Federal Labor; Lawyers contradict PM’s claim

Lawyers contradict PM’s claim

Mark Baker
Published: November 13, 2012 – 3:00AM

LAW firm Slater & Gordon has contradicted Julia Gillard’s claim that she was not in charge of legal work for the purchase in 1993 of a Fitzroy property later found to have been bought with stolen union money.

Ms Gillard – a former salaried partner with the firm – last week denied responsibility for conveyancing work on the purchase of the Kerr Street unit by a crony of her disgraced former boyfriend Bruce Wilson.

”I was not in charge of the conveyancing file,” she told journalists during a visit to Laos.

But Slater & Gordon managing director Andrew Grech has confirmed Ms Gillard ”acted directly” in the conveyancing work on the property purchase. The confirmation came in documents lodged with the Australian Press Council in support of a complaint against Fairfax newspapers and this journalist over reporting of the firm’s role in the Australian Workers Union ”slush fund” scandal.

Ms Gillard is under sustained opposition attack over her role as a legal adviser to the union in the early 1990s when Mr Wilson was a senior official. She has denied any wrongdoing.

A West Australian fraud squad investigation discovered in 1996 that Mr Wilson had stolen more than $400,000 from the AWU Workplace Reform Association.

The association, established with Ms Gillard’s professional assistance in 1992, was incorporated to promote workplace safety and training, but she has publicly confirmed it was a ”slush fund” designed to raise union election campaign funds.

More than $100,000 from the association was used to purchase the Fitzroy unit in the name of Ralph Blewitt, a close associate of Mr Wilson and then WA secretary of the AWU.

The property – which Mr Blewitt had never seen – was bought at auction by Mr Wilson in the company of Ms Gillard using a power-of-attorney she had drafted. She then arranged finance from a Slater & Gordon loan facility to complete the purchase and waived legal fees on the conveyancing work.

Slater & Gordon has complained to the Press Council about reports in Fairfax newspapers and associated websites on October 13 detailing internal tensions within the firm in 1995 over Ms Gillard’s conduct and her role in the formation of the AWU association.

One of the reports detailed how a letter written by Ms Gillard to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission in mid-1992 had vouched for the bona fides of the association and been instrumental in securing approval for its incorporation.

In a ”summary of issues” submitted to the Press Council, Mr Grech objected to accusations by lawyers representing Mr Blewitt that Slater & Gordon was stalling the release of an unofficial file created by Ms Gillard detailing work on the incorporation.

”The only documentary evidence Slater & Gordon was in possession of was that Ms Gillard acted directly for Mr Blewitt in relation to a conveyancing matter, a union dispute and a defamation matter,” he said.

Mr Grech confirmed to Fairfax on October 16 that the file was missing.

Vote – rig investigation sparks city raid

From The Age online, October 23, 2012.

Vote-rig investigation sparks city raid

Melissa Fyfe
Published: October 23, 2012 – 1:58PM

EXCLUSIVE

Who is Azeezur Rahaman?

Police have raided the city offices of a Melbourne Council candidate, dramatically escalating investigations into suspected vote-rigging ahead of this weekend’s election.

Police and local government officers investigating an illegal “vote harvesting” scheme entered the Queen Street offices of Azeezur Rahaman today.

Mr Rahaman owns the multi-million-dollar Southern Cross Education Institute, which teaches 1000 local and international students childcare, business and aged-care courses and employs 110 people.

The local government watchdog made its move on Mr Rahaman after a painstaking five-week investigation tracking a batch of between 450 and 500 suspect voter applications, discovered by the City of Melbourne and revealed in The Age last month.

The Local Government Investigation and Compliance Inspectorate confirmed Victoria Police executed search warrants on two Melbourne properties today and seized evidence including documentation and communications equipment such as computers and mobile telephones.

The council has removed the suspect voter applications from the certified roll, so they will not affect the outcome of the election. The fraudulent batch of votes included anomalies such as 25 people living in a one-bedroom apartment and another 30 living at an address with no physical building.

As the No. 1 candidate for one of the nine main leadership teams, Mr Rahaman may be elected to council this weekend. Most residents have already lodged their postal votes and voting closes on Friday afternoon.

