Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Prime Minister Julia Gillard Getty Images - Robert Prezioso

PM target of 'sexist smear campaign'

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard says she has been the target of a "very sexist smear campaign" relating to her time as a partner at law firm Slater & Gordon.

Ms Gillard broke her silence on Thursday and ended a week of media and Opposition speculation by holding a marathon press conference.

For almost an hour she fielded questions about, among other things, her role in establishing the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association in the 1990s for her then boyfriend and AWU official Bruce Wilson.

"False and highly defamatory" allegations made in The Australian newspaper were the catalyst for Ms Gillard's decision to front the media.

The Australian retracted the allegations and, by 10am, had published an online apology which also appeared on all News Ltd websites.

"An article in today's The Australian reported that Prime Minister Julia Gillard had set up a trust fund for her then boyfriend 17 years ago. This is wrong. The Australian apologises for the error," the apology read.

She said it was the third time since 2007 News Limited had published stories claiming she had set up a trust fund for Mr Wilson.

On each occasion the allegations have been retracted and apologies published.

In an attempt to clear the air once and for all, Ms Gillard said on Thursday that she had done nothing more than provide legal advice for the establishment of the association.

Ms Gillard said it was her understanding the association would be used to collect money for the re-election of AWU officials who were committed to workplace reform.

She said she was not a signatory or office-bearer of the association, and had no knowledge of its workings.
Asked why she did not open a file on the Slater & Gordon system for the work, Ms Gillard explained it was not uncommon for lawyers at the firm to provide limited free advice to trade unions.

In such instances she would keep files for her open purposes, but would not open a file on the firm's system.
"With hindsight, of course, it would have been better had I opened the file on the system," Ms Gillard said. "But, at the time, it did not strike me as a matter of particular significance."

Ms Gillard said she ended her relationship with Mr Wilson when it became clear she had been "deceived about a series of matters". She had not seen him in the 17 years since, she said.

The Prime Minister again denied money from the association had been used to pay for improvements to her Melbourne home.

"Let's be very clear about it - I paid for the renovations on my home," she said.

As for the circumstances surrounding her departure from Slater & Gordon in 1995, Ms Gillard said she left amid "growing tension and friction amongst the partnership".

Ms Gillard said accusations about her time at the firm had long been circulated by "misogynists and nut jobs" online and she did not expect them to stop any time soon.

"It wouldn't matter what I said, and it wouldn't matter what documents were produced, and it wouldn't matter what anybody else said, they will pursue this claim for motivations of their own which are malicious and not in any way associated with the facts," Ms Gillard said.

Ms Gillard said she had no intention of pursuing those people, for whom she had no respect, through the courts.
"It's dignifying them with a status they didn't deserve," she said.

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