Transcript proof Gillard 'facilitated the fraud': Abbott
THE federal parliamentary year ended with expected fireworks on Thursday, with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott calling for a judicial inquiry into the Australian Workers' Union slush fund affair.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Mr Abbott engaged in an extraordinary 30-minute debate in the House of Representatives.
It came after Ms Gillard took the unusual step of delaying the start of question time to give Mr Abbott 15 minutes to back up his claim she had broken Western Australian laws in 1992.
Having lit the fuse for the explosive showdown earlier in the day, it was an opportunity he clearly did not want to waste.
He said a transcript of Ms Gillard's 1995 exit interview from law firm Slater &Gordon, published by Fairfax on Thursday, was proof she had made representations to the West Australian Corporate Affairs Commission in 1992 that the AWU Workplace Reform Association should be incorporated.
Ms Gillard this week said she provided nothing more than legal advice to incorporate the association, which belonged to her then boyfriend and AWU official Bruce Wilson and his sidekick Ralph Blewitt.
With Ms Gillard glaring at him from across the despatch box Mr Abbott told the lower house she was a "dodgy and unethical lawyer" who had "failed the character test".
"She had represented that this was an association that could validly be registered under Western Australian law when she knew that it could not be," Mr Abbott said under the protection of parliamentary privilege.
"Plainly there has been unethical and illegal conduct here. Much of it has been facilitated at the very least by the Prime Minister and the advice that she has given," he said later in the speech.
Mr Abbott said Ms Gillard's decision to end her relationship with Mr Wilson proved she knew there was an "abundance of problems" with the association.
He said her failure to alert the firm or the authorities "meant the fraud could continue".
At the very least Ms Gillard's actions were "unbecoming", he said.
Mr Abbott said he had been prepared to give Ms Gillard the benefit of the doubt, but that both he and the nation needed to hear her side of the story.
He said when tested her answers had lacked "truth and in substance""This week we have heard more of the Prime Minister's side of the story. And I have to say that the more we hear from the Prime Minister, the more obvious it is that she has been involved in unethical conduct and possibly unlawful behaviour," he said.
Mr Abbott also spoke about corruption in the union movement more generally, making specific reference to problems in the Health Services Union, and called on the government to stamp it out "wherever it occurs".
He then called for the judicial inquiry into the AWU association to "get to the bottom of this whole squalid affair."
Later in the day he released proposed terms of reference for such a probe.
In response Ms Gillard described Mr Abbott as a "rash man" who had accused her of committing a crime based on nothing more than the Fairfax article.
Ms Gillard had earlier written to Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood complaining about "misleading" elements of the story.
She told the House the report had been corrected twice.
Mr Abbott had "made things up" with "no facts at his disposal", she said.
"The Leader of the Opposition, after all these moths of smear, has an opportunity to put up or shut up and he cannot do that," Ms Gillard said.
"A decent man would apologise. A decent man would realise that he has gone too far and cannot prove what has been said.
"The Leader of the Opposition is not a decent man and not a man that can be relied upon to go to the facts of matters."
When the debate finished and question time resumed, the opposition again dedicated all of its questions to the AWU scandal.
But unlike previous days Mr Abbott asked a number of questions on the matter.
The opposition asked just one question this week on a matter unrelated to the AWU association.