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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13147

Prime Minister

Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (14:37): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister's statement today that she knew absolutely nothing about the workings of the AWU Workplace Reform Association or any bank accounts associated with it. I also refer to her statement to Slater & Gordon in 1995 that her thinking behind the decision to register an incorporated association was to avoid disputes about who owned the funds in the bank account and so that the association was the holder of the account. What steps did she take to ensure the association was authorised by the Australian Workers Union to open such a bank account bearing its name? (Time expired)

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:38): To the Deputy Leader of the Opposition: once again I dealt with a comparable question in the press conference today. But let me be very clear with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition because I think she is confusing a few things here. I acted as a solicitor providing legal advice on the instructions of clients. In terms of compliance with the rules of an industrial organisation, whether it be the AWU or any other industrial organisation, obviously that is a question for the members and office-bearers of that association. So if she is concerned about the upholding of AWU rules then that is a matter that she needs to pursue with the AWU, although I do note she would be seeking to pursue with them a matter almost two decades old.

Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (14:39): I rise on a supplementary question. Given that the Prime Minister was a solicitor for the AWU at the relevant time, does she expect the parliament to believe that she was unaware that, to use the words of Ian Cambridge, then head of the AWU, these arrangements to establish bank accounts were required by various resolutions of national executives under the AWU rules?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:39): Once again the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is confusing roles and responsibilities in relation to this matter. I have never been a member of the AWU. I have never sat on its national executive. I have never participated in the making of a resolution at the national executive as a member of the national executive. These are all matters for the union and the union's governance and conduct. What I did as a solicitor was provide advice on the incorporation of an association. It was the Registrar of Incorporated Associations that then registered it, and of course it was then a matter for the office-bearers and members of the association about how it conducted itself subsequently.

In an analogy that I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would understand, it is possible to be a lawyer advising on the incorporation of a company; it is then a question for the relevant company authorities as to whether the company is incorporated, and no person of reason would say that the lawyer who provided advice on the incorporation is therefore somehow responsible for the dealings of the company once it is incorporated. No-one would put that about a company. The situation here is directly analogous to that. I provided legal advice, as I have publicly verified for a long time now, including as recently as in a press conference today.