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Transcript of interview: The Bolt Report: 4 November 2012: The growing controversy over the Prime Minister's involvement with the AWU slush fund; misappropriation of union funds

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TRANSCRIPT SENATOR THE HON. ERIC ABETZ Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Shadow Minister for Employment & Workplace Relations

Liberal Senator for Tasmania

4th November 2012

Transcript The Bolt Report

Interview with Senator Eric Abetz

Subjects: The growing controversy over the Prime Minister’s involvement with the AWU slush fund. Misappropriation of union funds.

Andrew Bolt: Senator Eric Abetz is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, what are you alleging against the Prime Minister, are you saying she's a crook?

Senator Abetz: What we are saying is that there is a lot of information that she has not placed on the public record and the Australian people are entitled to know the truth. She needs to make a full and frank statement as to what she knew and what her involvement was. Her statements at the moment suggest, on one interpretation, that she has misled the Parliament, in as much as she said that when she was being interviewed by Slater and Gordon in September 1995 all the matters were known to the AWU officials.

Andrew Bolt: Can I just interrupt you there Eric? Let’s have a look at that particular exchange to show the viewers what you are talking about.

Julie Bishop: Why didn't the Prime Minister herself report the fraud involving the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association that she helped establish?

Julia Gillard: By the time the matters she refers to came to my attention they were already the subject of inquiry and investigation.

Andrew Bolt: Now as I understand it, it took a year after Julia Gillard was quizzed by her partners at Slater and Gordon in 1995 about those matters involving the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association before Police were investigating. There was no investigation for a year. Is that your understanding?

Senator Abetz: That is my understanding and all that is on the public record would suggest that. That is why there is a full 12 months in the chronology between Julia Gillard being interviewed and then leaving Slater and Gordon and the Australian

Workers Union becoming aware of it and reporting it to the Police. So the assertion that the Prime Minister made in the Parliament does not seem to gel with the chronology on the public record. Having said that, I'm willing to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt, but only if she provides a full and frank explanation to the Australian people.

Andrew Bolt: Well, Independent MP's Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor insisted that Labor MP Craig Thomson explain himself to Parliament after being accused of misappropriating $400,000 of union money. Should the Independents insist that Julia Gillard answer the questions that you've just put and other questions about this scandal in a similar manner?

Senator Abetz: The Independents, if they are truly independent and aren't just there to give Julia Gillard and her Government life support, if they are truly independent they would insist on answers.

Andrew Bolt: Now Julia Gillard has said she did not know her boyfriend used the slush fund that she helped to create to rip off $400,000, some of which her boyfriend used to buy a house with that power of attorney she says she witnessed, But the Opposition's Andrew Laming was thrown out of the Parliament for shouting that the Prime Minister was corrupt. Is she?

Senator Abetz: I think the jury is out in relation to the issue as to what the Prime Minister's actual and personal involvement is. And the reason the jury is still out is that the Prime Minister has not given the Australian people a full and satisfactory explanation. To ambush the media and say, alright I'm going to answer all questions now on this issue as she did a while back without allowing the journalists who were actually reporting on the issue to think up their questions and actually be present I think indicated that the Prime Minister was engaged in a media ambush. She thought she got away with it. But of course the information is now swirling around her more and more and now with Mr Blewitt's allegations about the power of attorney, about Julia Gillard not actually witnessing the document. And one would assume Ms Gillard would have been told why the power of attorney was being drawn up and that was to buy a house in somebody else's name, but for the benefit of somebody else. So it does seem as though she may have been drawn into the vortex of this by developing these documents. Now whether that is so or not, nobody knows other than Ms Gillard and she needs to explain herself.

Andrew Bolt: Before we go, we've got the Health Services Union, those extra charges this week, allegations this week about the CFMEU spending money on it's activities that other people thought was for drug rehabilitation. We've still got the missing money from this AWU scandal. Do we need a Royal Commission into the way unions are regulated? At the very least do we need new laws enforcing union officials to return misappropriated money?

Senator Abetz: The Slater and Gordon interview by Julia Gillard at the time saw her acknowledging that every union has a slush fund. And I think that statement provides a window into her and Labor's reluctance to support the Coalition's policy of having a Registered Organisations Commission which would have the forensic accountants and lawyers on it to make those sort of investigations and ensure that the trade

union members are satisfied that their money is being spent on their interests and not in the interests of the union bosses. And the list you just read out of funny money deals within trade unions shows that it is now no longer just a one off in the Health Services Union, as Julia Gillard claimed. It is now endemic. And she knew about that courtesy of the 1995 Slater and Gordon interview which has come to light since the HSU matters came to light.

Andrew Bolt: Eric Abetz thanks for joining me.

Eric Abetz: Thank you.


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