PM prepares for Parliamentary ambush

With the last sitting of Parliament for the year fast approaching, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop has promised to keep the heat on the Prime Minister over her alleged participation in the fraudulent misuse of Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) funds 17 years ago.

Julia Gillard has been questioned time and again about her involvement in the purchase of a house using union funds by her then boyfriend Bruce Wilson. At the time of the purchase, Ms Gillard was a partner at the law firm Slater & Gordon, which facilitated the purchase. Union official Ralph Blewitt, on behalf of Mr Wilson, made the purchase of the house. Mr Blewit returned to Melbourne this week to give his side of the story to Victoria Police, but only on the understanding he will not be prosecuted for his part in the fraud. The Prime Minister’s former boyfriend broke his silence over the weekend to state that Ms Gillard had no part to play in fraud and nothing to answer for. This is believed to go against the statement given by Mr Blewitt.

The continued pressure on the Prime Minister to answer questions, which she says she has already answered, shows no sign of letting up with renewed calls from the Opposition for her to ‘come clean’. Ms Bishop intends to use Parliamentary question time to ask Ms Gillard why she did nothing to help recoup the missing funds, or advise the police of the matter. Ms Bishop said she will also ask questions about the “hundreds of thousands of dollars (which) went out of this slush fund and (haven’t) been recovered. They’ll go into other areas that I’ve been able to discover in the weeks since the last parliamentary sitting.” The questions about the Prime Minister’s recollection of what happened will be supported by documentation, according to the Deputy Leader.

Despite repeated denials of any wrongdoing, the Prime Minister appears powerless to stop the continued and repetitive questioning which seems to be going nowhere. Telling reporters in Melbourne on Friday that no one had put a “substantiated” claim of wrongdoing against her in 20 years. “What this all means is that this whole campaign of smear actually boils down to absolutely nothing,” Ms Gillard said.

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Opinion: Time to put up or shut up

Another news day and yet more headlines about the Prime Minister’s involvement in the misuse of AWU funds. Since taking the reins of the country two years ago, Julia Gillard has faced constant questioning about her relationship twenty years ago with ex-boyfriend Bruce Wilson, her involvement in the purchase of a house using union funds and the circumstances surrounding her departure from leading law firm Slater & Gordon.

During this time and despite the search for evidence to contradict Ms Gillard’s version of the story, no one has been able to prove beyond shadow of a doubt what she knew, or what was her involvement. Yet time and again the Opposition hijacks the media and Parliamentary question time to dredge up the same old story without adding anything new. Surely this can be seen for what it is; a blatant exercise in trying to deflect attention from a party which has no defined policies? It can’t fight a fair battle, so it will use every ill-gotten nugget of information, true or not, to attack the Prime Minister.

The return to Melbourne of self-confessed fraudster Ralph Blewitt, who is now compelled to get off his chest his involvement in the misappropriation of union funds, is timely for the Opposition. Ignoring the fact that Blewitt was only willing to tell Victoria Police his side of the story in return for the guarantee that it would not be used against him in court, the Opposition will allow Julie Bishop to harangue the Prime Minister during the last sitting of Parliament. Surely, when there are so many more pressing issues, such as running a country, seeking a solution to the asylum seeker crisis and ensuring justice for those subject to institutional abuse, this is not a productive use of the Parliamentary forum?

Harassed at his home by reporters, Bruce Wilson has broken his silence to declare that the Prime Minster knew nothing of the 1990s scandal, “they can go on a witch-hunt for as long as they like, and they will find nothing that will do her (Gillard) any harm. It’s just a waste of time. They will find nothing.” Yet this isn’t enough to get the Opposition to lay off the Prime Minister. Ralph Blewitt, a key player in this saga, has given his side of the story to Victoria Police, which will in turn investigate the matter, applying due legal process. Should any wrongdoing by the Prime Minister be uncovered during the process, she will then have questions to answer.

So, unless Julie Bishop has access to information the Victorian Police doesn’t, she should let it do its job and leave the super-sleuthing to Nancy Drew.

Should the PM face continued questions about something which happened 20 years ago? Is Parliament the correct forum for such questioning?