One of the most vicious campaigns in Australian media history is still playing out. Alan Austin has made a formal complaint to the Australian Press Council.
Item 1 requires publications to
‘ ... ensure that factual material in news reports and elsewhere is accurate and not misleading.’
Item 3 requires that
' ... writers’ expressions of opinion are not based on significantly inaccurate factual material or omission of key facts.’
Mitchell’s central deception is the one News Corp has perpetrated continually for more than ten years. He falsely claimed former Prime Minister Julia Gillard set up a “slush fund” for her then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson, an official with the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), who used it for illegal transactions.
‘Gillard, a partner at Slater and Gordon in Melbourne at the time, had been romantically involved with Wilson since 1992 and had helped to set up the AWU Workplace Reform Association, which was registered as a fund for training workers.’
This is false. The Workplace Reform Association (WRA) was registered as an incorporated association, not as a fund. Its bank account was the fund.
As has been proven at the Trade Union Royal Commission (TURC), Ms Gillard did not set up any bank account for Wilson or anyone else. She only helped incorporate the association.
‘The review found nothing which contradicted the information provided by Ms Gillard at the time’
The distinction between the two entities was clarified at the TURC on Wednesday, 10 September 2014, when counsel assisting the Commission, Jeremy Stoljar SC, quoted from a 1995 interview with Gillard and Slater & Gordon partners, Peter Gordon and Geoff Shaw:
“ ... the account belonging to an incorporated association by the same name which was incorporated by Slater & Gordon ...”
Clearly, the fund belongs to the association; they are not the same thing.
Stoljar confirmed the distinction with this question:
“He [Peter Gordon] is referring to an account quite separate from the Association; correct?”
“When you look across this discussion with Mr Gordon and Mr Shaw, there's a discussion about the Workplace Reform Association; there's a discussion then about bank accounts ... I didn't know anything about the banking arrangements of the AWU Workplace Reform Association.”
Gillard has reinforced this testimony multiple times through the course of News Corp’s tawdry campaign against her:
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.
Mitchell used the term “slush fund” eight times in Monday’s piece. Not once did he distinguish the bank account from the association.
The second falsehood is here:
‘In fact, [AWU official Ralph] Blewitt spoke for 18 minutes to 2GB host Alan Jones that same week about what exactly he, Wilson and Gillard did do, once again admitting his own crimes.’
Not true. In the Jones interview on 28 May, Blewitt admitted being the WRA secretary and carrying cash from Perth to Melbourne. There was no admission of any criminal activity.
He mentioned “secret commissions” several times, but without specifying sources, destinations or individuals involved.
When Blewitt was charged in Western Australia in March last year on 31 charges of fraud, he pleaded not guilty.
Evidence of any criminal conduct was deemed so weak by Western Australian and Victorian police that all charges were dropped last month.
Mitchell’s third falsehood is that
‘Gillard left her employment [with law firm Slater & Gordon] in 1995 over her work for Wilson.’
Repeated countless times by News Corp publications, this is a malicious concoction, as shown by the testimony of former Slater & Gordon (S&G) partner Bernard Murphy, now Justice Murphy, other S&G partners and Julia Gillard herself. This is confirmed by documents presented to the TURC.
The reality is that, in June 1995, Gillard nominated for a Senate seat with the Australian Labor Party. The first indication that anything was amiss regarding S&G clients Wilson and Blewitt arose “between 8 August and some date in early September” in 1995, as Justice Murphy testified at the Royal Commission.
Gillard was then found by an internal S&G review in September 1995 to have acted appropriately at all times.
This was confirmed in a 2012 statement from Slater & Gordon:
‘The review found nothing which contradicted the information provided by Ms Gillard at the time in relation to the AWU/Bruce Wilson allegations and which she has stated consistently since the allegations were first raised.’
Bernard Murphy at the TURC repeated this:
“I had conversations with her [Gillard] about whether she'd done anything wrong and she assured me she hadn't and I believed her.”
Gillard took leave of absence from Slater & Gordon in late 1995 to pursue a political career. She formally resigned after the 1996 Federal Election on 3 May 1996.
The fourth falsehood is this:
‘This paper in 2012 produced her [Gillard’s] exit interview from Slater and Gordon ...’
This repeats The Australian’s fabrication that the September 1995 interview was part of a disciplinary procedure leading to Gillard’s dismissal.
The interview was a routine internal review, unrelated to her voluntary resignation tendered eight months later. It was not an exit interview.
The fifth falsehood is this:
'... many senior ministers in the Gillard Government at the time had grave misgivings about her history. Attorney-General Robert McClelland was just the only one brave enough to say so publicly.’
Blatantly untrue. Nothing Robert McClelland or any other senior minister in the Gillard Government has ever said shows any “misgivings about her history”, grave or otherwise.
McClelland raised concerns about union misconduct in Parliament in June 2012 but made no adverse comments whatsoever about the then PM.
According to Gillard:
“Mr McClelland has subsequently said about that contribution that it wasn't a reference to me or my conduct.”
The sixth falsehood is this:
'Yet Gillard had a damaging stain on her record.’
No, she didn’t. None of the tawdry allegations made against her in the course of News Corp’s venomous campaign has been shown to have a shred of supportive evidence.
Independent Australia is a member of The Australian Press Council. This article will be updated to include any response received by Alan Austin from the Australian Press Council.
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