Gillard's trial by media was justified

There is no doubt the relentless questioning of Prime Minister Julia Gillard over the AWU 'slush fund' scandal is damaging the government, and pushing more important policy issues out of the news cycle.

But what will end this impasse? In a standing-room-only media conference in Parliament House's Blue Room yesterday, Gillard either answered each question, or picked apart each question, with laser-like precision. But is that enough?

Time and again, journalists – who, to be fair, are doing exactly what they're paid to do – failed to gain traction on the major questions:

– Why did Gillard not tell the AWU leadership that she was setting up a fund bearing the union's name? Gillard's answer: because her boyfriend Bruce Wilson, and his colleague Ralph Blewitt were the union. She said: "Unions aren't big blancmange things that wander around talking for themselves in the same way that companies don't. Companies speak through company office bearers. Unions speak through elected officials. The people I was dealing with, Mr Blewitt and Mr Wilson, were both office holders of the AWU."

– Did her boyfriend deposit $5000 into her own bank account? Gillard's answer: if it did happen, that's not uncommon between partners; she doesn't recall if it did happen; and after asking CBA to dig back into its archives and find proof of the payment, Gillard has been told the bank doesn't hold records that long (in this case 17 years). She told journalists: "I just ask you for one moment to assume that that is true, that $5,000 was put in my bank account by a person I was then in a relationship with, who the witness involved said had had a big night out at the casino. Can you piece together for me the personal wrongdoing involved in that? I doubt you can."

– When Gillard found out her boyfriend was involved in a range of nefarious dealings, and subsequently broke up with him, why didn't she go back to the AWU and tell them she had concerns about the fund she'd helped Wilson set up? Gillard's answer: because by the time she found out Wilson was shonky, at least two bodies had launched investigations into the union's dealings – the National Crime Authority and Victoria police. She said: "Mr Gude who first raised claims about me publicly in October 1995, advised the Victorian Parliament at that stage the National Crime Authority was involved in the investigation, that the matter had been referred to the Victoria Police and he personally was referring it to the employee relations commission in Victoria. So, AWU involved in its own investigations and other authorities getting involved as well. Once again, you can't report things you don't know and I didn't have before me any details or any evidence about transactions on the accounts of the association, any bank accounts, that had been established by the association."

It was a good, thorough, grilling by journalists who have raked over every detail supplied to them by interested parties, and who have dug up many facts of their own.

However, it is abundantly clear to this observer that those questions have been put, and re-put enough times to beg the question: what proof or evidence could Gillard now supply to put an end to this matter?

There is none. That is, the press gallery has asked for proof, when none could be provided even if Gillard wished to do so.

Public figures, in trial by media, face a reversed onus of truth that the average citizen does not have to deal with. There's really nothing wrong with that, up to a point, as we expect our elected leaders to be beyond reproach.

In court, one is assumed innocent until proven guilty. In a media conference, things work differently.

In this case, Gillard is being asked to prove that she didn't do certain things: didn't know the fund was shonky; didn't know the AWU leadership was kept in the dark; didn't receive the $5000 she's said to have received; didn't secretly realise when Wilson was exposed that she should tell the AWU to investigate the fund she'd set up.

So again, what would the evidence look like if she could provide it?

A diary entry from the weeks in which she advised Wilson saying "thought Bruce might have been up to no good, but he says he isn't – phew!"

Or a memo slid across the table to Wilson saying "could you and Blewitt please just confirm in writing that your bosses know what you're doing?"

Is there a cheque stub somewhere with Wilson's handwriting on it saying "$5000 to pay Julia back for all the bills she's been paying"?

Or perhaps, in the early days of electronic mail, she sent an email to a colleague saying "I was going to tell the AWU to check out Bruce's fund, but it looks like they're on to it already!"

Yes, that list is absurd. None of those things exist, so what exactly is Gillard being asked for in order to clear her name?

After 17 years, the most that can be asked for is confident answers that do not muddle the facts, and my reading of yesterday's rather heated media conference is that Gillard delivered just that. No stumbles. No 'umms' and 'ahhs'. Just a clinical explanation of why some questions made no sense, and an attempt to answer the ones that did.

