Brandis uses privilege to suggest Gillard broke law

Brandis uses privilege to suggest Gillard broke law

Brandis uses privilege to suggest Gillard broke law

Updated 28 November 2012, 20:53 AEST

Liberal senator George Brandis uses parliamentary privilege to suggest Julia Gillard broke criminal laws while working as a lawyer in the early 1990s.

The Coalition has stepped up its attack on the Prime Minister, with Liberal senator George Brandis using parliamentary privilege to suggest Julia Gillard broke criminal laws while working as a lawyer in the early 1990s.

Ms Gillard has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to her role in providing legal advice to establish the Australian Workers Union (AWU) Workplace Reform Association while working at Slater & Gordon.

She has said she believed the association's funds would be used for legitimate purposes.

They were instead used by her then-boyfriend and former AWU official Bruce Wilson as a union slush fund, although he denies financially benefiting from it.

Speaking in the Senate, the shadow attorney-general said it was clear Ms Gillard knew the association's funds would not be used for their stated purpose, which was for the advancement of workers' rights.

Instead, Senator Brandis said she knew the funds would be used for the "private purposes" of Mr Wilson and fellow union official Ralph Blewitt.

"There is no doubt - no doubt whatsoever - that at the time she was involved in setting up the slush fund, Ms Gillard knew what its purpose was," he told the Senate.

"Indeed, the choice of an incorporated association as the entity to hold the funds for union election purposes was Ms Gillard's brainchild.

"It is already clear, that from (the association's) inception, Ms Julia Gillard's involvement in this matter has been characterised by concealment, deception, professional misconduct, and it would appear several breaches of the criminal law."

Grilling

The Coalition has used the final parliamentary sitting week of the year to continue its pursuit of the matter, directing all but one question during the past three Question Times to the Prime Minister.

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop again took the lead, quizzing Ms Gillard over claims $5,000 was deposited into her bank account and also about issues surrounding an AWU fatal accident or death fund.

The Prime Minister fired back, taunting Ms Bishop over her level of contact with the self-confessed fraudster Mr Blewitt last week.

"I am amazed to get this question from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who is unable to remember who she spoke to a week ago, and she is asking me to deal with events 20 years ago," Ms Gillard said.

Labor has accused Ms Bishop of lying about how many times she had spoken with Mr Blewitt and has called for her resignation.

Ms Bishop yesterday told reporters she had only spoken with Mr Blewitt once, but today has not ruled out the possibility that she had also spoken with him by phone.

In a statement, Ms Bishop said she was speaking on the phone to former radio broadcaster Michael Smith, when he handed the phone over to someone who did not identify himself.

Ms Gillard ridiculed that explanation.

"What is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition's version of these events?

"That Michael Smith rang her up and she had no idea who the phone was going to be handed over to?

"Who was she expecting? Humphrey B Bear? Oh no, he can't talk.

"Who on Earth was she expecting on the phone? And why didn't she tell the truth about it yesterday?"

Lack of standards

At one point during today's fiery Question Time, an exasperated Speaker Anna Burke admonished MPs for their lack of standards.

"This is not amusing, it really isn't. It's absolutely disgraceful that you will treat your Parliament with such contempt," she said.

This morning, Labor backbencher Steve Gibbons was forced to apologise for calling Ms Bishop a "narcissistic bimbo".

"Libs are led by a gutless douchebag and a narcissistic bimbo who aren't fit to be MPs let alone PM and Deputy. Both should be sacked," he tweeted.

His remark drew a fiery response from members of the Coalition who demanded Ms Gillard take action.

Nearly two hours after posting the original comment, Mr Gibbons tweeted: "To all of those offended by my Tweet posts this morning - I unreservedly apologise."

It is not the first time Mr Gibbons has sparked controversy over his use of language on Twitter.

In February, he described Kevin Rudd as a "psychopath with a giant ego" for wanting to challenge for the leadership after being "comprehensively rejected" by his caucus colleagues.

The final Question Time of the year will be held tomorrow.