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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 8024

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:20): The coalition strongly support honest, well-governed unions, but we are deeply concerned at the culture of corruption which has emerged in a number of trade unions. I want to deal in the time available to me with the Australian Workers Union. It has been known for some time now that the Prime Minister, Ms Gillard, in her former capacity as a lawyer at Slater & Gordon was responsible for documenting the incorporation of the AWU Workplace Reform Association, a vehicle that was used for the theft of members' funds, the funds owned by honest trade union members.

What has recently come to light, though, in particular in an article by Mark Baker in yesterday's Melbourne Age is the extent of Ms Gillard's involvement as a lawyer at Slater & Gordon in a property transaction at Kerr Street, Fitzroy, the beneficiary of which was her then partner Mr Bruce Wilson. The consideration for the conveyance of that property came from two sources: $67,722.20 came from the AWU Workplace Reform Association—

Senator Wong interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: It is a point of order, Senator Wong?

Senator Wong: I understand that Senator Brandis wants to put this on the public record in here because he probably will not do it outside.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, what is your point of order?

Senator Wong: My point of order is relevance, Mr President. There was no question that related to something which occurred decades ago in relation to the Prime Minister and on which she has answered questions on the public record for some time. If Senator Brandis wants to make a contribution, there are appropriate circumstances where he can do that. This is hardly relevant to anything in question time.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, I believe Senator Brandis is being relevant to the topic. The topic has covered the areas that Senator Brandis is touching upon, and I remind all senators in the chamber of the matter before the chair. Senator Brandis, you have the call.

Senator Cameron: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I would invite you to have a look at Hansard from yesterday when you drew my attention to the relevancy of my contribution. On several occasions you were extremely tight in your assessment of what was relevant. This ruling goes completely opposite to that, and I would ask you to reconsider that ruling now.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, if you recall and if you go back to Hansard, you will find that I reminded you of the question, which is different from the response that I just gave to Senator Wong. Senator Brandis, you have the call.

Senator BRANDIS: Thank you, Mr Deputy President. As I was saying, $67,722.20 of the consideration from that transaction came from the AWU Workplace Reform Association set up by Ms Gillard in her capacity as a solicitor. But we learned yesterday that the balance of the purchase price, $150,000, was funded by a mortgage with a Slater & Gordon loan and that the solicitor who documented the mortgage was none other than Julia Gillard. Furthermore, we learned from Mr Baker's article in yesterday's Melbourne Age that the property was bought in the name of a Mr Blewitt on behalf of Mr Bruce Wilson, under a power of attorney. Who do you think, Mr Deputy President, drew up the power of attorney? Well, none other than Ms Julia Gillard. We also learned yesterday that the Kerr Street, Fitzroy, property was bought by Mr Wilson, nominally on Mr Blewitt's behalf, under a power of attorney drawn up by Julia Gillard at an auction. Who accompanied Mr Wilson to that auction? None other than Ms Julia Gillard. We also learned that, when the conveyance was effected of that property, it was effected by a lawyer at Slater & Gordon. And who was the lawyer at Slater & Gordon who effected the conveyance of that property? Ms Julia Gillard.

We also know that Ms Julia Gillard left Slater & Gordon after these matters were revealed in unusual circumstances. We also know that Ms Julia Gillard did not create a file or otherwise disclose these transactions to her partners, which, as anyone who has worked in a law firm, as I have done, knows, is highly irregular and is only consistent with deliberate concealment.

I am not saying that Ms Gillard was a party to a fraud. What I am saying is this: every aspect of this transaction, whether the power of attorney, whether the securitisation of the transaction with the loan through Slater & Gordon, whether the conveyance of the property was documented and conducted as a solicitor by Ms Julia Gillard, it was done by Ms Julia Gillard on behalf of her then partner in circumstances in which the entire transaction was concealed from her partners.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Brandis. Senator Brown. I beg your pardon, Senator Bilyk.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator McEwen: What did you say then, George? They all look alike? Charming.