Kelly Hazell Quill lawyers in politics: Lawyers for Bruce Wilson lose bid to suppress ruling

by Pia Akerman, in The Australian, December 10, 2013:

“LAWYERS for former AWU boss Bruce Wilson have lost a bid to keep details of the case against their client secret.

Astrid Haban-Beer, representing Mr Wilson, yesterday asked Victoria’s Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen to suppress his ruling, which found there were reasonable grounds to conclude documents relating to the AWU “slush fund” affair were created in furtherance of a fraud.

The 12-page ruling, which Mr Lauritsen had already distributed to members of the media, contains descriptions of the Victoria Police investigation probing whether Mr Wilson had committed an offence through his operation of the AWU Workplace Reform Association in the early 1990s.

John-Paul Cashen (of Kelly Hazell Quill lawyers), representing The Australian, opposed the suppression bid, saying there was a significant public interest in the case and it was “no small matter” for the court to override a claim of legal privilege.

Mr Lauritsen said he did not see any possibility of prejudice to the administration of justice if his ruling were published.

He rejected Ms Haban-Beer’s application, saying he could have easily read his findings in open court but thought it more efficient to give a written copy to the parties and the media.

“I’m not concerned one way or another whether they’ve hit the internet or not,” he said.

Mr Lauritsen said his finding that there were reasonable grounds to find a fraud was committed was not the same as concluding a crime had actually been committed.

“It cannot be said that Mr Wilson is arguably guilty of an offence because of what I’ve said in my reasons,” he said.

Mr Lauritsen’s decision allows detectives to inspect 363 documents for which Mr Wilson claimed legal privilege.

Section 125 of the Victorian Evidence Act allows privilege to be overridden if a court finds the document was prepared in furtherance of a fraud, offence or abuse of power.

The Australian and other media outlets have applied to access affidavits and other material tendered to the court by Victoria Police to support their case.

Sworn statements from former Thiess executives Joe Trio and Nick Jukes and former AWU national secretary and current Fair Work Commissioner Ian Cambridge were included, as well as three statements AWU official Ralph Blewitt made to police last year.

Extracts from the affidavits and Mr Blewitt’s statements were printed in Mr Lauritsen’s decision.

Ms Haban-Beer voiced her opposition, saying it would be prejudicial to a trial if Mr Wilson were subsequently charged with an offence.

Lawyers for lead investigator Ross Mitchell also opposed the media’s application, saying it could affect the outcomes of the investigation.

Mr Wilson has not been charged with any offence and has denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Lauritsen adjourned the court to hear further argument on the matter next week.”