PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has repeatedly refused to answer fresh allegations she resigned from a major law firm as a direct result of a union scandal involving her then boyfriend.
In an interview on Sky News’ Australian Agenda this morning, Ms Gillard was asked on a number of occasions about the case involving her former partner and ex-Australian Workers Union official Bruce Wilson.
She confirmed she did resign in 1995 and it was her decision to do so but did not answer whether it was linked to the scandal – as claimed by a former partner of the firm at the weekend.
Ms Gillard instead said she was the victim of an online smear campaign that was not interested in the truth and said the case had no relevance to her prime ministership.
“I am not dignifying all of this scurrilous campaigning by going through these things point by point,” Ms Gillard said.
“If you’ve got an allegation I did something wrong, then put it. I did nothing wrong. This is nonsense and a distraction from the important work I have to do as Prime Minister.”
She added that she had recently given a speech to the firm and had good relations with them.
Asked again whether the resignation was a direct result of the scandal, Ms Gillard said: “I did resign from Slater & Gordon. That is a matter of public record. I made the decision to do that.”
But the opposition has demanded Ms Gillard to provide a personal explanation about the issue when parliament resumes sitting this week.
“There are serious questions that need to be answered,” Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne said.
“The intensity (of this issue) has become much more dramatic.”
Ms Gillard’s rebuffs comes after Nick Styant-Browne, a former equity partner of the firm, broke a 17-year silence broke his silence at the weekend to reveal Ms Gillard was interviewed about the affair in 1995.
Mr Styant-Browne said during that Ms Gillard stated in the interview that she could not categorically rule out that she had personally benefited from union funds in the renovation of her Melbourne house.
The Australian reported on Saturday that she said in the interview that she believed she had paid for all the work and materials, and had receipts, which she later produced.
Mr Styant-Browne said the company “took a very serious view” of these and other matters “and accepted her resignation”.
“The firm was scrupulous to ensure these matters were both properly investigated and Ms Gillard was given every opportunity to explain her involvement,” Mr Styant-Browne told The Australian.
“Ms Gillard conveyed to me that she thought she had been ‘shabbily’ treated after eight years of service.”
The firm’s probe revolved around Ms Gillard’s work since mid-1992 for the Australian Workers Union and Mr Wilson as well as her direct role in establishing the AWU Workplace Reform Association for Mr Wilson.
The legal entity that Ms Gillard began to establish for Mr Wilson from mid-1992 was used by Mr Wilson and his then friend, AWU bagman and West Australian branch head Ralph Blewitt, to allegedly corruptly receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from large companies.