The latest developments come after a series of issues in the lead-up to the poll, including suggestions of bullying and ballot theft and calls from The Age for candidates to reveal their financial backers in a bid to promote transparency.

If the Inspectorate collected any evidence, it would take weeks to prepare a brief and launch a prosecution for high-level corruption offences under the Local Government Act.

A conviction carries penalties of up to five years’ prison or fines up to $84,000, and a ban from holding office as a councillor for seven years.

Mr Rahaman is the leading council candidate on the “Community and Business Leadership” team headed by African-Australian lord mayor aspirant and 2009 Victorian of the Year Berhan Ahmed. The team’s deputy lord mayor candidate is city real estate agent Sunny Lu. The team is managed by active Australian Labor Party man and former Hobsons Bay mayor Bill Tehan.

Mr Rahaman came to Melbourne in 2000 from India to study information technology at Swinburne University of Technology. In 2004, he started a small IT training company with money he had saved working nights at a petrol station. Three years later he opened the Southern Cross Education Institute.

Federal Labor; Mr. Abbott ‘fair game’ despite wife’s public plea.

From the ABC Online, October 7, 2012.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says she will not stop attacking Opposition Leader Tony Abbott despite a rare public plea from his wife.

Ms Roxon is one of several senior female Government ministers who have publicly stated Mr Abbott has a problem with women.

On Friday, Mr Abbott’s wife Margie went on a rare media blitz to condemn the comments and showcase her husband’s soft side.

Ms Roxon has told the ABC’s Insiders program Mrs Abbott is entitled to defend her husband, but that does not mean his personal traits are not fair political game.

She says Mr Abbott is vying for prime minister, not “husband of the year”.

“He seems to have an issue with capable women,” she said.

“My direct experience with him is he will turn his back on me when I speak in the parliament.

“He would refuse to acknowledge me and turn his back at functions that we went to together, much to the discomfort of the stakeholders who would invite us.

“Normally, and I have had this experience with other members of the Liberal Party, that is a friendly environment because you’re off duty. Not so with Mr Abbott.

“I think it is known we don’t like each other, we have a bit of a record together. I don’t think there’s any reason why I am not able to express those views.

“What I think it’s fair game for me or any other senior minister to do is to hold him to account for his public behaviour and his public comments. And that’s what we have been doing.

“And I don’t think because I am a woman minister I should be prevented from being able to do that, which seems to be what the Opposition are suggesting.”

Mr Abbott has told Channel Ten he is the target of a vicious smear campaign.

“I’ll let the Labor Party play all this nasty personal politics,” he said.

He says the campaign is similar to the one run against the Queensland Premier Campbell Newman in the lead-up to the last state election.

EX Labor South Australia; MP Bernard Finnigan on child porn charges.

From The ABC Online, September 24, 2012.

A statutory suppression has expired and a South Australian MP charged with child pornography can be named.

MP Bernard Finnigan, 39, who is no longer a Labor Party MP but remains in Parliament, can be named under South Australian law for the first time after a magistrate found there was a case for him to answer on six aggravated charges.

Finnigan pleaded not guilty in Adelaide Magistrates Court to obtaining child pornography and five counts of taking steps to obtain access to child pornography, between August 2010 and March 2011.

Prosecutors dropped the remaining eight charges, which had been laid as alternatives to the major indictable charges. 

Finnigan’s lawyer Michael Abbott QC is seeking a judicial review of Magistrate Simon Smart’s ruling that there is a case to answer on the major charges.

Mr Abbott was unsuccessful in applying for a court-ordered suppression order on Finnigan’s identity.

Finnigan will face the District Court for an arraignment hearing next month.

“I have today entered a plea of not guilty. I will vigorously defend these charges in the proper place and that is a court of law,” the MP said outside the hearing.

“Like any citizen, I am presumed innocent. I will be making no further comment while the matter of a judicial review is being considered.”

Finnigan declined to answer questions about his political future.

A date for the judicial review is yet to be allocated.

Australia seeks to reasume Afghan Patrols

From, the Age Online, September 23, 2012.

Australia has sought permission to resume patrolling with Afghan forces, Defence Minister Stephen Smith says.

He reiterated on Sunday that Australians had to “steel themselves” for more casualties because it remained in the national interest to complete the mission in Afghanistan to reduce the risk of the Afghan-Pakistan border area becoming a haven for terrorism.

