…And Monday, In The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court…

IT PROMISES to be a big week in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court this week, where it seems the intersection between politics, unions and the law will lie; two cases involving senior ALP figures are set to progress, as more allegations and scandal that enveloped the last government near their climax.

It’s just a short post this time, and a pointer to matters that I’m sure will find their way back into our conversation; for those of a mind, a short segment on the topic from Michael Smith and Ben Fordham on Sydney radio 2GB can be accessed here.

The long game of cat and mouse that lawyers for disgraced former union boss and ALP MP Craig Thomson over what facts they would allow to stand uncontested is set to be swept aside, as Thomson’s trial on scores of fraud charges — laid in January — finally begins.

The charges of course stem from Thomson’s alleged activities as head of the Health Services Union prior to his entry to Parliament in 2007, and chiefly centre on alleged misuse of his union credit card and the improper use of union funds.

The trial follows the recent conviction of fellow union identity Michael Williamson on a raft of fraud-related offences.

And speaking of fraud investigations, another matter resuming in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court this week involves former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the decades-old issue of an AWU slush fund Gillard is under Fraud Squad investigation over.

This column has maintained an extremely circumspect approach to the AWU issue, chiefly on account of Ms Gillard’s well-known propensity to throw legal proceedings around like confetti; we have said nothing defamatory of her, but by the same token we couldn’t be bothered dealing with a frivolous lawsuit either.

Even so, documents from an unprecedented raid carried out by Police on Ms Gillard’s offices in May — whilst she was the incumbent PM — face the Court’s adjudication as to whether they are admissible as evidence in any future prosecution of fraud charges arising from the AWU scandal.

We will watch developments on those matters very keenly.

Can I please also take to opportunity to note that this column is well aware of alleged criminal misconduct involving other senior ALP figures, and has been aware of these matters for some time; I think you people are smart enough to know what I am talking about, and I simply say that for the moment I won’t be making any comment on it.

In the fullness of time, however, I will have something to say on these matters.

 

AWU Investigation: Just One Little Mistake…

ONE LITTLE SLIP is all it can take, sometimes, to land in a giant receptacle of excrement; so it would appear in this case. Pursuant to Ben Fordham’s recent statements on 2GB regarding the Police investigation of the Prime Minister, a little substance has been forthcoming from other quarters today.

It is crucial — and I emphasise this — that opinions of who did what, or right or wrong, be kept quiet on this issue at present, given it remains the subject of an active Victoria Police investigation that may or may not lead to criminal charges against a person or persons.

Even so, more material relating to this issue has appeared today, and knowing the matter is of tremendous interest to my readers I wanted to share it.

Many people have pondered the reasons Ben Fordham has made not one but two statements in as many days this week, essentially stating that Julia Gillard is under Police investigation, by Fraud and Extortion officers from Victoria Police, and that this “is fact.”

In and of itself, I agree it would seem a little odd as a stand-alone contention.

And I should note before publishing the link I intend to share that many commentators — in the mainstream media and from independent comment sources like this column — are being extremely circumspect in what they say and write regarding the AWU scandal.

The reason of course, as I have explained, is that a very trigger-happy Prime Minister has proven adept at slapping down a lot of material that has appeared in the public domain as a result of such discussion; there is ample evidence of journalists losing their jobs, and websites being shut down, and apologies and “corrections” being extracted and published, as a consequence of those endeavours to keep the minutiae of the matter under the carpet.

Today, it (publicly) becomes a little clearer why.

Noted journalist Hedley Thomas from The Australian┬áhas published a piece that deals directly with the Fordham statements, and provides the link (for those who didn’t already unofficially know) explaining why Police were so eager to obtain a statement from Fordham in the wake of the Gillard’s appearance on his program some six weeks ago.

And it is noteworthy — as I mentioned yesterday — that after a brief initial flurry of activity to emphatically deny that any investigation involving Gillard is in progress, the denials of the fact by both Gillard and her office have ceased.

Read this article very carefully. It’s probably a good idea to peruse all of it, if for nothing else than to reacquaint yourselves with the sequence of events thus far, who has said what and about which events in the whole sordid saga, and why Police were so interested in what was said on Fordham’s program in March in the first place.

If you’ve paid attention, when you reach the end of it you will see the point.

One little mistake.

One little slip.

It’s all it takes to land in the shit.

This issue, it would seem, is about to grow legs and run.

AWU Scandal (Update): Unprecedented Criminal Investigation Of A Prime Minister

FURTHER to my Wednesday post — noting that Julia Gillard may be under investigation over the AWU scandal — 2GB host Ben Fordham has revisited the issue, stating explicitly that Gillard is being investigated by Fraud and Extortion Police. It is an unprecedented inquiry of a sitting Prime Minister.

I would like to preface my remarks by simply saying that if no such investigation is being undertaken, then the mother of all lawsuits for defamation of character will lob into the offices of 2GB, publicly, and probably well before the end of the month.

That said, I wouldn’t anticipate it happening.

This will be a short post, and — again — aimed more at keeping readers abreast of these developments rather than making much comment on them.

After all, the substance of any Police investigation is best left alone until concluded.

Even so, Fordham makes an excellent point: that Gillard may not even be (officially) aware that she is under investigation. It is certainly — certainly — possible, however unlikely it may sound to readers at first blush.

Fordham made an additional statement on this issue on his radio program yesterday, and it can be accessed here for those wishing to listen to it.

I am going to keep this post brief today; as I indicated on Wednesday, it seems unlikely that we’ll have to wait too long for these matters to run their course, and there will be ample scope to discuss them at that time, which is appropriate.

But I make the point that having an incumbent Prime Minister facing investigation over fraud and extortion matters is without precedent and — on balance — not a very good look.

And the flurry of denials (and outright abuse of Fordham, and of others who even recorded the event of his statement, such as this column) that appeared online shortly afterwards have suddenly, and abruptly, ceased — a pointer, perhaps, to verification of the substance of the Fordham statement by the PM’s office itself.

However, I need to remind readers in the strongest possible terms that no conclusions should be drawn on allegations or suggestions of wrongdoing by Gillard: it is entirely plausible that any criminal actions being investigated do not directly involve Gillard at all, and that her involvement in the investigation is purely at the periphery and on account of the fact she was actively known to others involved in the alleged misdeeds at the time.

We simply don’t know; and that is why I would ask readers wishing to comment here (or anywhere else) on these matters to exercise a degree of circumspection.

Be assured that as these matters develop, we will discuss them; but for now it is enough to assume — given Fordham’s reputation as a meticulous journalist when it comes to the verification of his sources — that the investigation of Gillard is, indeed, under way.