Time for the cops to give it up for the ABC
| Author: Hedley Thomas| Date: Apr 19th, 2014| Link to On-Line Story. |
IT is time to call off the dogs. Stand down, Detective Sergeant Ross Mitchell. You and your misguided colleagues in the Victoria Police Fraud Squad have clearly squandered valuable time and a truckload of taxpayers’ money for 18 months in a forensic and major investigation of what you strangely suspected were crimes.
All this time, you have been on the wrong tram. You have been investigating, as Victoria’s Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen put it, “the commission of four types of offence in relation to (former Australian Workers Union boss) Bruce Wilson and others — obtaining property by deception; receiving secret commissions; making and using false documents; and conspiracy to cheat and defraud”.
But for Pete’s sake, just stop now, Sergeant Mitchell. Never mind that your diligently executed search warrants last May on one of the nation’s most successful law firms, Slater & Gordon, led to the seizure of more than 350 documents related to a slush fund operated by Wilson.
You must try very hard, Sergeant Mitchell, not to dwell on the finding by Lauritsen in December, after his examination of this still-confidential evidence, “that, in each instance, the communication was made or the document prepared in furtherance of the commission of a fraud or an offence”, thus waiving Wilson’s right to legal client privilege.
And your troubling disclosure, Sergeant Mitchell, in your sworn evidence to Lauritsen that you believe “Wilson, (Ralph) Blewitt and others were involved in committing these offences”, really should be removed from your consciousness. This belief of yours is clearly a falsehood.
For good measure, please banish from your mind the self-incriminating confession, absent any indemnity, by Ralph Blewitt, the AWU bagman and one-time friend and ally of Wilson. Who really gives a flying fox that Blewitt has admitted to fraud with the slush fund; and explained how the fraud was orchestrated by himself and Wilson; and provided you with the document trail; and pointed your team of 10 or so detectives to the actual cheques used to siphon hundreds of thousands of dollars; and even shown how a Fitzroy terrace house was bought in his name with some of the loot?
After all, Sergeant Mitchell, union officials who confess to being profoundly guilty of corruption and fraud are just so commonplace.
I hope you can now see that pretty much all of the so-called evidence gathered by your taskforce is utterly irrelevant, Sergeant Mitchell. How could you have been so naive?
As a senior detective toiling under the watchful eye of the Chief Commissioner, Ken Lay, you needed to show a great deal more initiative: you really should have run it all past one of the ABC’s renowned investigators, Waleed Aly.
After all, Aly, who speaks to several hundred thousand Australians every day as a Radio National presenter, would have been able to set you straight before you had gone so far in this folly.
You see, Aly knows that there is nothing in it.
He said so this week when he wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald of the “bizarre pursuit of the complete non-scandal surrounding the Australian Workers Union and Julia Gillard’s time as a labour lawyer”.
I agree, Sergeant Mitchell, that Aly’s omission of a few minor facts surrounding the “complete non-scandal” is somewhat troubling.
For example, Aly wrote that the “pursuit” of this “non-scandal” was being conducted by the “Liberal Party”.
But let’s not be too judgmental of Aly for neglecting to mention any part of the very existence of Victoria Police’s “pursuit” (such as your search warrants, evidence, court appearances, witnesses, intention to lay criminal charges and so on).
We should not jump to any conclusion, Sergeant Mitchell, that the leaving out of fundamental facts such as those is journalistic dishonesty, almost certain to mislead the audience into thinking ‘‘nothing to see here, folks’’.
And while you’re at it, Sergeant Mitchell, can you please disregard the statutory declaration of AWU employee Wayne Hem, who has sworn that he deposited $5000 in cash in Gillard’s personal bank account at Wilson’s direction when the slush fund was thriving?
Yes, it is a difficult one: the former PM has said she can’t recall the payment, which in the mid-1990s was worth quite a bit more than a 1959 bottle of Grange.
On the other hand, Wilson said it probably happened because Hem was completely honest and would not make it up.
Can you also place no weight at all, Sergeant Mitchell, on the current (and former) efforts of serving Fair Work Australia commissioner Ian Cambridge to have these matters properly investigated by police and other crime-fighting agencies?
What would Cambridge know, anyway? He was merely an incorruptible national secretary of the AWU who had lobbied at the highest levels of the federal government for a royal commission into what he saw as serious fraud by Wilson. If only Cambridge had listened to Aly.
What was Cambridge, a serving judicial figure with a long history of supporting Labor and the union movement, even thinking when, a year ago, he told The Australian: “I want it put on the record that I will fully co-operate with police investigations and I will provide police with all the information that I have. The other point is that I urge all the other individuals who are connected with this matter to do the same.”
While we’re wiping the slate clean for the benefit of Aly and the ABC, you should draw no adverse inference, Sergeant Mitchell, from Gillard’s very abrupt departure from Slater & Gordon in 1995 when the firm’s partners discovered her role in helping establish what she acknowledged, in a taped confidential internal investigation, was a “slush fund” for union elections.
Let’s not split hairs that the slush fund was set up and registered with a misleading name — the AWU Workplace Reform Association — happily dedicated to building-site safety.
Or course, we can see — as you can, Sergeant Mitchell — that in the transcript from this unusual interview, Gillard says she could not rule out that she had personally benefited from union funds in the renovation of her Melbourne home. And we know — but it is inconvenient — that Blewitt has told you, Sergeant Mitchell, that he used slush-fund money to pay for at least some of these renovations.
We know now, too, that Gillard’s partners at Slater & Gordon, according to then equity partner Nick Styant-Browne and others, “took a very serious view” of her conduct, particularly her failure to open a file on her legal work in establishing the slush fund. It was a shame that by not opening a file, neither the firm, nor the leadership of the AWU knew about the slush fund for the three years that it raked in more than $300,000 from building company Thiess.
But we hasten to add, Sergeant Mitchell, that Gillard has strongly believed that she had been treated very shabbily by the firm, and that she has strenuously and repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. It was a long time ago. Move along, please.
I therefore urge you, Sergeant Mitchell, to put this one to bed. Try to pay more attention to Aly’s penetrating analysis. Next time you consider mounting a serious investigation involving union corruption and a former PM, check with him that it is not a “complete non-scandal”. Because Aly knows stuff you and the others have somehow missed.
How must Waleed Aly be feeling about his story this Easter weekend? Do you think he might be thinking what a idiot he is? What about his ALP support – do you think his article was a reflection of ABC policy on the Gillard/Obeid corruption blackout, or do you think he might just believe everything he wrote?
It’s a sad day for all the media who work for the ABC and Fairfax – they are tarred whether they support Waleed Aly’s opinions or not.
Well done Hedley Thomas … levity is a way of dealing with frustrations and we are all at some level of frustration at the length of time Gillard remains able to live off the public purse – but even in prison it will be taxpayers who pay for her incarceration … that grates me like chalk down a blackboard …