Paul Howes Quits AWU And Other Political Positions; Disavows Parliamentary Aspirations (For Now)

Paul Howes, the 32-year-old National Secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, has announced his resignation and indicated he will also relinquish his other political positions in the labour movement and the ALP.

Howes

Howes has been a paid official of the AWU since he was 17. After Bill Shorten left the union in 2007 to enter federal parliament, Howes assumed its leadership. He has been a significant political influence in the ALP, supporting the removal of former prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2010 but falling out with his Right faction colleagues by refusing to support the overthrow of Julia Gillard last year.

In what he said would be his final interview, Howes, who was 14 when he left school, told David Speers on Sky News that he wanted to undertake formal studies. He said it was time “to do something different” and that he would be withdrawing from political commentary.

Howes is also deputy chairman of AustralianSuper, a member of the ALP’s National Executive and vice-president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It appears that he will relinquish these positions as well.

Howes denied that he was standing down to pursue a parliamentary career. Last year, the NSW Right faction passed him over for former Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s Senate position. Today, he left open the possibility of entering parliament at a later time.

Media reports say Howes is now free to advocate cutting the ALP’s formal links with trade unions.

  • Listen to David Speers interview Paul Howes on Sky News (27m)

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Resignation statement by Paul Howes, National Secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union.

This morning I advised the National Executive of my decision to step down as national secretary of our union in July.

It has been a tremendous privilege to serve in this role and I will be eternally grateful for the trust that has been placed in me. [Read more...]


Wayne Swan’s Speech To The AWU National Conference

The Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Wayne Swan, has addressed the Australian Workers’ Union National Conference in Brisbane.

Swan’s speech follows Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s appearance last night.

Swan’s speech returned to his familiar theme of Labor values, warned of Tea Party tendencies in the Liberal Party, reiterated the government’s commitment to jobs, and emphasised the importance of the government’s re-election in September.

Swan

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Transcript of Wayne Swan’s speech to the AWU National Conference.

The Choice of 2013

Thanks Paul for that introduction. I think brothers and sisters of the AWU would join me in saying that your re-election – unopposed as it was – speaks volumes about the respect and appreciation you’ve earned in this room and around the country. There’d certainly be no argument here that the national conversation has benefited hugely from your growing contribution over the past few years. Together with Bill Ludwig – a giant of our movement – you’ve helped the AWU stand tall and unmoved as the first line of defence for so many hardworking Australians and their right to decent pay and fair conditions. And to Bill, mate frankly I reckon you could’ve knocked out another quarter of a century leading the mighty Queensland branch. But I do understand the need for fresh blood and I know you leave it in Ben’s very capable hands. We’re better every day for your stewardship of this great union – our union.

As the PM said last night, I’m just back from G20 Finance Ministers meeting in Moscow over the weekend. These meetings always reaffirm my optimism about the future of our nation. A lot of finance ministers around the table would give their right arm for the resilience of the Australian economy. Yes, we face challenges and we saw some of those tough challenges in the video last night. The higher dollar being one. But we approach these from a position of strength that few developed economies have. Every time I sit in these meetings I think about people like you. I think of the Labor values that go to the core of our party and movement. Jobs first, fair days’ pay for a fair days work – high skill high wage careers. Always putting growth and jobs first, and making sure we’re prepared for the challenges of the future by dealing with dangerous climate change and investing in infrastructure and education. We’re stronger today because we applied these values during the global financial crisis, we saved hundreds of thousands of jobs and small businesses, and in doing that we were opposed every step of the way by Mr Abbott and his Tea-Party style negative tactics. Had Mr Abbott and his slash and burn Tea-Partyers been in charge during the financial crisis, Australia would have gone into recession. [Read more...]


Julia Gillard’s Speech To The Australian Workers’ Union National Conference

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has addressed the National Conference of the Australian Workers’ Union in Brisbane.

The AWU is an important component of Gillard’s power base. The support of Bill Shorten, the former National Secretary of the AWU, and Paul Howes, the current National Secretary, was crucial to Gillard’s overthrow of Kevin Rudd. Treasurer Wayne Swan is supported by the AWU and its National President, Bill Ludwig. The AWU is an important component of the right-wing faction of the ALP.

Gillard

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Text of Julia Gillard’s speech to the AWU National Conference.

Thank you very much. Thank you to Paul for that very kind introduction.

Paul, a man of so few words that you really value it when he breaks his silence.

Paul, accused perhaps in the past of being a faceless man, but no one’s ever accused him of being a voiceless man.

