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Deputy PM cleared of contempt of court -

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Deputy PM cleared of contempt of court

The World Today - Friday, 5 June , 2009 12:36:00

Reporter: Rachael Brown

PETER CAVE: The Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been cleared of contempt of court
allegations for comments she made about a union turf war in Melbourne.

In a speech to a union conference this week Ms Gillard justified her stance on the Australian
Building and Construction Commission, commenting on carloads of balaclava-clad men involved in a
chase.

Lawyers representing men charged over the West Gate Bridge Industrial dispute say that it
prejudices their clients' case, and that Ms Gillard abused her position.

Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Deputy PM has been accused of gratuitous embellishment of charges facing
construction workers to help vindicate her Government's promise to abolish the Australian Building
and Construction Commission.

Twelve men have been charged with reckless conduct and traffic offences, arising out of a pay and
conditions dispute on the West Gate Bridge upgrade project.

Julia Gillard's alleged contemptuous comments were made to the ACTU's congress on Wednesday and
refer to balaclava-clad men during the West Gate industrial dispute.

JULIA GILLARD: Like me, I'm sure you were appalled to read of dangerous car chases across Melbourne
city involving carloads of balaclava wearing people, criminal damage to vehicles resulting in
arrests, threats of physical violence and intimidation of individuals - including damage to a
private residence.

The last time I read of balaclavas in an industrial dispute they were being worn by security thugs
at the Melbourne waterfront when the MUA fought its history-making battle against Patrick's and the
Liberal Party.

RACHAEL BROWN: The defence counsel representing the men charged has described the comments as
inflammatory and a calculated attempt to further Ms Gillard's political agenda.

Defence lawyer Rob Stary says the men aren't even charged with wearing a disguise, mass threats of
violence, nor damaging private property.

He says the comments from the second highest office holder in Australia were reported widely in the
press and prejudiced the men's right to a fair trial.

ROB STARY (excerpt from court transcript): It cannot be the case that simply because a person holds
high office in this country, that they have carte blanche to make such comments that affect the
administration of justice in this State.

RACHAEL BROWN: Mr Stary asked the magistrate to suppress further comments by Ms Gillard, demand an
apology or a fine, or refer the matter to the OPP.

But the prosecution said Ms Gillard didn't name anyone, has not prejudiced the men's case, and that
people can't be prohibited from commenting on what they see and hear in the public arena.

The magistrate agreed, saying he's not confident Ms Gillard's comments amount to contempt, nor
should they be referred to the OPP.

PETER CAVE: That report from Rachael Brown in Melbourne.