Laughing off inconvenient truths

ANALYSIS

THE Prime Minister and her minders are masters at splitting hairs and using the delicate strands to weave grand rhetorical constructions in the hope of dodging inconvenient truths.

In August a small slip in The Australian newspaper - in which an association was wrongly described as a trust fund - was enough for Ms Gillard to pocket an apology, claim the high moral ground and open fire on a raft of well-sourced revelations about the AWU slush fund scandal.

On Thursday she was at it again, claiming a ''false report'' in Fairfax newspapers discredited new information upon which Opposition Leader Tony Abbott accused her of involvement in ''unethical conduct and possibly unlawful behaviour''.

This time, editing changes to the Sydney version of the Fairfax report - wrongly asserting she had said the association had no union links - were the strand on which she built a ferocious counter-attack on Mr Abbott.

Fairfax newspapers and The Australian had revealed fresh details of the transcript of a 1995 interview in which Ms Gillard, a then salaried partner at Slater & Gordon, was interrogated by senior partner Peter Gordon about her role in helping establish the AWU Workplace Reform Association, from which her former boyfriend and AWU official Bruce Wilson later stole hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The transcript confirmed what Ms Gillard avoided saying five times in response to questions in Parliament earlier this week - that she wrote a letter to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission in 1992 that was instrumental in securing the incorporation of the association.

It verified that the authority had challenged the eligibility of the association because of its apparent trade union status and that she had responded formally denying it.

And it further challenged Ms Gillard's repeated assertion that she played a minor role advising on the incorporation by revealing she had drafted the rules of the association - without opening a proper file or consulting her partners.

Ms Gillard seized on a reference by Mr Gordon to the WA authority having suggested the association ''might be a trade union''. ''Saying it's not a trade union is a simple matter of fact,'' she told Parliament.

Clearly no one at the authority could have imagined that an application to incorporate an ''AWU Workplace Reform Association'' was about incorporating a trade union. Their objection was the apparent union character of an association Ms Gillard had written on the application form was devoted to ''changes to work to achieve safe workplaces'' but she had told Mr Gordon was a union election slush fund.

At no stage in her indignant responses in Parliament yesterday did the Prime Minister challenge the essential elements of what the transcript revealed about her pivotal role in helping establish the association - and the further issues that raised about her contradictory accounts of its true nature. Her answers did, however, confirm another disclosure in the transcript.

While Ms Gillard had spent most of this week telling her critics to direct questions about the incorporation to the man in whose name she helped set it up - the infamous AWU ''bagman'' Ralph Blewitt - it was in fact his ringmaster, Bruce Wilson, who gave the instructions and directed her to write the controversial letter to the authority.

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