Kelly Hazell Quill lawyers in politics: Magistrate refuses to release Julia Gillard documents

Sydney Morning Herald, December 17, 2013:

“A Victorian magistrate refused to publicly release documents prepared by former prime minister Julia Gillard when she was a lawyer to help officials from the Australian Workers Union set up a slush fund.

Chief magistrate Peter Lauritsen rejected claims by lawyer John-Paul Cashen, representing News Corp Australia and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, that the documents would not cause prejudice in the case because time would pass before charges were laid and any trial would be heard by a jury.

‘‘What makes this different here is the name Gillard,’’ Mr Lauritsen said.

‘‘While Wilson and AWU may fade, Gillard may not.’’

The documents, some prepared by Ms Gillard when she was a partner at Slater & Gordon in 1990s, are likely to detail the establishment of a fund by former union secretary Bruce Wilson, who was Ms Gillard’s boyfriend at the time.

It has been alleged the fund held money given by construction giant Thiess under the pretence that it would be spent on improving workplace safety for union members.

Instead, it is alleged Mr Wilson used the funds to buy a house in Fitzroy.

Lawyers for the Victoria Police and Mr Wilson asked the magistrate to keep the documents out of the public domain.

Lawyers for lead investigator Ross Mitchell said there were witnesses yet to be called and release of the documents might hinder the investigation.

The documents have been held by the court since they were seized from Slater & Gordon by Victoria Police this year.

The law firm is not part of the case.

Last week Mr Lauritsen ordered the documents be made available to police.In his reasons for the release of the documents, chief magistrate Peter Lauritsen said the evidence of former union leader Ralph Blewitt ‘‘establishes that Thiess was deceived’’.

‘‘It [Thiess] believed it was paying for a particular service. The association provided no such service,’’ he said.

‘‘I am satisfied that, in each instance, the communication was made or the document prepared in furtherance of the commission of a fraud or an offence.’’