Is Julia Gillard guilty of some crime, or lapse in professional conduct? Quite possibly. But is there any scrap of evidence that she could advance to settle the matter, or that her opponents could advance to prove fraudulent behaviour? In all of the claims and counter claims up to this point there is not.

That being the case, I have to agree with some commentators who've argued that answers to the questions no longer matter – only that the questions themselves being repeated ad nauseum through to the 2013 election.

That is a political strategy that, in the absence of any new information relating to this matter, could become as risky for the interrogators – lead by Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop, who continued with a string of questions in question time yesterday – as the interrogated.

And as Labor MPs keep pointing out, Rome is burning. There are pressing policy matters that need to be settled. Until such time as new allegations, or evidence come to light, that should be the end of it.

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How embarrassing to have a country's opposition coalition parties obsessed with a trivial 20 year old issue that involves no criminality or anything other than smear.
I hope that voters understand that we have a coalition seeking government with no interest at all in addressing the real issues of government (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
Some interesting comments so far on Rob's story, (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
It seems to me that the question of wrongdoing is neither here nor there when this issue is taken in a larger context. What the media commentators seem to be closing in on is the question of Gillard's legal judgement at the time of the AWU events, and whether they were proper or not. Which leads to the larger question of Gillard's political judgement as Prime Minister of this country.
If we have a prime minister whose ethical and political judgement is in question then surely the media is entitled to continue the questioning, and we, the voters to understand the outcome.
Let the voters decide in 2013!
It's a pity the opposition don't spend as much time on formulating and explaining their policies (if they have any)as they do on muckraking (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
We have now reached the logic of Santa Klaus. "If something is denied it must be true".
I think the Libs are fully versed in Kant or should that be 'Cant"? (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
The risk with the Opposition divulging their policies too early is that Julia will do a "Me too" just like Rudd did (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
Much to my disgust and, I venture, that of decent and fair-minded Australians, we are again witnessing the concerted effort to both tarnish the reputation of the PM and the propriety of both her and her government (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
It is not enough it seems to repeatedly face trial by media, and a particularly pro-LNP media in the main at that. Nor, does it seem that the depth of questions, all of which have been chosen by the media, and responded in full, sated their appetite for so morsel that could be construed as even remotely questionable.
Critically, no allegations have been forthcoming from any credible quarter, and the attacks amount to a wildly optimistic fishing expedition.
Predictably Abbott has kept his head down below parapet level so as to minimise any self harm from a potential public backlash should public sentiment swing against the opposition's foray conducted by the "hit-squad", led by Julie Bishop. She, of course, has been unable or just unwilling to make any outright accusation. There is a thing called slander.
It is an indictment of the opposition and media who provide oxygen to this ridiculous and meaningless jaunt down some not-so-yellow-brick-road. It's time both turned the spotlight back to policy and proper debate, but I guess the opposition, finding itself in a policy vacuum, and in quicksand with regard to promises and costings would want that least of all.
I could write the news for you for this last sitting week of parliament, as I doubt that anyone will expect anything other than a continuation of the boring, meaningless, pointless and (to the voter) cynical and base display of poitical bullshit.
Maybe 2013 will finally see some meaningful debate with the Federal Election on the horizon, but I suppose we shall just have to wait and see.
To George Ciantar
I couldn't have put it better myself George! (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
Good points, specially “answers to the questions no longer matter – only that the questions themselves being repeated ad nauseum through to the 2013 election”
...and at the end , it comes down to A G Kelly psychology of human constructs, if you know how people make sense of things encrypting a subliminal message in their mind is worth million of ads.
(Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
“corrupt unions and corrupting laws”, is near impossible to de-construct completely in someone's mind, it is not about truth or wrong doings:
truth does not play any role in the construct at all(as you say “ ...In all of the claims and counter claims up to this point there is not.”)
... it is just another meta-construct as powerful as the losing your job meta-construct “who's at risk, everyone” of the mining advertising, practically impossible to de-construct, hence one that labor strategists had to stop quickly, otherwise they would have lost the election like the one lost with the Children overboard affair with another subliminal message.
