Gillard under fire: ‘We gave her the benefit of the doubt’
From: The Australian August 21, 2012 12:00AM
This is a draft of a statement by Peter Gordon, former partner at law firm Slater & Gordon.
THIS statement concerns matters raised in the media in recent weeks concerning the departure from Slater & Gordon in 1995 of Julia Gillard. It is no secret that Julia Gillard worked in the industrial de
Likewise, it is no secret that (name redacted) and Ms Gillard left the firm in late 1995 in circumstances where their relationship with the equity partnership group had become fractured, and trust and confidence evaporated. We also had concerns about various aspects of the way in which (name redacted) and Ms Gillard had acted with regard to Mr Wilson and the AWU. We felt that a number of matters required explanation and we were concerned as to whether they had acted consistently with their obligations of utmost good faith with regard to their partners.
While we were not in a position to conduct a formal audit, we did conduct a number of interviews including a formal interview at which a number of allegations were put and responded to.
On my recollection of events;
1.) There was no evidence which explicitly or even indirectly controverted the explanation Ms Gillard made at the time and has made publicly since as to her dealings with Mr Wilson; namely that she had been ‘naive’ and had been ‘taken in by a conman’.
2.) Ms Gillard (as did (name redacted)) strongly and consistently denied that they had any knowledge of wrongdoings now alleged before July 1995, and strongly denied any participation in any alleged wrongdoing at all times;
3.) In the years which followed their departure from Slater & Gordon, both (name redacted) and Ms Gillard continued to strongly assert their innocence and ignorance of the relevant alleged wrongdoing and maintained that the firm’s treatment of them had been in the circumstances unfair.
3.) I am not sure what I have missed here, however this is twice they said they left the Firm and their departure from the firm, who is this other person? As SHE resigned from the Firm, or so we were asked to believe, why would she consider the Firms treatment of them had been unfair?
4.) The nature of the wrongdoings alleged required us, if we were to take an adverse view of Ms Gillard in relation to these events, to believe that she had knowingly participated in a fraud and deceived her partners about it for a year or more.
While I was not close to Ms Gillard (and believe I had never met Mr Wilson), my association with her and my evaluation of her as a person led me to the view that this was inherently unlikely and not in her character.
A Liar of Gillard’s calibre could well have fooled Slater and Gordon for a number of years.
Nevertheless, the partnership was extremely unhappy with both (name redacted) and Ms Gillard, considered that proper vigilance had not been observed and that their duties of utmost good faith to their partners especially as to timely disclosure had not been met. The partnership considered terminating (name redacted) and Ms Gillard. It is fair to say that (name redacted) and Ms Gillard also developed considerable antipathy towards the other partners and made their unhappiness clear as to what they saw as our failure to understand their position and to support them. It was clear the relationships had broken down irretrievably.
My examination of the material available to me at that time led me to the view that there was no sufficient basis to dismiss Ms Gillard for misconduct. I formed, in effect, the view that she should be accorded the benefit of the doubt and her explanation accepted. I should add the (sic) while other matters of which I was not aware in 1995 have come to my attention since then, that view remains my view. I think she is entitled to the benefit of the doubt. I think her explanation should be accepted. Ms Gillard elected to resign and we accepted her resignation without discussion.
I have been told that the relevant Slater & Gordon files reveal that certain relevant ‘new’ information was made to (name redacted) in July 1995, and very shortly thereafter to Ms Gillard. No evidence in any of the firm’s records exists that information as to any matter which can incontrovertibly be described as wrongdoing was available to or known by either of them before this time. Shortly after this time, this ‘new’ information was passed on to the other partners. There was a small delay in the transmission of this information by (name redacted) to the rest of us which I interpreted as mediated only by the serious deterioration in our relationship and the mental strain under which he obviously labored at the time. When the information was conveyed to the other partners, the firm immediately ceased acting for the AWU, for Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt. The leadership of the AWU had passed at this time from Mr Wilson to a new administration which retained Maurice Blackburn. Both Maurice Blackburn and the new administration were aware of the relevant allegations and was to our satisfaction, in a position to protect the union’s interests insofar as those interests may have been affected.
The matters were also thereafter the subject of a properly constituted industrial court inquiry and a police investigation. After the departure of (name redacted) and Ms Gillard, Slater & Gordon’s ongoing obligations with regard to such matters were handled predominantly by the firm’s general manager, Geoff Shaw. Mr Shaw obtained independent legal advice from Philips Fox as to the firm’s obligations and also obtained the advice of senior counsel. Slater & Gordon complied with its obligations at all times in this period. So far as I am aware, no action emerged from the police investigation of the relevant matter concerning Mr Wilson and neither was there any outcome to litigation against Mr Wilson by the AWU. Moreover, during all of this time, as stated, (name redacted) and Ms Gillard continued to strongly assert their innocence and ignorance of any wrongdoing.
These events occurred seventeen to twenty years ago. They were a most unhappy time at the firm in which some longstanding friendships were shattered. However, we believe that we complied with our legal and complex ethical obligations as best we could. I did not speak to Ms Gillard for about seven years after these events and since then have resumed occasional contact with her mainly at Bulldogs games. I note that Mr Ralph Blewitt (who I also believe I have never met) stated in last Saturday’s Australian newspaper that he alleges no wrongdoing on my part. I hope he will extent (sic) the same courtesy to every other lawyer at Slater & Gordon who never (sic) worked in the industrial department and who, like me, knew nothing of these events until the day we ceased acting for him, Mr Wilson and the AWU. Insofar as Mr Blewitt has any information or wishes to make allegations of wrongdoing against (name redacted) or Ms Gillard or any other member of the 1995 Slater & Gordon industrial department, I would urge him to do so and to waive the legal privilege which still impedes them from a fair opportunity to respond to the matters he has now chosen to raise.
The statement has been edited for legal reasons. There is no suggestion that Ms Gillard or the other person named in the text had any knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing by Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt.