The 'Get Gillard' camp gobbled up hundreds of column
inches, burnt acres of taxpayers' dollars and scored zip — apart from
their own collateral damage. Alan Austin reports on the never-ending,
venomous pursuit of our former Prime Minister.
With Julia Gillard’s long-awaited testimony at the Trade Union Royal Commission, Australia’s longest and most malicious media campaign of vilifying one public figure has almost certainly run its course.
It was more venomous than that against Lindy Chamberlain, more
sustained than that against Carmen Lawrence and based on far less
evidence than that against Pauline Hanson.
One strong positive to emerge from Wednesday’s theatre in Sydney was to see influential Fairfax mastheads The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald abandon their earlier lockstep march behind Murdoch’s malicious liars.
The difference between Murdoch and Fairfax on this matter is now quite stark. Last September, Fairfax outlets The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times were pilloried
by the Australian Press Council (APC) over two articles about Gillard
and the Australian Workers Union (AWU): they were not ‘accurate, fair
and balanced’ and did not provide ‘opportunity for a balancing response’
to false allegations.
Author, Mark Baker, has since left Fairfax and appears to have left
journalism. If his departure is because of the adverse APC finding,
that’s yet another Gillard scalp. Already 2UE shock jock, Michael Smith, and Murdoch’s Glenn Milne and Ean Higgins have been humiliated or lost their jobs for misreporting the matter.
Fairfax’s syndicated report
yesterday was a fair and accurate account of Gillard’s testimony,
highlighting the humorous and quirky. Headed ‘Dignified in the dock,
Julia Gillard checks attack on invoices’, it concluded:
‘In the end, the commissioner will have to reflect on whether Ms
Gillard's word is more credible than some of those who have given
evidence. That should not prove an onerous task.
‘The bigger question is one not covered by his terms of
reference: whether all the resources that have been marshalled to pursue
Ms Gillard could have been deployed for a higher, more productive
purpose. You don't need a royal commission to know the answer.
The coverage by The Australian, in contrast, continued its
long-running malicious misrepresentation. All four falsehoods the
Murdoch media have peddled from the outset – now 19 years ago – were regurgitated yesterday
by Hedley Thomas. The first is that Gillard set up the union “slush
fund” to be used for corrupt purposes. This is the most sustained false
assertion, carried across all hostile media, and even some not so
It is blatantly false. Ms Gillard helped set up an association
incorporated with the Corporate Affairs Commission. She did not set up
any of its funds – or bank accounts – slushy or otherwise.
Clearly, an association and its bank account are quite separate entities.
Thomas in The Australian yesterday:
‘... he [former AWU chief Bruce Wilson] and his sidekick Ralph
Blewitt allegedly perpetrated the fraud with the slush fund — the
Australian Workers Union (AWU) Workplace Reform Association — that
Ms Gillard had helped to establish in 1992 with her legal advice.’
Unsurprisingly Andrew Bolt repeats this misrepresentation at the The Herald Sun, as does Piers Akerman at The Daily Telegraph.
It is plainly false.
The distinction between the two entities was clarified on Wednesday
when counsel assisting the commission, Jeremy Stoljar SC, quoted from
the 1995 exit interview between Gillard and Slater & Gordon partners Peter Gordon and Geoff Shaw:
'... the account belonging to an incorporated association by the
same name which was incorporated by Slater & Gordon ...” [page774]
Clearly the slush fund belongs to the association; they are not the same thing.
Stoljar confirmed the distinction with this question: “He
[Gordon] is referring to an account quite separate from the Association;
'When you look across this discussion with Mr Gordon and Mr Shaw,
there's a discussion about the Workplace Reform Association; there's a
discussion then about bank accounts ... I didn't know anything about
the banking arrangements of the AWU Workplace Reform Association.' [page774]
Deliberately confusing the two has been a malicious tactic used throughout the campaign by Murdoch and other hostile media.
It has clearly been successful. Even Crikey’s Scott Mitchell erroneously referred to the association as a slush fund this week.
The Australian’s second falsehood is asserting that the routine exit interview was an extraordinary disciplinary event.
Thomas in The Australian:
“... with the leaking to The Australian of confidential material
showing Ms Gillard’s colleagues at Slater & Gordon were so concerned
that they considered terminating her for misconduct as a solicitor in
Bolt and Akerman repeat this lie also.
Several former Slater & Gordon colleagues have confirmed this to be blatantly false, including Justice Bernard Murphy on Tuesday:
'I had conversations with her [Gillard] about whether she'd done
anything wrong and she assured me she hadn't and I believed her.' [page 577-8]
Gillard was not sacked or censured in any way. She resigned to pursue a career in politics.
The third falsehood is that Gillard knew the slush fund was corrupt,
and that it was given a misleading name and purpose when registered.
Thomas in The Australian again:
‘[Gillard] ... provided the know-how to create the device that would be used by Wilson to raise ill-gotten money;’
The fourth is that Gillard benefitted from corruptly gained moneys
which were allegedly given to her in cash by Bruce Wilson to pay for
The Australian continues to claim:
‘[Gillard] ... allegedly received or benefited from (according to
three witnesses) thousands of dollars Wilson directed her way ...’
If there was any evidence for any of these alleged crimes, other than
unsubstantiated allegations by political enemies, Wednesday was the
chance to present it and elicit from Gillard an admission of guilt. No
such evidence was tended.
Fortunately, Australia’s alternative media have reported the royal commission accurately. Excellent accounts have appeared in New Matilda, Independent Australia, The Guardian and Crikey.
Barring some extraordinary revelation it seems certain the royal
commission will exonerate the former PM. That must further marginalise
Thomas, Bolt, Akerman and the other Murdoch manipulators. That, if it
happens, will be a just outcome.
You can follow Alan Austin on Twitter @AlanTheAmazing.
Buy John Graham originals from IA's online store.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License