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AWU slush fund accusations continue against Julia Gillard

Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Prime Minister Julia Gillard Rob Williams

THE opposition has continued its question time attack on Prime Minister Julia Gillard over the Australian Workers' Union slush fund affair.

Like Monday, the opposition used every one of its questions - all asked by Deputy Leader Julie Bishop - to focus on Ms Gillard's time as a partner at law form Slater & Gordon.

Ms Gillard continues to deny any wrongdoing.Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was again silent during question time, a point continually made by Ms Gillard during many of her answers.

On two occasions Speaker Anna Burke rule Ms Bishop's questions out of order.

Ms Bishop came under scrutiny herself on Tuesday after it was revealed she had met with AWU bagman Ralph Blewitt in Melbourne last week.

She said they had met for no more than 10 minutes.

Mr Blewitt had not been able to provide Ms Bishop with any documents incriminating Ms Gillard.

Ms Bishop was also forced to clarify comments she made suggesting Ms Gillard had in the 1990s benefited from the union association run by her then boyfriend and Australian Workers' Union official Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt.

She told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday morning Ms Gillard, Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt had established the AWU Workplace Reform Association without the knowledge of the union "to hide from the AWU the fact that an unauthorised entity was being set up to siphon funds through it for their benefit and not for the benefit of the AWU".

But at a press conference late on Tuesday Ms Bishop said she was referring to Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt, and not Ms Gillard.

"I didn't say it in question time yesterday, and I didn't say it today.

"'They' refers to Wilson and Blewitt, and I've said this on a number of occasions," she said.

Earlier on Tuesday Slater & Gordon issued a statement seeking to clarify why it had not notified either the police nor the AWU, its client at the time, about the association when it learnt of allegations of misconduct by Mr Wilson, its other client, in August 1995.

"Slater & Gordon has consistently maintained, and still maintains, that at all times it has acted in accordance with its legal and ethical obligations in relation to all aspects of the AWU matter," the statement read.

"Given the repeated publication of the question above Slater & Gordon has obtained independent legal advice from Arnold Bloch Leibler (ABL) and Mr Philip Crutchfield SC. The firm received this advice yesterday evening.

"Without waiving any of the former clients', or Slater & Gordon's privilege to maintain the confidentiality of the communications between it and the firm's independent legal advisers, that independent advice has confirmed that Slater & Gordon was (and is) not permitted to divulge confidential and privileged information of one client to another client or any other party."

Topics:  australian workers' union, julia gillard, question time


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