With election speculation filling the air, (Fabulous) Phil Ruddock has been grinding through an extra-heavy lifting routine for the Government.
He’s pumped out at least 20 media messages in the past few weeks in a strenuous attempt to inspire voters.
There has been a bundle of exciting appointments – High Court, Copyright Tribunal, Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the International Legal Advisory Council and a brand new DPP.
Then there’s Phil “the action man” stamping out alleged piracy of The Simpsons; the need for greater “disaster preparedness” in APEC economies; the building contract for the new ASIO and ONA HQ in Canberra; review of APEC security preparedness; the need for Australians to protect their “identity”; new measures to control plastic explosives; the release of a booklet on managing cross-border disputes; co-operative crime fighting with the Chinese; relisting of evil terror organisations; and on and on it goes.
Ruddock reserved some of his energy to flay the states for various sins and omissions, including their “sabotage” of the national electronic conveyancing system.
“The same jealousies that resulted in different rail-gauge widths in the 19th century are sabotaging a national electronic conveyancing system in the 21st century.”
Fabbo singled out Victorian AG, Rob (Fuckin) Hulls for not providing leadership on the issue after Yarraville developed a pilot electronic conveyancing system, but reportedly has not shared it.
Phil was also at odds with the Labor states over his plan to ban and refuse classification for material “advocating terrorism”, with only South Australia and NSW agreeing at the recent SCAG meeting in Hobart.
Anyhow, the Attorney-General has already introduced legislation to go it alone in declassifying terror advocacy. His press release said that Labor had “deviated from its typical refrain of ‘Amen’ to Howard Government policy” by passing it quickly in the House of Reps but intending to actually think about it in the Senate and propose amendments.
Shadow AG, Joe Ludwig, retorted that Labor’s proposed amendment, relating to the difficulty of the Classification Review Board assessing how teenagers or the mentally impaired may react to the advocacy of terrorism, reflected the findings of the Government-dominated Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.
Almost in the same breath, Phil managed to complain in an interview with the Government Gazette, a.k.a. The Australian, about Labor’s me-tooism. The Opposition has not committed itself to a federal judicial commission or a bill of rights and Phil claims that this means the ALP wants “to be elected on … the Government’s [do nothing] platform”.
Fabbo also chimed in on the Government’s can’t-trust-Labor-in-office theme, saying that Rudd & Co were soft on terrorism and “going to water” on the lovely sedition provisions. He added that the Government itself might do some tinkering on sedition. We can hardly wait.
Phil also had a little part of the spotlight at the APEC knees-up, launching a new “APEC code of conduct for business”, which seeks to help companies identify and counter corruption. This is, of course, from the same people who were up to pussy’s bow in the wheeties-for-oil scandale.
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Actually, I see the whey-faced Attorney-General was among those who crowded into Bunter Downer’s smelly hotel room during the APEC get-together to secretly caucus about Little Johnnie’s unravelling “leadership” and whether someone should tap the PM to go.
And after all those years of lick-spittling to Howard. How could he?
Bunter’s hand-washed smalls were dripping in the bathroom from a string over the tub.
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Recently Fabulous Phil agreed that the Government would shell out $50,000 to the much-loved Austlii, and appealed to federal courts and tribunals to also stump up some money for the cash-starved legal data base.
As though the credit was all due to him, he announced that the Family Court has agreed to double its current Austlii funding to $20,000 per year, and the Native Title Tribunal has upped its contribution by $5000.
He also trundled out a whole pile of figures about his favourite baby, the Family Relationship Centres. In their first year about 48,000 folk rang the centres and another 10,000 dropped in, with 17,500 interviews and 7100 dispute resolution sessions. Another 25 centres will open in July next year, making a total of 65.
The Department of Foreign Affairs recently hosted International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (pic) on a visit to Australia. He met with Bunter and Fabbo, who pointed out that Australia has contributed $17 million to the court’s operations since becoming a party to the ICC agreement in 2002.
And just in case you’re eager for more statistics, Phil announced that the national security hotline has logged its 100,000th call.
When will he ever tire of all this razzamatazz?
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And still the appointments keep coming. Susan Keifel to the High Court and Chris Craigie as Commonwealth DPP were attention grabbing elevations.
But hardly a squeak about Andrew Phelan as chief executive and principal registrar of the High Court. He’d previously worked as manager of corporate services for the Family Court and is something of a whiz at judicial administration.
And, by the way, there are a few “interesting” Federal Court appointments to be unveiled before the elections are called.
Both the Attorney-General and his shadow have been showing off their own admin law credentials lately. Fabbo was gushing about the Administrative Review Council’s new Best Practice Guides for Administrative Decision Makers, saying it would become “the standard reference tool” for public decision makers.
For his part, Joe Ludwig told a Melbourne conference:
“The FoI Act has become sclerotic, its objects ignored in favour of narrower interpretations by government and the courts, and its exemptions, charges and procedures arguably abused by government.”
Joe added that the bureaucracy needs a “culture shift … to promote a pro-disclosure culture”.
Sounds terrific, but don’t hold your breath. Little Kruddy is an avowed devotee of freedom from information.
Anyhow, the speculation in these parts is that Senator Joe is unlikely to become AG, should Labor win.
Melbourne silk Mark Dreyfus (pic) apparently fancies himself for the role. Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield gave the barrister a few minutes of Parliamentary discussion early this year, focusing on Dreyfus’s plans not to live in the seat of Isaacs, if he wins it.
In fact, Dreyfus has digs in the seat of Treasurer and wannabe PM, Pete (Smirk) Costello, for whom Mitch used to work. Fifield picked up on a 1998 report Dreyfus had penned for Victorian Labor in which he said:
“A measure of the party’s self-confidence should be an easing of the discipline, the ‘closed backroom-ness’ that formal factionalism inevitably brings.”
Yet as fortune had it, Dreyfus received 44 percent of rank and file votes and won his preselection through a bit of old fashioned “backroom-ness”.
One other piece of Labor scuttlebutt is that Joe Ludwig is unreceptive to a bill of rights, whereas shadow foreign minister Robert McClelland and homeland security spokesman Arch Bevis are much more open to the idea.
Good to see some in the ALP sort of agree with the Government, but disagree with each other.