Julia Gillard testifies at TURC: Next up Elvis Presley and Big Foot

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Julia Gillard was in the Trade Union Royal Commission today and Peter Wicks from Wixxyleaks was there to watch the former prime minister bash the counsel assisting all over the park without her even raising a sweat.

TONY ABBOTT’S Royal Commission into Trade Unions was supposed to be about two things, the vindication of Kathy Jackson and the persecution of Julia Gillard.

However just like Tony Abbott's first Budget, these two objectives have both turned into monumental public failures.

We have already seen Kathy Jackson land face first after falling off the pedestal she built for herself. Jackson spent the year prior to the Commission smelling like roses and, now the media have caught up with what Jackson has called the “blogosphere”, she is smelling more like what those roses may be fertilised with. Jackson is still to face questions on the evidence she sought to have suppressed, which is expected to be bigger than that which has already been made public.

Yesterday, it was time for Julia Gillard to face the tough questions.

Rob Elliott

The day started off with the witnesses Rob Elliott and his wife Kay Darveniza — names some of you may recognise from previous articles.

Counsel Assisting Jeremy Stoljar SC ignored their involvement in the HSU and their relationship with Kathy Jackson to instead decided to focus on their dealings approximately a quarter of a century ago with Julia Gillard.

Stoljar clearly went out to try to show a pattern of behaviour from Gillard in relation to the setting up of associations for questionable purposes — however those efforts failed.

It turns out that Gillard had participated in what were seemingly boring routine conversations regarding industrial affairs with two union officials — Elliott and Darveniza.

On social media much was made out of the witnesses appearing vague. However, the finer details of a conversation or meeting on what would have been routine affairs for union officials such as fundraising and industrial matters would tend to become vaguer as the years roll on, I would imagine — particularly when one's memory may be impacted by multiple sclerosis, as Darveniza's statement confirms.

Soon enough, it was time for the main event and Julia Gillard took the stand.

Gillard testified about her current work status, her background with Slater and Gordon and how she came to meet her former partner Bruce Wilson.

Wilson had asked Gillard’s legal advice on the setting up of an incorporated association for him and his team, as he was seeking to become secretary of the AWU in WA. Giving advice in this regards was a common practice for Slater and Gordon. Gillard testified that the law firm’s major source of work was plaintiff personal injury work. It was common for work to be done with no charge for unions so that the firm may pick up personal injury work from the union’s members.

Crords mill outside TURC

From there on in, the questioning up until lunch was all about goings on of the association, the invoices they sent, the members it had, and the bank account details and transactions.

As Gillard was forced to point out on numerous occasions — she gave legal advice on the setting up of the association, she had nothing more to do with it and no idea about the inner workings of the association.

This sounds to me not only feasible, but highly likely. For those on social media who chose to make more out of this than defies logic, I would use this analogy. Just because the green grocer advises you what vegetables are in season does not mean 20 years later he can explain to a court what you cooked them with.

The other aim of counsel assisting, in my opinion, was to extract the “I don’t recall” answer from Gillard as many times as possible, so as to make her testimony seem less reliable.

This was done by asking ridiculously minute details of conversations that may or may not have taken place two decades ago, or mundane details of what sections of an act were used to form part of legal advice, and where the witnessing of documents took place and who was in attendance at the time. Questions that, given the passage of time involved, would be almost impossible to give exact answers on.

Gillard eventually gave a response that resulted in cheers and laughs in the media room:

“My evidence is that I was a busy solicitor across the years in which I practised as a lawyer. I would have witnessed thousands of documents. I do not have specific recall of, you know, each and every document I witnessed and the circumstances, you know, which room, which desk, what I was wearing. I don’t have that kind of recall, but I witnessed documents appropriately.”

This led to this question from Stoljar, which resulted in an answer from Gillard that caused a roar of laughter from those in the media room:

"What about your practice in respect of dating a particular document? Did you have any practice in that regard?"

Replied Gillard:

"You put the right date on a document."

However, it was the blunt tone of Gillard’s response that put Stoljar in his place and highlighted the disrespect and desperation in the line of questioning.

Gillard also stated that the work done on this matter would have taken between three and five hours, and that, in her time at Slater and Gordon, she had done far more substantial work than that for no charge.

There was heavy questioning on the subject of an advertisement that appeared in the printed media regarding the association and its incorporation. The placement of this advertisement is a legal requirement in the setting up an incorporated association.

Stoljar seemed to be determined to have Gillard admit that she wrote and placed the advertisement, despite Gillard stating under oath that she did not have anything to do with it.

The counsel assisting fired many questions at her regarding this ad, yet appeared to have absolutely no evidence on which to base his line of questioning. The best he could use to lend credibility to this theory was to say the ad was written in what looked like legal terms.

The repetitive questioning and the desperate attempts to trip Gillard up on the matter eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, ended with an interjection from Commissioner Dyson Heydon. Heydon pointed out the likelihood that it was a standard advert placed by someone else with the details of the association's name changed to suit.

This simple logic had been lost on those in the right-wing commentary business leading the witch-hunt until now.

After lunch, Gillard was asked questions on several matters that involved the payment of accounts and billing regarding work done for the association.

Those who have sought to trash Gillard’s reputation may have been shocked upon finding out that a law firm the size of Slater and Gordon had a separate accounts department and the solicitors that worked there did not have to perform every task relating to their clients.

(Allegations that Slater and Gordon have a separate mail room were not explored and talk of the solicitors taking turns to act as the receptionist are rumoured to be highly exaggerated.)

When it came to the renovations it has been alleged were paid for by Wilson using funds from the association there was simply nothing to back up these allegations. Gillard testified that she had the work done and paid for with cheques and had receipts for the work.

At one stage Gillard mentioned she had invoices and Stoljar leapt at the chance to bring Gillard crashing down. Stoljar started with rapid fire questions around these invoices, stating that Gillard had not mentioned having invoices in her statements, as if to accuse her of withholding evidence. Stoljar clearly had the taste of blood was going for the jugular — until, sadly, once again the facts got in the way.

Commissioner Heydon interrupted Stoljar to point out where in her affidavit Gillard had, in fact, stated she had invoices.

In the end, Gillard finished the day having faced all of the allegations against her and shooting them all down in flames.

There will always be those out there that believe Elvis Presley is still alive and that Bigfoot exists, just as I’m sure there will be those out there that believe Julia Gillard is guilty of something.

However, just as the public would not like to see vast amounts of taxpayer funds spent hunting mythical creatures and dead celebrities, the vast majority of the public are dismayed to see so much money wasted on a baseless attack from a bunch of sexist commentators and politicians on our first female Prime Minister.

It is about time this travesty ended.

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