Speaking to reporters (who are hungry for any dirt on the Prime Minister over the AWU non-story), Deputy Leader of the Opposition Julie Bishop gave them something to lather over when she accused the Prime Minister of criminal conduct when she was a lawyer in the 1990s. Flanked by the media, Ms Bishop alleged:
Ms Gillard deliberately did not open a file when she helped set up a union slush fund because she wanted to hide the fact it would be used to “siphon” money.
I consider these defamatory and unproven allegations, and without doubt they are.
Those remarks were made on November 27.
The next day she followed it up with more defamatory and unproven allegations.
Julie Bishop started the day alleging the Prime Minister was like a bank robber’s knowing accomplice who had benefited from the heist – a Bonnie to her then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson’s, Clyde. ”She provided the stolen vehicle, she drove him to the bank and she looked away while he robbed the bank,” she told her party room, according to the official party spokesman.
”She [the Prime Minister] and Wilson and [sidekick Ralph] Blewitt wanted to hide from the AWU the fact that an unauthorised entity was being set up to siphon funds for their benefit and not for the benefit of the AWU, ” she told reporters.
By all reports she has backed away from those defamatory statements, though she has not retracted from them.
Why I consider these allegations defamatory is that they were made without the cover of parliamentary privilege. She unwisely (or stupidly) shot her mouth off and left herself open on this one.
I’m no lawyer, but with a bit of logic I can deduce that only a couple of options are available in pursuit of this issue (excluding the likely option that it will probably be allowed to fizzle away).
The first option in in Ms Bishop’s court. Retract the statement and offer a full apology. This would be politically suicidal, not so much for her, but for her party which is intent on keeping the AWU non-story in the media in their relentless attack on the Prime Minister. But it would go a long way in deflating the second option, and that is for the Prime Minister to sue Julie Bishop for defamation. The problem with this option is that it could be in the courts for some time, and although she will most likely be successful in the case, it could be politically damaging for the Prime Minister as no doubt the media will try and siphon as much mud out of it as they can. And again, no doubt, it will be headlined on the front page of every paper and news website in the country.
I think it will fizzle out. I also can’t see Julie Bishop delivering the honourable first option or even being held account for it with a friendly media ally. So the ball would certainly be in the Prime Minister’s court (no pun intended this time). So, to sue, or not to sue, that is the question.
What do you think? Better still, want do you want to see happen?