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28 November, 2009  
Goings On ...

UPDATE Premier Rann and the unsavoury history of political libels … Is a lie detector test more reliable than a defamation trial? ... College rape “happens all the time”

imageI’ve long had the feeling that Premier Mike Rann is a disagreeable creep.

South Australia has a habit of inflicting on the populace the most insufferable of politicians, viz. Downer, Pyne, Bernardi, Munchkin, et al.

However, Rann exudes a smug nastiness that specially gets on my wick.

He turned on a display of low-rent, populist antics during the David Hicks’ affair, including his beat-up calls for greater security precautions following Hicks’ release from prison.

His government pioneered the adaption of terrorism law to bikie gangs, or anyone deemed to be in a gang, with convictions based on secret evidence.

Key components of the legislation that sought to direct judges have been struck down by the Full Court.

Now the Michelle Chantelois affair is unzipped, we see more of Mike’s creepy ways.

He’s trying to put the lid on further ventilation of the office desk and golf course rutting escapades by saying he’s issuing defamation proceedings against Channel Seven and New Idea.

His media statement of Nov. 23 said that he did not participate in the Channel 7 program “on the advice of Michael Abbott QC, who advised it was in appropriate to do so because of the court hearing next month and my role as a possible witness”.

The court hearing he referred to relates to an alleged assault on the Premier with a rolled up wine magazine by Rick Phillips, the husband of Michelle Chantelois.

If that was Abbott’s advice then it was a bit odd, because as of right now Phillips has not been formally charged. He’s been arrested and bailed to appear on December 7. The case will be heard without a jury.

At this point prejudice does not arise as an issue.

Don’t forget, Rann initially said after he was whacked by Phillips that he had no idea who assaulted him or why.

Oddly, “Media Mike’s” written statement did not contain a denial of sexual congress with the winsome waitress, 17-years his junior.

That only came later, after he’d had time to think about it. In fact, it took him two months to think about the answer because the question was first put to him by The Australian in September.

The Premier also told a slathering media pack that it would be well-nigh impossible to have sex in his parliamentary office, what with crowds of people coming and going during the parliamentary session.

As Hendrick Gout from Adelaide’s Independent Weekly pointed out, Chantelois never said the affair was conducted while parliament was in session.

The fact that SA doesn’t have juries for defamation trials also means that the risk of prejudice is much less should the media keep banging-on about “Randy Rann”.

As things stand, Rann is gambling big-time with this case. Already he’s left a trail of trouble for himself should he ever enter the witness box.

South Australia can be a suffocating place, populated by an overabundance of paedophiles, murderers, bogans, gay bashers and low grade party hacks (see the Clarke-Atkinson-Ashbourne affair.)

The Premier has ruled out taking a lie detector test saying, “that’s going to be sorted out in the defamation case”.

I hope he wasn’t trying to say that defamation cases invariably deliver an outcome based on litigants telling the truth, particularly politician litigants.

Rushing to mind come Jeffrey Archer, Jonathan Aitken, Jim Cairns, Cocky Calwell, Michael Meacher, and the “pissed as newts” action by three British labour politicians Aneurin Bevan, Richard Crossman and Morgan Phillips.

Then there was Bill Clinton and exhibit A – the semen stained blue dress and Liberace who denied in court he was a “deadly, winking, sniggering, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quavering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of Mother Love”.

Rann was also a plaintiff in a defamation action against former Opposition Leader Martin Hamilton-Smith, which was recently settled for an apology, retraction and costs.

Members of the Greek faction of the SA Labor Party, Tom Koutsantonis and Nick Bolkus, are continuing their actions against Hamilton-Smith and so too are a couple of party employees Michael Brown and John Boag.

Rann also sued former Liberal leader John Olsen and Olsen cross-sued in what was known as the “liar-liar” case, which did not go to judgment.

The case gave rise to some curious wrinkles. It arose as a result of Rann’s evidence to a parliamentary committee where he named Olsen as a source of damaging leaks from within the Liberal Party. At that stage Olsen was an implacable foe of Liberal leader Dean Brown.

Outside parliament Olsen was asked for a response to Rann’s accusation. He said it was a lie and Rann sued.

Olsen pleaded qualified privilege, which relied on what Rann had said under absolute privilege in parliament.

However, the plaintiff argued that Olsen was prohibited from calling into question what had been said by him to the parliamentary committee.

Rann, a former journalist and spin-doctor, also sued The Advertiser before Labor got into power and the case was settled on the morning of the trial.

The important thing is that it’s no plain sailing for a libel plaintiff. The whole exercise looks like a desperate holding device, to get the Premier through till SA’s March election.

* * *

The saga of St Paul’s College Facebook rape page is quietly dying.

The lawyers and flack merchants engaged by the college are beating back questions from reptiles with either unsatisfactory or threatening responses.

imageMost of these frat boy antics ultimately are tucked under the carpet and the offenders go on to become notable plutocrats and pillars of society.

In any event, the latest outpouring of grief about the behaviour of these uppity toads brought to mind a 1980s’ case in which a lad from neighbouring St Andrew’s College (pic) was charged with sexual assault.

The story is that the student and his young lady friend had been drinking at the Marlborough Hotel in Newtown, corner of King Street and Missenden Road.

She told the coppers that he dragged her down Missenden Road into the grounds of the college, up the stairs and had his evil way with her in a spare room.

The accused was the son of a prominent Sydney solicitor. The victim was the daughter of a well known Court of Appeal judge.

The defence case was that he was much smaller than the alleged victim, so to “drag” her down a busy road for about 400 metres might be bit difficult.

There was also the problem that none of her clothing was torn or ripped. Instead, it turned out to be in good condition, which tended against her statement that there was a torrid struggle.

At the end of the trial the accused was acquitted.

What struck the defence team as amazing was that a number of St Andrews’ students, from whom they sought information, said dragging women into rooms, against their will, “happened all the time”.

They were asked would they do anything about it?

The reply: “Don’t be silly, of course not.”


Reader Comments

Posted by: Anonymous
Date: December 3, 2009, 7:05 am

Surely Phillips must have been "formally charged" if he has been arrested and bailed to appear on 7 December and if there is a case to be heard, even without a jury. Even South Australia doesn't yet have trial without charge (yet) although NSW seems to want to head that way.