What everyone seems to be forgetting is that hundreds of thousands of dollars were defrauded from AWU union members (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 26). No one involved has ever been charged.
What we seem to be observing is that the AWU case is opening a 'can of worms' on the union movement with connections all over the Labor party. Naturally, there are people who don't want the 'can' opened.
It really is about time that the activities, rolls, responsibilities and penalties for union leaders were put on the same footing as company directors.
Whether it was Labor demanding answers of John Howard or Liberals demanding answers of Julia Gillard, all this digging is meant to expose hypocracy, and question the right of authority. Julia and Labor now having accusations made against them will be judged by the truth or otherwise of their answers not their tiresome ridicule and slander of others and rantings of mysogony. Male or female we have to get past each others differences and cop it sweat, instead of crying poor me. The Prime minister of Australia should show more maturity than what is being displayed right now. Julie Bishop met with one slease and Julia Gillard is being supported by another slease. How long does justice take, why is the police investigation taking so long, is it for the same reasons the Fair Work investigation of Craig Thomson took so long (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27)?
Two things Rob: There is no mention of the power of attorney and the dodgy witness signature; you say she "didn't receive the $5000". She actually stated she didn't know whether or not she received the amount or under what circumstances and, alluding to a possible gambling windfall has to be deemed the last card in the pack (pardon the pun) (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
She was in this relationship for four years; she refers to Mr Wilson as her partner; she was at the time, a salaried partner in a legal firm; she herself described the AWU Workplace Reform Association, which she helped set up, as a slush fund, yet she claims she wasn't aware of what was going on. Give me a break.
All of the above notwithstanding, the Coalition have shown themselves as having very poor judgement in this matter. If you are going to nail someone you had better make sure you have the nails to do it with. Remember Turbull and the utegate affair.
When the Opposition can only focus on a 20 year old question with a 'So what?' answer while poor refugees are rotting on a Pacific outpost it is just outgargeous. A Pox on both your Houses (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
Can anyone with legal background explain to me why it is not fraudulent to set up a bank account as a Union OH&S fund when the clear intent is to use it for the benefit of individuals? If not illegal or fraudulent, surely it is deceitful (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
So seems like the ever faithful just want us to trust a rehearsed performance by a person who has...well...not always been 100% straight with us. (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
So blame them if want, but it is not just the opposition firing shots. Don’t forget contributions by Nick Styant Browne and Ralph Blewitt. In addition there are missing Court and other files. Now there are bank records purportedly too old to recover. What? To cap it off in vehement overdone defence, the PM has handed out guttural like public insults to discredit Mr. Blewitt.
The evidence suggests that as a solicitor at S & G Ms. Gillard at the very least appeared about as naive or green as you can get. And today we now know of other traits which reflect on her character, integrity and judgment. The PM appears to be political opportunist switched for the short term win.
It’s right to put up these questions. It’s also right to re-ask and re-re-ask based on new or conflicting accounts and or nuances of the same.
Regardless, those who criticize the opposition but who also supported the vicious attacks by Labor in opposition against Downer and Howard during the AWB scandal may be a tad hypocritical?
I, like many other voters apparently, am now totally turned off by the repetitive innuendo of these endless questions to Gillard. I understand the opposition sees some potential in pursuing the attack on the PM, but seriously, enough is enough. Gillard has answered every question several times now on the public record and it is evident that noone can nail her on these speculative claims. Now 'someone' has funded Blewett's expenses to fly in and keep the issue in the papers. For heaven's sake this is old news - let's debate the nation's future needs and get on to some serious business! (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
There are businesses struggling to survive. We are in need of reforms to the Fair Work Act and a lift in productivity. We have more and more boats arriving. Our high dollar is killing businesses. We need policies which are going to encourage innovation in the business sector to fill the holes in the event of a serious mining downturn. I am quite sickened by this whole scenario. Can we please let the Government get on with the real business of governing the country and leave the crap to Alan Jones, Larry Pickering, Bruce Wilson, Ralph Blewitt, et al. I think Julie Bishop is doing herself and her party a disservice by pursuing the PM like a rabid rottweiler (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
