PRIME Minister Julia Gillard called time on Tony Abbott.
The final straw was the opposition leader’s claim on morning television, and repeated in parliament on Thursday, that Gillard had given false information to West Australian authorities in early 1992.
In other words, Gillard as a lawyer for Slater & Gordon two decades ago broke WA state laws.
In the final question time of the year, Gillard gave Abbott a platform to provide evidence for his claim, or unreservedly apologise.
Abbott got to his feet for a 15-minute response, after avoiding the issue in parliament this week by leaving his deputy, Julie Bishop, to lead the interrogation of the prime minister.
Gillard had “unceremoniously” left Slater & Gordon, he said, after it was found she had advised two of her clients – Australian Workers’ Union officials Ralph Blewitt and Bruce Wilson – on setting up an association that “turned out to be a vehicle for defrauding” a firm client, the AWU.
He gave Gillard the “benefit of the doubt”, accepting she had never personally benefited from the fraud alleged to have taken place involving the association’s accounts.
However, Abbott said she had written to the WA corporate affairs commissioner vouching for the association’s aim to promote the development of changes to work to achieve safe workplaces.
This misled the commissioner, he said, as it was a “slush fund” for the election of AWU officers.
“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 she has given,” he told the house under parliament privilege.
“It is conduct unbecoming of a prime minister.”
Dissatisfied with the lack of an apology, Gillard described Abbott’s speech as a “halting, nervous and ultimately contentless performance”.
Abbott, she said, had backflipped hours after alleging criminal behaviour to saying it was “conduct unbecoming”.
In 15 minutes, he failed to provide any evidence or wrongdoing.
“Where this takes Australians to is – you need to think very carefully about what this course of conduct says about the opposition leader’s ability to show judgment and leadership,” she said.
Both Gillard and Abbott have made an issue of each others’ integrity and honesty, as Australia heads into an election year. – AAP