Australian forces in Afghanistan halted joint patrols last week amid concerns an anti-Islamic film made in the US could spark more “green on blue” attacks by local soldiers.

The decision came after International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander General John Allen directed allied forces to suspend joint activities below kandak, or battalion, level.

Mr Smith said Australia late last week approached regional command south seeking permission to resume work again at below kandak level.

“We don’t expect that will see us return to business as usual … it will be a gradual return to the full partnering operation at less than kandak level,” Mr Smith told Network Ten on Sunday.

He denied suggestions Australia had blinked since the latest of the green on blue attacks that killed three Australian soldiers on August 29.

“No, we have not blinked because our core strategy remains in place and that has been made clear,” Mr Smith said.

“So that core commitment and key timetables for transition remain in place.”

He again warned the Taliban would resort to high-profile, propaganda-based attacks, including child suicide bombings and taking credit for green on blue attacks.

“Yes, that runs the risk of undermining trust, which is why we are taking it so carefully,” he said.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/australia-seeks-to-resume-afghan-patrols-20120923-26ekv.html#ixzz27CcPhw81

Labor NSW: Disgraced Labor MP gets 12-month sentence.

From the ABC Online, September 7, 2012.

Disgraced former NSW Labor MP Karyn Paluzzano had been given a minimum 12-month sentence for rorting entitlements.

The former member for Penrith in Sydney’s west quit parliament two years ago over allegations she falsely filled out forms to claim money for staff.

She pleaded guilty to charges related to inappropriately using sitting day relief payments between 2006 and 2007.

The 52-year-old also admitted to giving false evidence at a 2010 ICAC inquiry into the allegations.

At her sentencing hearing last month, Paluzzano burst into tears as she told the court she received anonymous threatening letters and feared for her life.

Decapitated rabbits were left at the front and back door of her house, Paluzzano said.

She claimed she was hounded by the media and became depressed.

Paluzzano previously said former staffer Tim Horan, who made allegations of misconduct against her, had a gambling problem and put a lot of stress on other staff by turning up for work late and leaving early.

She has said she now taught English as a second language to migrant and refugee children.

Paluzzano said she was “sorry” for the offences she committed and that during her seven years as an MP she always made herself available to the community.

She was also parliamentary secretary for education for 15 months before resigning.

In handing down the 12-month jail sentence on Thursday, a magistrate said Paluzanno “compounded her criminality” by lying to ICAC.

The court will decide next month if she can serve the sentence in home detention or must go into full-time custody.

Federal Labor; Boats will keep coming until somebody waves the red flag.

 Boats will keep coming until someone waves the red flag

From, Gerard Henderson WA today
Published: August 14, 2012 – 6:24 AAP

It’s not often that a government loses control over key areas of domestic or international policy. Yet it happens occasionally. Whitlam Labor lost control of economy policy around the middle of 1974. Attempts were made to restore economic authority but it was too late to overturn the political damage.

By the end of last year, it was evident Labor had lost control of border protection. This led the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to appoint the expert panel on asylum seekers in June, comprising retired defence chief Angus Houston, Paris Aristotle and Professor Michael L’Estrange, which released its report yesterday.

On the eve of the 2007 election, the then-opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, declared that if Labor was elected it would tow asylum-seeker boats back to Indonesia. Following Labor’s victory in November 2007, this was soon junked. Instead Rudd, supported by Gillard and other senior ministers, embraced a series of myths, including that asylum seekers were a product of ”push” rather than ”pull” factors – in other words, that persons seeking refuge arrived on Australian shores because they were desperate and not because Australia was a desirable destination.

By the end of the Coalition government, John Howard had embraced what can best be termed a ”two flags” policy. There was a ”red flag” out the front telling asylum seekers not to arrive by sea or air. This involved mandatory detention (introduced by Paul Keating’s Labor government) for those who made it to Australia. There was also offshore processing on Nauru or, for a time, Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and there were temporary protection visas by which refugees were given temporary residence for themselves but not their families, pending resettlement back in their homelands when, and if, the persecution they feared abated. Read more…

Labor NSW.Headless rabbits on my doorstep, former MP Paluzzano tells court

From The ABC Online, August 9, 2012.

