A JUDICIAL figure who exposed alleged union corruption involving Julia Gillard's then boyfriend is taking a rare step of calling on witnesses to offer evidence to a new police investigation.Ian Cambridge, a former Australian Workers Union national secretary and a current Fair Work commissioner, told The Australian it was vitally important for witnesses to help an escalating investigation by detectives from Victoria Police's fraud and extortion squad.
Mr Cambridge named his former AWU boss, federal president Bill Ludwig, among the people who should help police investigating the fraud allegedly committed in the 1990s by former union official Bruce Wilson.
"I want it put on the record that I will fully co-operate with police investigations and I will provide police with all the information that I have," Mr Cambridge said yesterday in Sydney. "The other point is that I urge all the other individuals who are connected with this matter to do the same.
"If they are contacted by police, they should adopt the same approach to full disclosure. It is a fundamental obligation of any decent citizen."
In the mid-1990s, Mr Ludwig wanted Mr Wilson, then an AWU official in Victoria, prosecuted for the alleged fraud involving hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mr Wilson, who at the time was Ms Gillard's boyfriend and client at the law firm Slater & Gordon, has denied wrongdoing.
Mr Cambridge publicly urged a royal commission into the corruption in 1995 and asked the then federal industrial relations minister, Laurie Brereton, to set up a far-reaching public inquiry. Mr Cambridge said yesterday he still stood by "what I said at the time".
Mr Cambridge, who has already been contacted by Victoria Police, said he would give his complete co-operation to any future royal commission-style inquiry into union corruption and the AWU scandal if Tony Abbott kept his pledge to establish such an inquiry in the event he became prime minister.
In 1995, Mr Ludwig also publicly backed and joined Mr Cambridge's efforts to have Mr Wilson and AWU corruption investigated by police and even a royal commission. However, Mr Ludwig pledged the union's support for Ms Gillard in 2010, leading to her ousting Kevin Rudd as prime minister. The AWU is no longer pressing police to investigate the scandal. Mr Ludwig declined to comment yesterday. At the time of the fraud, Mr Cambridge, as national secretary of the AWU, answered to Mr Ludwig.
A large part of the fraud was allegedly perpetrated by Mr Wilson using an entity, the AWU Workplace Reform Association, which was established on legal advice from Ms Gillard, then a partner at Slater & Gordon in Melbourne.
Neither Mr Cambridge nor the AWU, for whom Ms Gillard was acting as a solicitor, knew of the existence of the association that she later described as a union "slush fund" to raise money to help the election of union officials.
Ms Gillard has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and insisted she was not aware of the workings of the association. She has accused The Australian of being part of a smear campaign. AWU national secretary Paul Howes declined to comment yesterday. Mr Howes wrote in The Sunday Telegraph at the weekend that the union had learnt "the hard way in the mid-1990s when a couple of officials set up a bogus fund to elicit money from building companies . . . (that) you can never be too careful when it comes to putting checks and balances in place". He did not name Mr Wilson or Ms Gillard.
Mr Cambridge said his call for witnesses to help police was "entirel separate" from the Fair Work Commission's work. Referring to documents leaked to The Australian last year, including a transcript of a 1995 interview of Ms Gillard by Slater & Gordon head Peter Gordon following an internal investigation into her conduct, Mr Cambridge said: "I wish that I had some of the material released recently back in 1995-96. Of course, (former AWU official Ralph Blewitt) has now made a full confession to fraud and that changes matters."
Mr Cambridge did not know until the record of interview was leaked that Ms Gillard was provided legal advice to help establish the association and that this had contributed to her abrupt departure from Slater & Gordon.
Mr Blewitt, a confessed corrupt AWU official, has told Victoria Police he helped orchestrate a criminal fraud with Mr Wilson and that they illegally siphoned off hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mr Blewitt has accused Ms Gillard of falsely witnessing a power of attorney document that enabled him to buy a house in 1993 with money from the fund that she had helped establish. The house was bought for Mr Wilson's use during his relationship with Ms Gillard, who attended the auction and was involved in the conveyancing. Ms Gillard has denied any wrongdoing in relation to the power of attorney, saying she properly witnessed thousands of documents over eight years.
The investigation by Victoria Police was initiated after a formal complaint by former Fairfax Radio broadcaster Michael Smith, who lost his job after trying to investigate Ms Gillard's role. The broadening Victoria Police investigation has led to interviews in Queensland, NSW and Victoria and has included former Slater & Gordon staff member Olivia Brosnahan. Extracts from Mr Cambridge's diaries from the 1990s include a claim about $5000 deposited into Ms Gillard's bank account by union staffer Wayne Hem, on instruction from Mr Wilson. Ms Gillard said she could not recall the alleged deposit.