This whole saga goes directly to the issue of trust, the PM has time and time again demonstrated that she is not to be believed. From her claims that she wasn't plotting to overthrow Kevin Rudd to the carbon tax lie and now the questions around the AWU fraud. It is hard to believe that such an intelligent controlling person would be unaware of the shifty activities of her client/boyfriend.
This episode underlines the problem with the Labor party as a whole, they are a party of sleaze and dirty deals. Over the years had more than their share of shifty affairs including Craig Thompson and Eddie Obeid, the claims that this is a smear campaign are laughable and the comments by Christine Milne that this is just more of the misogynistic campaign against the PM. No Christine the campaign is against the PM and her trustworthiness it has nothing to do with her gender, please stop using gender to deflect responsibility for the PM's actions. (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
The only people who can "smell a rat" are those who want to.
But for me , I am so impressed by Julia Gillard I am being drawn to her side and will be a strong supporter, ultimately pushed there by Coalition destructiveness. (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
I don't support Julia Gillard (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27). I don't believe politicians tell any truth but a convenient truth. However, this issue has nothing to do with good government. Any wrong doing that could have been substantiated should have been established 10-15 years ago. This can't lead anywhere other than to maintain a basis for smear and retaliatory smear. I sense an election campaign that is going to reach new lows with the Australian people left without a compelling positive motivation to vote for any party. 'Vote for the party that disappoints least' doesn't sound like a great campaign to have to listen to. G
Its obvious that this matter is attracting a lot of interest but reading through many of the comments in here, it's obvious of the partisan divide by the various commentators. Sooner or later this scandal will drift away UNLESS some proof of any of any wrongdoing by the PM can be put forward. So far, not one of the prosecutors of this case have been prepared to make a serious allegation that the PM acted improperly or illegally.
Whilst the level of questioning of Gillard in Parliament by Julie Bishop (acting on behalf of Abbott who obviously does not want any further misogynist accusations flung at him) is being widely reported, she has yet been able to land a glove on Gillard and the longer this battle goes on, the chance of a knock out appears unlikely. Looking at Bishop in Parliament reminds me of yesterday's final day of the cricket. You can bowl up googlies all day but unless you can make a break through, you won't win the match. Gillard is doing a very fine job of fending off the Opposition's attack. Without a break through, the less likely they will achieve what they are after, Gillard's scalp. Abbott needs to be careful, he is already seen as ultra negative, this exercise is hardly likely to change that view and Bishop's reputation is not being enhanced either (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
My old man told me many years ago, after voting Labor for 30 years, and to his great disappointment, that all Labor poliicians are either corrupt or dishonset, or if not, know of corruption and dishonesty and do nothing about it (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 28).
Just cast your minds back to the recent NSW State Labor.
In years to come this will apply to the current federal govt.
She is adamant that she did no wrong, but cannot remember whether or not her then partner made a $5000 deposit to her bank account (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27)?
Sounds like selective memory to me!
If my ex-husband had put money into my bank account during the years of our marriage between 1971 and 1981, I would REMEMBER it!
In my own opinion, every time this woman opens her mouth, another lie comes out and she's not even a good liar.
So, according to our Labour MPs "Rome is burning" (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 27).
When did the fire start? Was it perhaps sparked by that infamous charge of misogyny in defence of a misogynist? Or was the conflagration caused by the undoubtedly shocking revelation that the Leader of the Opposition in his university days once punched a wall and thus presumably terrorized every wall-loving female on the campus?
More importantly, when can we begin to hope that our Federal representatives shall become capable of appreciating that their infantile behaviour is being noted by a disapproving electorate? Must we wait until next year's election?
More and more I believe the relationship between the Trade Unions and the Labor Party is opening the way to corruption as we have seen in NSW this can only damage Federal Politics longer term and may well be already reflected in recent polls showing very low regards for federal politicians in general (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 28).
The Chinese delegation visting Parliament this week could see the contrasting, similar and different ways power works (Gillard's trial by media was justified, November 29).
How our political parties operate, at times very inefficiently. How so much time was spent on the extent of Gillard's involvement in that slush fund. This results in way they have 7 per cent growth and we only have 3 per cent.
Is there a better way to resolve this issue?
Let's try and move this lucky country even further along.