Julia Gillard denies money from a union slush fund helped pay for renovations to her home in the early 1990s, but admits she could have done some things differently with the benefit of hindsight – and a “time machine”.
Ms Gillard said she acted properly when she provided legal advice to former boyfriend Bruce Wilson to help him establish a union slush fund in 1992.
“None of us get to go in a time machine and go backwards,” the former prime minister said. “Obviously, if one got to do the whole thing again, you would do things differently, given what I know now that I did not know at the time.”
Appearing before the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption on Wednesday, the former prime minister said she had been through her financial records forensically and was satisfied she had paid for her home renovations in full.
The commission has heard allegations that money from a slush fund linked to the Australian Workers Union that Ms Gillard helped incorporate paid for work to her house in Abbotsford in 1994.
In a transcript of Ms Gillard’s exit interview with Melbourne law firm Slater and Gordon in 1995 before she entered politics, Ms Gillard said she could not “categorically rule out that something at my house didn’t get paid for by the association or something at my house didn’t get paid for by the union”.
After going through her records, Ms Gillard told the commission she then became satisfied “that I had documents, receipts, invoices that showed that I’d paid for it all”.
Asked whether she had considered the fund’s name – Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association – could be misleading in its inclusion of the union name, Ms Gillard said she did not.
Counsel assisting Jeremy Stoljar suggested the inclusion of the union’s name in the slush fund’s title could potentially facilitate the banking of cheques drawn in favour of the union.
Ms Gillard said she would do things differently “if one got to do the whole thing again”.
When taking the stand and asked for her occupation, Ms Gillard introduced herself as a former prime minister “who does a number of things associated with that”.
“I am an author. I am the chair of the Global Partnership for Education. I am a non-resident distinguished senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. I’m an honorary professor [at the University of Adelaide].”
Before Ms Gillard’s appearance, her former neighbours – Kaye Darveniza (now a Victorian MP) and her husband Robert Elliott – gave evidence that Ms Gillard had provided advice on setting up an election fighting fund linked to the Health Services Union when Ms Darveniza was the secretary of the HSU Victoria No. 2 branch.
But Ms Gillard denied this. “I was supportive of their campaign in the HSU. I didn’t give them any advice about incorporating an association, but, yes, I was politically supportive of their campaign,” she said.
In sworn evidence, Ms Gillard said she had no recollection of Mr Wilson, or anyone on his behalf, depositing money into her bank account.
She said Mr Wilson helped organise renovations to her home in the Melbourne suburb of Abbotsford in 1994, but he did not give her any cash.
Blewitt, a self-confessed fraudster, has alleged $7000 in slush fund money was spent on the home renovations.
Wayne Hem, a former records keeper for the AWU, told the commission Mr Wilson gave him $5000 in cash and told him to deposit it into Ms Gillard’s bank account.
Ms Gillard told the commission: “I don’t remember the $5000 being paid into my bank account, $5000 in those days was a lot of money.”