Mathieson job on the line

Rafael Epstein and Royce Millar

August 19, 2010

    THE controversial property career of Julia Gillard’s partner, Tim Mathieson, is in serious doubt as the couple face the possibility of a fishbowl life in the Lodge in Canberra.

    Senior Labor and business sources say it is unlikely Mr Mathieson will continue to act as a sales consultant with high-profile Melbourne developer and ALP benefactor Albert Dadon if Labor is victorious on Saturday.

    A growing consensus in Labor and government is that it would be untenable for the Prime Minister to have a partner in property development – especially one working for a developer who raises funds for Labor and is dependent on state Labor government planning approvals.

    Last night the Prime Minister’s office left open the possibility of Mr Mathieson ending his property career: ”Julia and Tim will be sitting down after the election, considering his options,” a spokeswoman said.

    The review of Mr Mathieson’s employment was confirmed yesterday as it emerged that Ms Gillard attended a pre-election breakfast with the Jewish community at Mr Dadon’s Toorak mansion on Sunday.

    The ALP increasingly regards Mr Dadon as a major conduit to donations, including from the Jewish business community.

    Some Labor sources described the event as a fund-raiser. Others who were there, including prominent ALP fundraiser and Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby, disagreed.

    The pre-poll breakfast tradition was begun in the 1950s by clothing industry figure and Gloweave founder Saul Same. Since then Labor leaders have met prominent Jewish community members shortly before each federal election.

    ”It’s really an opportunity for the ALP to sell itself, and then on that basis individuals would choose whether to give [donations] or not,” said David Same, Mr Same’s son.

    Mr Dadon told The Age the breakfast was neither a fund-raiser nor a party. ”It’s not a gathering, obviously you don’t know the tradition, there’s no need for me to make any comment.”

    One business source explained that money was not collected at such events but some attendees would later be asked for contributions.

    Kevin Rudd attended a similar function at Mr Dadon’s home before the 2007 poll.

    Mr Mathieson, a former hairdresser and hair products salesman, was employed by Mr Dadon as a property consultant last year despite having no property experience.

    The appointment also followed Ms Gillard and Mr Mathieson leading a delegation of Australian MPs to Israel as part of the first Australia-Israel Leadership Forum, founded by Mr Dadon. The appointment sparked controversy on two fronts: the possibility of special planning treatment for Mr Dadon’s inner-city apartment projects by the Brumby government, and concern over Ms Gillard for perceived uncritical support of Israel.

    Last year Planning Minister Justin Madden contentiously called in and approved a Ubertas Group apartment project at 568 St Kilda Road, before Mr Mathieson worked for the group.

    As part of the approval the government relaxed long-standing rules requiring setback from the adjoining lane. The government has also approved Ubertas projects at 505 St Kilda Road and at 350 Williams Street.

    One senior Jewish business figure said Mr Mathieson faced a career change if Labor won. ”She [Ms Gillard] needs to get him another job, and I’ll be very surprised if she doesn’t.”

     

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