User namePassword 

 Print this Issue Home  •  Archive  •  About Us  •  Contact  •  Advertise  •  Merchandise Subscribe  •  Free Trial
Polly Peck
4 December, 2007  
Capital Offences

Wave goodbye to the dark side as Fabulous Phil Ruddock paddles off down the River Styx in his barbed-wire canoe … Greetings to Attorney General Robert McClelland, who brings a congenial change of tone. Of course, great expectations invariably are dashed

imageFormer Attorney General “Fabulous” Phil Ruddock announced on the weekend (Dec. 2) he wouldn’t take a seat on Opposition Leader “Blowdried” Brendan Nelson’s front bench.

Fabbo, the father of the House at 64, said in his trademark elliptical way:

“While my background and experience would be helpful at this time, it is questionable whether those attributes would be as sustainable in three years time.”

Phil said he would continue as the member for Berowra, attempt to “mentor” colleagues and eventually pursue opportunities outside Parliament. Since then Blowdried Brendan appointed him and two other former machine operatives to review the Liberal Party’s rules and structure.

That excreable polyp on the posterior of politics, Alexander Downer, also said he wants to mentor newly arrived parliamentary Liberals. He has a whole bag full of tricks to show them: leaking (to Andrew Bolt), snarling abuse (Penny Wong), character assassination (Trent Smith) and lying (AWB).

Fabbo, Australia’s longest serving Immigration Minister, reflected on his legacy:

“Effective and efficacious border protection measures were never an end in themselves but ensured the integrity of this program would be maintained.”

Of course, in its 2001 election victory the Coalition managed the feat of using the integrity of the program as an end in itself.

imageAs Attorney General Phil also weighed-up his proud achievements – family law reforms and a never-ending pursuit of legal harmonisation.

And when London was bombed in 2005 Australia got Phil’s sweeping anti-terror laws, including a refurnished sedition offence and the capacity to incarcerate people indefinitely without charge.

He was first law officer of the land for most of the time David Hicks languished in Guantanamo Bay. Commenting on the post-Hamdan military commissions and the torture-lite interrogation techniques used by the Americans he said in October last year:

“I don’t regard sleep deprivation as torture.”

Ruddock’s bloodless, riven features and tortured language are testament to what can happen when a man sells his soul to the devil.

* * *

NSW Labor right-winger Robert Bruce McClelland BA, LLB, LLM, 50, takes over as Attorney General after being sworn in yesterday (Dec. 3).

He was shadow AG from 1998 to 2003 (under both Bomber Beazley and Crean) and before entering Parliament he’d been a solicitor and then a partner at Turner Freeman, “specialising in labour and sporting law”.

imageGoing way back we find he was the 1975 school captain of Blakehurst High.

“Congenial” Rod McClelland used to enjoy a chin-wag with fellow St George Rugby League supporter Little Johnny Howard, but there’ll be no more of that delightful banter.

McClelland’s maiden speech in 1996, the year that Howard came to power, contained some memorable rhetorical flourishes:

“My belief is that a government which governs simply in the interests of one section of our society is not a democratic government in the sense that we have come to understand that term.”

He cited with approval the patron saint of Labor lawyers, Lionel Keith Murphy:

“Our constitution is affected by the operation of silent constitutional principles which are not mentioned in the constitution … They include the principles of responsible government and the separation of the judicial from other powers … They include many of the great principles of human rights stated in the English constitutional instruments (the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Rights and the Bill of Rights of 1688) such as those which require observance of due process and disfavour cruel and unusual punishment. They are part of our constitutional heritage (as they are part of the North American heritage) derived from the same English sources … These principles emerge from the struggles for freedom against arbitrary government… Those principles of justice are so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental.”


imageEven Sir Edward Coke (seen here) was rolled out, as a kind of 17th century inspiration to latterday plaintiff lawyers:

”[Every citizen] has a right for injury done to him by any other subject to take his remedy by the course of the law and have justice and right done to him.”

Congenial Rob also noted that former High Court judge and Labor leader Doc Evatt had held his seat of Barton, but was moved into a safer borough (unlike poor Little Johnny).

McClelland became an associate to Doc’s nephew, Federal Court judge and Royal Commissioner Phillip Evatt.

One part of his CV that McClelland might be anxious to expunge was his casting vote that gave Mark Latham the Labor leadership over Kim Beazley in 2003.

* * *

McClelland seems to buck some of the stereotypes of NSW ALP right wing hackery.

In his first round of media interviews Congenial Rob gave hope to those who were looking for a brighter tomorrow. He spoke of:

  • The development of a Charter of Rights and Responsibilities though public consultation;
  • Defending the judiciary from politically-motivated attacks;
  • Reforming the judicial appointments process;
  • Broadening Labor’s promised inquiry into the Haneef saga and;
  • Improving access to justice.

    On the other hand, Labor is unlikely to roll back any of the existing anti-terrorism laws for fear of being portrayed as “soft”.

    Kruddie’s reprimand of McClelland after he advocated opposing the death penalty for the Bali bombers is likely to be a taste of what’s ahead.

    Perhaps the most that can be hoped for is that new Home Affairs Minister, former NSW AG “Balmain” Bob Debus, improves the administration of security laws to avoid further abuses.

    * * *

    In a departure from the policies implemented by Ruddock on behalf of the Janette Howard Poofter Eradication Unit, McClelland says Labor is unlikely to oppose an ACT move to give legal recognition to same-sex relationships, but is against gay marriage.

    imageACT Attorney General Simon Corbell is planning to re-introduce civil union legislation which Phil throttled last year.

    Blowdried Brendan said on Sunday (Dec. 2) he supported equality in tax and social security, but not marriage, adoption or IVF and would discuss the ACT’s proposal with colleagues before finding an awkward position on the fence about it.

    * * *

    In the popularity stakes, Congenial Rob boasts 132 Facebook friends, including a cat, compared to Kruddie’s 4,853 and 20,202 fans of the profile “Kevin Rudd and Labor”.