence of the association was known to two office bearers of the AWU by definition. At that time in August 1995 I didn’t have anything before me which would suggest that the association’s accounts had been misused in any way. What is it that you are suggesting I would have told the AWU that they could not have otherwise known? I didn’t have bank account numbers, this is the common slip here with reporting made on more than one occasion by news outlets and on more than one occasion apologised for as a defamation, which it is. I had no dealings with the bank accounts of the association.
Journalist: With respect, the slush fund was raised in your exit interview in September 1995 by those interviewing you.
Gillard: Yes and feel free to reacquaint yourself with those four words. I was describing such re-election funds and I used the terminology slush fund and I said in my marathon press conference in this room in August I don’t think the term is assisting anybody understand what happened here.
Journalist: The Workplace Reform Association was raised. It was discussed at your exit interview. And yet the authorities were not alerted to the existence of that until April ‘96 when Ian Cambridge came across it.
Can you explain why it took six to eight months for the existence of that association to be identified by other union officials? And is it the case, you mentioned earlier police inquiries, at that stage they were only concerned with the Victorian accounts, at that stage they had no idea as I understand it that the Western Australian account, the Workplace Reform Association, which you provided legal advice to help establish, even existed. Didn’t Slater & Gordon, didn’t someone at Slater & Gordon ask questions about your knowledge of that association and whether or not further inquiries should be made, should have been made at that stage?
Gillard: I’m not in a position to speak for other Slater & Gordon partners, and I’m not in a position to talk to you about what they should or shouldn’t have concluded. What I can tell you about is what I concluded. Yes, I provided legal advice for the incorporation of an association. Yes, there was scuttlebutt around about whether or not I had received money from places that I should not have received money from in relation to the renovation of my property. I’ve dealt with that here, I’ve dealt with it before, I’ve dealt with it publicly for a long, long time now.
In terms of any evidence available to Slater & Gordon about the misuse of the Workplace Reform Association, well as I understand it, the only thing that’s been waved around here is a cheque supposedly relating to the conveyancing file. Let’s once again be very clear here about what’s the truth as opposed to what is commonly reported. I was not the solicitor in charge of the conveyancing file, I was not the operator of the conveyancing file. In a file more than 400 pages long, there are 12 references to me. In a file more than 400 pages long, there is no reference to the AWU Workplace Relations Association, no reference. And what the file shows in terms of the deposit for the property is it was a direct deposit from Blewitt.
So those documents were available to people at Slater & Gordon, but out of having those documents what is it that you say that they should have reported?
Journalist: So alarm bells weren’t ringing at Slater & Gordon even after Gude got up in Parliament, I think it was October and was the first to raise publically these allegations that monies from an alleged slush fund may have been used on renovations on your property?
Gillard: Well, get the timeline right. Get the timeline right before you draw implications from it. I’ve taken a lot of questions on this and let me answer your question. As I understand it from public reporting in 1996, and you may want to refresh yourself about this, as I understand it from public reporting in 1996, it is contended that monies were moved from the Workplace Relations Association accounts in April 1995. I’m not in a position to tell you whether or not that’s true, I’ve got no idea but I think it was publicly reported in 1996, it may have been publicly reported in News Ltd newspapers.
In terms of the timeline, in August 1995. There were rumours going around about issues in the Victorian branch of the AWU. Slater & Gordon’s partnership has these matters come to their attention. One of the things they do is the internal review, you have the transcript of that internal review. I deal with the question of renovations there and I deal with them as clearly as I can, and as I’ve indicated to you today I did post that interview better check and better compile my receipts and my accounting from my renovations.
Mr Gude in October 1995 then made a set of allegations against me in Parliament which were wholly untrue. So what are you suggesting it is Slater & Gordon partnership should do? Report to the police that there is Hansard that raises allegations against me which are wholly untrue? Is that what they should have done?