Disgraced former NSW MP Karyn Paluzzano has broken down at a sentencing hearing for rorting entitlements.

The former Labor member for Penrith in Sydney’s west quit Parliament two years ago over allegations she falsely filled out forms to claim money for staff.

In June this year, she pleaded guilty to charges related to inappropriately using sitting day relief payments between 2006 and 2007.

The 52-year-old also admitted to giving false evidence at a 2010 ICAC inquiry into the allegations.

At a sentencing hearing today, Paluzzano burst into tears as she told the court about her experience.

She received anonymous threatening letters and feared for her life.

Decapitated rabbits were left at the front and back door of her house, Paluzzano said.

The former MP claims she was hounded by the media and became depressed.

Paluzzano said one of her former staffers Tim Horan – who made allegations of misconduct against her – had a gambling problem and put a lot of stress on other staff by turning up for work late and leaving early.

She said he had personal problems and was aggressive.

She told Downing Centre Local court she now teaches English as a second language to migrant and refugee children.

Paluzzano said she was “sorry” for the offenses she committed.

She told the court she worked hard during her seven years as the Member for Penrith, and always made herself available to the community.

She was also Parliamentary Secretary for Education for 15 months before resigning.

Her sentencing hearing continues.

Labor NSW; Orkopoulos staffer appeals court ruling.

From The Age Online July 18, 2012

Orkopoulos staffer appeals court ruling

Date

The whistleblower in the Milton Orkopoulos child sex case is challenging a Supreme Court ruling that the state of NSW was not liable for the conduct of the then NSW Labor minister.

Gillian Sneddon, who worked in the Swansea electoral office of the now-jailed MP, was awarded $435,613 in damages in June 2011, after Justice Derek Price found Orkopoulos bullied and harassed her.

But while Ms Sneddon had a win against Orkopoulos and her employer, the Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly, she lost her case against the state of NSW and was ordered to pay its legal costs, believed to be up to $175,000.

Appearing in the NSW Court of Appeal on Wednesday, Ms Sneddon’s barrister Rohan de Meyrick said that Orkopoulos, who held the Aboriginal affairs portfolio in the Iemma government, had been employed by the state and had a duty of care as a supervisor of his electoral staffer.

“Under crown liability, the state ought to be responsible for these damages,” Mr de Meyrick said.

He said Justice Price had erred by regarding Orkopoulos as a servant of the crown rather than someone acting in service of the crown.

Counsel for the NSW government, Geoff Lindsay SC, said the executive government of NSW had no role concerning the conduct of Orkopoulos, arguing that the Speaker’s office was responsible as the MP’s employer.

“That’s in the control of the Speaker,” Mr Lindsay said.

“That’s the way employment arrangements tie together.”

In the presence of Ms Sneddon, 54, Mr Lindsay pointed out that she had run as an independent candidate for Swansea at the 2011 state election.

“She had recovered by the time of the trial to conduct a political campaign for election to parliament,” he said.

Orkopoulos was jailed for at least nine years in May 2008 for child sex and drugs offences.

The appeal before justices Robert Macfarlan, John Basten and Anthony Meagher is continuing

 

Labor NSW; NSW Labor suspends controversial trio.

From the ABc Online, July7, 2012.

New South Wales Labor has finalised the suspensions of three troublesome members ahead of its party conference tomorrow.

The party’s secretary Sam Dastyari has confirmed the disputes committee last night suspended former vice-president and Health Services Union East branch secretary Michael Williamson and former Drummoyne MP Angela D’Amore.

Mr Willamson is facing claims he misused union money, while the corruption watchdog found Ms D’Amore rorted a parliamentary allowance.

Only Ms D’Amore is believed to have argued against the move.

The party has also acted on the Opposition Leader’s call last December to suspend the membership of former state energy minister Ian Macdonald, who is still the subject of a number of corruption inquiries.

Labor’s leader in the Upper House Luke Foley says people who have brought the party into disrepute have no place in it.

“That decision is an overdue one but an appropriate one,” he said.

“Sometimes these matters take some time and there are of course questions of natural justice ,but I do think that the Labor Party, after a very heavy defeat in New South Wales, needs to understand that there can be zero tolerance for people who do the wrong thing