That is a good thing, that is a good thing for the members of the Australian the Workers Union because what that means is that Paul raises a passionate voice to put your causes, your concerns at the centre of the national debate so I congratulate him on his leadership of this great union. [Read more...]


Subtlety Lost: Craig Emerson On The Australian Media

The Minister for Trade, Craig Emerson, has written an opinion piece criticising coverage by the Australian media of recent political controversies.

EmersonEmerson focuses on the Gillard-AWU issue and the issues surrounding the sexual harassment case brought by James Ashby against Peter Slipper. He is especially critical of coverage by the News Limited papers, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph.

Emerson also directs his fire at Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne.

Of the media overall, Emerson says: “I am not asserting there is a general bias in the media. Some editors and a few journalists are blatantly biased. That has always been the case. But the real problem is the abandonment of professional standards to give effect to that bias. All subtlety is lost.”

Text of an opinion piece by the Minister for Trade, Craig Emerson.

Subtlety lost

At Sydney University in the early 1970s a course simply called “Government” was offered to economics, arts and law students. It was a time of social upheaval and the election of the Whitlam Government had ended 23 years of conservative rule. The Murdoch press had backed a change of government.

My tutor in Government, Lex Watson, a gay rights activist, had set us a task: to identify bias in the media. But as left-wing as Lex was, the six-week project wasn’t about left versus right, it was about the techniques used by the print media to slant a story to suit an editorial position. [Read more...]


George Brandis Press Conference On Gillard AWU Allegations

The year’s final parliamentary sitting week was dominated by claims that Prime Minister Julia Gillard had something to explain about the AWU and her time at Slater and Gordon in the 1990s.

As the Opposition came under criticism for unsubstantiated claims that Gillard had committed a criminal act, Senator George Brandis, the Opposition’s shadow Attorney-General, held a press conference to recapitulate the coalition’s case.

George Brandis

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Transcript of press conference held by Senator George Brandis.

BRANDIS: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. There has been some debate this morning in the media about the claim made by the Opposition that Julia Gillard broke the law in relation to the establishment and operation of the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association. In order to get to the bottom of this affair, the Opposition, as you know, yesterday called for the establishment of a judicial inquiry. I think the terms of reference that we proposed for that judicial inquiry were released by the Opposition Leader’s office yesterday but for ease of reference for you I will give you give you a copy of them as well as a small bundle of documents I want to take you to.

Now, Parliament is a political forum and debates between journalists and politicians about the law are seldom very illuminating but let me explain to you the basis upon which or the principal basis upon which the Opposition says Julia Gillard broke the law. We say that she broke the law because the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association was established as a sham to facilitate a fraud and by her participation in its establishment, Julia Gillard was a party to that crime. Now, it is against the law of every Australian State, including the law of Western Australia, to provide a materially false statement when a person is under a statutory obligation to provide information to an authority. That is the effect of section 170 of the Western Australian Criminal Code in the terms in which it was drawn at the time of these events in 1992. [Read more...]


Gillard Fights Back Over AWU Allegations: Complains To Fairfax, Attacks Opposition

Julia Gillard’s office has reacted strongly to suggestions that the Prime Minister did something wrong in her work as a solicitor at Slater & Gordon in the 1990s.

As the final day of parliamentary sittings for the year unfolded, Gillard has complained to Fairfax newspapers over “the grievous misrepresentations in your reporting” of the AWU slush fund affair.

Her office has also issued a statement calling on the opposition to give up its “discredited smear campaign”.

Text of statement from Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s spokesperson, as published in Fairfax newspapers.

Statement from a spokesperson for the Prime Minister:

It’s time for the Liberals to give up their witch hunt and start talking about things that matter.

The whole country is sick to death of Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop pursuing a discredited smear campaign against the Prime Minister, when we could be talking about jobs, health, and education.

After months of speculation about a smoking gun, the Liberals have nothing.

So, the Prime Minister wrote to the WA Commissioner? So what? She did what lawyers do. Act on instruction. Provide legal advice.

So, the Prime Minister can’t remember writing one letter from 20 years ago. So what? Lawyers write thousands of letters in their careers. [Read more...]


Ralph Blewitt Interviewed on 7.30

Ralph Blewitt, the former sidekick to Australian Workers’ Union official Bruce Wilson, was interviewed by Leigh Sales on the ABC’s 7.30 program this evening.

At her press conference today, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said this of Blewitt:

“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.”