Journalist: You said earlier today that the Opposition started this campaign of smear, however in June your former Attorney-General Robert McClelland made a speech to Parliament saying he was concerned that the Government’s response to the HSU scandal wasn’t strong enough and he raised this case of back in the 1990s of corruption at the AWU. Do you admit that he was the first, that his statement predated the Opposition’s questioning of you, and have you spoken to him regarding this case?
Gillard: Let’s be a little bit clearer about the Opposition timeline. Who was it from the Opposition that was pedalling a dirt file in the run up to the 2007 election campaign which canvassed these matters? That’s well before Robert McClelland made the speech that you refer to. So in terms of how long the Opposition has been peddling these matters around, well the Liberal Party has been peddling them around since 1995.
The Opposition, as is a matter of reporting – I’d refer you specifically to a Jason Koutsoukis piece – as is a matter of reporting, had someone, then working for the Liberal Government in the Ministerial offices somewhere out here, calling Jason Koutsoukis into his office, I’m assuming it’s a him, into his office for a glass of red wine and a look at this red hot dirt file which repeddled these allegations about renovations.
So excuse my cynicism about where all of this comes from. In terms of Mr McClelland’s contribution in the Parliament, Mr McClelland has subsequently said about that contribution that it wasn’t a reference to me or my conduct.
Journalist: Further to Michelle’s question earlier, has anyone in your office been in contact with Mr Wilson?
And secondly, when you’re talking about the interview with Slater& Gordon, and you said you’d checked afterwards with all your receipts and everything, why would there have been a confusion in your mind or uncertainty during the original interview about the receipts?
Gillard: Lenore, look at every form of words in that transcript. Look at every form of words where I go through saying “I don’t think so, I don’t see how it can have happened. It doesn’t seem to me to add up that it has happened. Note of caution, can I 100 per cent exclude it?”
The form of words used by me at a time of what was a fair bit of personal stress – perhaps I’m more hard boiled than I used to be – dealing with these matters and being ultra-careful.
That’s what that form of words is about and being ultra-careful I then went and looked at my receipts in greater detail following that discussion at Slater & Gordon.
That’s why I’m in a position to say as I’ve said publicly I paid for the renovations at my house.
In terms of contact between my office and Mr Wilson, not to my knowledge.
Journalist: Prime Minister, in relation to the establishment of the Workplace Reform Association, didn’t that require a resolution from the AWU, so wasn’t the incorporation of that in contravention of the rules of the AWU which as the lawyer for the AWU you had to uphold?
And secondly, given that Mr Wilson, his reputation was somewhat tarnished at time of the Slater & Gordon interview with you, why didn’t you tell at least the AWU of the creation of the incorporated entity in Western Australia?
Gillard: Sid, with respect you completely misunderstand everything to do with this matter and maybe that explains some things for us.
I was not incorporating this association on the instructions of the AWU; I was incorporating this association on the instructions of Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt as representatives of a team of union officials who would run together for re-election.
My state of knowledge as disclosed in the Slater & Gordon interview from 1995 was that they would engage in the kind of ordinary fundraising events that people had to support union re-elections, payroll deductions from union officials who are going to participate in the team, fundraising dinners where it was clear what the purpose of the fundraiser was for and the like.
That was my state of knowledge. I’ve then been asked during the course of this discussion today, why wouldn’t I get those instructions from Blewitt and Wilson and then take it into my head that I should separately advise the AWU that this was occurring?
The two people I was dealing with were office bearers of the AWU. I’m therefore, I think, entitled to say the AWU – people who were office bearers of the AWU – knew about it.
Journalist: But you’re not.
Gillard: How on earth do you contend that?
Journalist: Under the rules they needed a resolution.
Gillard: You might be more expert in these matters than me. But I doubt – don’t Hector me thanks Sid – you might claim to be more expert in these matters than me, but if you want to identify to me an AWU rule that would require AWU authority for a team of union officials who want to run together for re-election to form an association in order to support their re-election, then please identify that rule for me.
