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Emotional Gillard insists she's done 'nothing wrong'

An emotional and at times angry Ms Gillard insisted she had done “nothing wrong” as she took questions from reporters for almost an hour.
An emotional and at times angry Ms Gillard insisted she had done “nothing wrong” as she took questions from reporters for almost an hour. Inga Williams

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has moved to defuse lingering speculation about her time at law firm Slater & Gordon by staging a second marathon press conference on the issue.

An emotional and at times angry Ms Gillard insisted she had done "nothing wrong" as she took questions from reporters for almost an hour about a range of issues, including what she knew about the Australian Workers' Union slush fund affair.

But that was not the end of the grilling, as the Coalition exhausted its question time allocation on the issue.

Opposition Deputy Leader Julie Bishop asked no fewer than 10 questions, including some asked during the press conference.

Ms Gillard batted each question away, referring to the answers she gave in her spirited press conference.

She somewhat cheekily ended question time by pointing out for the benefit of people listening on radio that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was in the chamber, a reference to him not asking a question.

Earlier, Ms Gillard opened the press conference - the second in three months on the issue - accusing the opposition of engineering a campaign of "sleaze and smear" to fill its policy "vacuum".

She said Mr Abbott's anti-carbon tax campaign had "run out of huff".

Under questioning Ms Gillard refuted claims she had set up the Workplace Reform Association for AWU officials Bruce Wilson, her then boyfriend, and Ralph Blewitt in the early 1990s.

Ms Gillard said she provided nothing more than legal advice for the incorporation of an association.

Later she said she had no knowledge of the workings of the association, including any bank accounts linked to it.

She said she was under the impression the association was being established to support the re-election of union officials, an assertion she made in August.

Because she had been dealing with two union officials she figured the association had the approval of the AWU.

Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt allegedly used the association to steal union funds.

The most lively part of the press conference came when Ms Gillard launched a stunning attack on Mr Blewitt, who returned to Australia from overseas last week to speak with Victorian police.

Blewitt told reporters last week Ms Gillard had questions to answer about the matter, but refused to elaborate.

"Let me remind you who Mr Blewitt is," Ms Gillard said.

"Mr Blewitt is a man who has publicly said he was involved in fraud. Mr Blewitt is a man who has sought immunity from prosecution.

"Mr Blewitt is a man who has fled Indonesia to avoid a police interview in relation to land fraud, although he denies wrongdoing in the case.

"Mr Blewitt says he owes money on another Asian land deal. Mr Blewitt admits to using the services of prostitutes in Asia. Mr Blewitt has published lewd and degrading comments and accompanying photographs on his Facebook page.

"Mr Blewitt, according to people who know him, has been described as a complete imbecile, an idiot, a stooge, a sexist pig, a liar and his sister has said he's a crook, and rotten to the core.

"His word against mine: make your mind up."

Ms Gillard addressed the claim Mr Wilson had transferred $5000 into her bank account after winning it at a casino.

She answered the question, but not before describing it as smear because it was a matter "related with my personal life".

"Can you piece together ... the personal wrongdoing in that? I doubt you can," she said when asked about the alleged transaction.

Ms Gillard said she had tried to determine whether the money had been transferred, but Commonwealth Bank did not keep records back that far.

"To the best of my knowledge I do not remember $5000 being put in my bank account," she said.

On the claim union money was used to help pay for renovations on her Melbourne home, she said she was "confident" she had paid for the work herself.

She challenged reporters to come forward with evidence to the contrary.

On the issue of the Slater & Gordon loan issued to Mr Blewitt to buy a home in 1993 - which was partly bought using union funds - Ms Gillard said was not the acting solicitor on the transaction and had no recollection of citing a document relating to the mortgage.

She again challenged anyone with a specific allegation about this matter to raise it.

"Anybody got any contention about how Ralph Blewitt getting a Slater & Gordon mortgage goes to any conduct by me, or any assertions of wrongdoing? What is the big deal?" she said.

Ms Gillard was also asked if she had spoken with Mr Wilson prior to News Limited publishing a story on Sunday, in which he said Ms Gillard knew nothing of his activities.

She said "to her knowledge" no one from her office had been in contact with Mr Wilson.

Topics:  australian workers' union, julia gillard, slater and gordon




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