Journalist: Prime Minister, there’s thousands of people who’ve been abused in the Australian Defence Force; a lot of them would have liked to be here to witness that apology. Why did you make the announcement at such short notice?
Gillard: We’ll deal with the rest of this stuff and then I’ll try and quickly do a few questions at the end.
Journalist: Prime Minister, you’ve spoken about the fact when you became suspicious about Mr Wilson’s activities you broke-off the relationship. You’ve also said today that you’ve tried to check back your bank account records to check on a particular deposit.
How confident are you that you never inadvertently received any money, benefit, gifts from Mr Wilson or anyone else that may have originated in this fund that we’re discussing and if you are confident, given that you can’t check your records thoroughly, how can you be confident?
Gillard: Nothing happened in the course of my relationship with Mr Wilson about who paid for what that you would say was in any way unusual for people in a relationship.
We’d go out for dinner, sometimes he’d pay, sometimes I’d pay, sometimes we’d split the bill. Nothing unusual in the course of my dealings with him.
I’ve done everything I could to check the $5,000 – it’s not capable of being checked with this remove of time – so there was nothing that happened which would lead me to conclude that there was somehow lots of money around or lots of benefits around that somehow I couldn’t explain.
There just wasn’t anything that would lead me to that conclusion. So once again, hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?
But if I’m in a personal relationship where the way in which it works in terms of expenditure is basically garden variety for personal relationships, then what is it that is supposed to have alerted my suspicion? There wasn’t anything.
Journalist: Prime Minister, with regards to conveyancing for him, you made mention before that in the 425 page document there’s 12 mentions of you.
Your critics say that some of the nagging doubts that you didn’t know about this as you say, was the fact that your name does exist within documents that date from February and March of 1993.
I know that you say that you just don’t recall it being brought to your attention, but can you tell us how did Slater & Gordon work in that instance. Was it that partners who had some kind of association with the original file would be like a watermark with regards to all the communication?
Gillard: You can tell the coding of the file, when you look at the file the coding is NSB:NOB. NSB is the name of the partner in charge, that’s Nick Styant-Browne.
NOB is the initials of the paralegal who did the conveyancing. She went by the name of Olive, she must have had a first name that started with an N, I didn’t remember any of that.
My files were coded IU:JEG or sometimes just JEG, so it wasn’t a code, it wasn’t Enigma in terms of breaking the code.
When you got to Slater & Gordon you would have been AP or if there was another AP already there working away, they would have inserted whatever is the letter of your middle name.
Journalist: With regards to Olive then, did she work for you?
Gillard: No, she worked for Nick Styant-Browne in commercial.
Journalist: Why does something that’s “Attention Julia Gillard” go to Olive to sort out?
Gillard: Let’s be very clear about this. The conveyancing file was a file of Nick Styant-Browne’s, he was the partner this charge.
In terms of the day to day work on the file, it would have been done by the paralegal, Olive Brosnahan.
When you look at the file that is apparent from the file itself, from the coding NSB:NOB, and from the various documents that refer to Olive, or Olly, or Olive Brosnahan, on the file.
Have a look for the file users yourself. It was dealt with in the Slater & Gordon commercial section, not in the section where I worked. I worked in a different section of the firm.
In terms of my engagement with the file, having had the opportunity now it’s in the public domain to look at the documents on it, what I believe has happened here is I ran a few messages back and forth between Olive Brosnahan and Mr Blewitt in terms of the certificate relating to the insurance.
I’d refer you to a hand-written file note that is in Olive Brosnahan’s handwriting which refers to Ralph chasing that matter up with the Commonwealth Bank, that is him personally attending to it.
Journalist: In referring to the messages between Olive and Mr Blewitt, do you now concede then that you might have become aware that there was a mortgage?
Gillard: What I said publicly last week, it appears in giving my best recollection 17 years ago, of events two and a half years earlier, it appears whilst I was giving my best recollection 17 years ago that there are these documents.
Now once again, let’s deal with this from a common sense perspective, I was a solicitor working at Slater & Gordon dealing with hundreds of my own files every day and paper just came and came and came across your desk.
Now do you have a clear recollection of every document that came across your desk two and a half years ago? I suspect not.
So 17 years ago I gave my best recollection of events two and a half years earlier, but in terms of one of the reasons I say to people what’s the allegation here, well what is the allegation here? That I had knowledge-
Journalist: If indeed you did know of the mortgage and you’d just forgotten, what would be the big deal in him being given a mortgage through Slater & Gordon?
Gillard: Couldn’t have put it better myself. Thank you, Andrew. What is the big deal?
Anybody got any contention about how Ralph Blewitt getting a Slater & Gordon mortgage goes to any conduct by me, or any assertions of wrongdoing? What is the big deal?
Journalist: Just going back to Dennis’s opening question. Have I got this right, that when you became aware that Mr Wilson had been involved in untoward activities in Mr Murphy’s presence, your sense of betrayal and hurt was such that you terminated the relationship immediately basically in his presence?
Gillard: No, in answer to Dennis’s question, I went through how I see those events and how I see those events was in August ‘95 these things came to the attention of the Slater & Gordon partnership and they came to the attention of me.
There was matters with which the AWU, in the Victorian branch, matters they were dealing with, I didn’t have proof about those matters.
What I knew was that there were a set of allegations within the Victorian branch of the AWU and the AWU was seized of that matter.
I made some decisions about my personal life as history records. In terms of me having evidence of wrongdoing that I could take to the authorities, then I ask people once again – what evidence is it that they suggest that I had?
I’d provided legal advice on the incorporation of an association. I didn’t have anything to do with the bank accounts. I didn’t know the numbers of the bank accounts. I didn’t know what the bank accounts had been used for.
That was my state of knowledge at the time. So, in those circumstances, there’s a question about inquiries and investigations. I do refer you to Mr Gude’s Hansard where he talks about who was involved in those inquiries and investigations.
As for decisions in my personal life, I make those decisions based on personal matters. I did not make those decisions because there was some evidence available to me which was capable of being reported to the police.
The way in which human beings beings deal with each other in close relationships, I think common sense would you tell is a little bit different than that.
Journalist: Prime Minister, can I just ask, do you have any regrets about your handling of this matter at all and will you now release the full transcript of your exit interview from Slater & Gordon?
Gillard: I don’t have the full transcript of my exit interview from Slater & Gordon.
Journalist: Would you have a problem with it being released?
Gillard: I don’t think anybody’s got it. I don’t have it. So I don’t have my full transcript of the Slater & Gordon interview. As I understand it, it was redacted because of issues associated with a legal professional privilege, and so you’d have to deal with all of that and they’re not matters for me.
In terms of all of these years later, of course I would prefer that I wasn’t standing here today taking questions like this and we were talking about the National Disability Insurance Scheme and education.
But we could be in that position, if the political strategy of the Opposition wasn’t about sleaze and smear, but it was about issues of substance for the nation’s future.
What I can confidently say is I did nothing wrong. And these things have been cycled and recycled and re-recycled and re-recycled over 20 years. I did nothing wrong.
And out of all of this; all of these questions; the last marathon press conference; the times I’ve taken questions in Melbourne, in Brisbane; all of the peddling of this right back to Phil Gude in 1995; across all of those years in between there is not one person who is able to come forward and clearly say I did something wrong.
And I do note when the Opposition is challenged to do it as Mr Abbott was today and as Ms Bishop was last week, to articulate what it is that I have done wrong, they are unable to do so.
So in these circumstances, I am saying to people to weigh this appropriately for what it’s worth, in light of the facts of the matter that I have outlined.
Now I’m seriously going to have to go to Question Time. Thank you.