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17 May, 2004  

Fruity Flint’s fascinating theory about Mabo … Watch out Roddy, Kirby and Fieldhouse are now collaborating on a book … Burnside’s beefy punch-bag replacement … LIV takes on Legal Ombudsman (again) ... Top End magistrate under investigation … Another failed round in Brisbane barrister’s house fire defo … Daphnis’ heavy handed admission rejection … Johnny Howard apparatchik for Law Society of NSW … Grovel

Might I contribute two additional thoughts in the wake of Fruity Flint’s latest bout of foot in the mouth preening?

The thoughts themselves come from the “professor’s” most recent book, The Twilight of the Elites (forward by Tony Abbott MP).

I suspect this tome has had less than concentrated attention by chatterers and other effetes. However, even very light study will be rewarded with amusement.

For instance, on page 194, is an attempt to connect the High Court’s decision of 1988 to abandon its wigs and traditional robes with the 1992 decision in the Mabo case.

It was from the moment the court started wearing American smocks that it “entered its most controversial years, with Mabo among the most controversial of its decisions of this period,” wrote the old Fruit Loop.

Never before has the nexus between the abandonment of traditional judicial garb and judicial legislation been so neatly explained.

Then there is the author’s fascinating study of the situation in Iraq. He is looking to a former member of the Iraqi royal family to “play a significant role in this exercise of nation building”.

Indeed, before dictators took over in Iraq “something like a Westminster system” apparently existed in that country. The system should be restored and just the man to help do it is “the urbane and sophisticated Sharif Ali bin Al-Hussein, one of the survivors of the massacre of the Royal Family in the coup in 1958”.

Actually, Sharif Ali bin Al-Hussein is a first cousin of the unloved King Faisal 11. He’s an associate of the US-backed fraudster on the Iraqi Governing Council, Ahmed Chalabi. He’s also an oily London-based investment banker and, surprise-surprise, heads the Iraqi Constitutional Monarchy Movement.

He’s probably received more letters of endorsement from Fruity Flint than has Alan (Dunny) Jones.

Possibly too much already has been said about the book launch at Robin Gibson Gallery of Roddy Meagher’s Portraits on Yellow Paper.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t add my tuppence worth.

It should be said that those guests who weren’t ridiculously fat, didn’t have blotched red faces, weren’t ugly and right wing, or have absurdly dyed hair, stood out like cherubs at a night with the Bulldogs.

imageIn view of this I blended in superbly, as did my soul mate, the official launcher, Justice Tubby Callinan (pictured).

Two of the fattest, P.P. McGuinness and Christopher Pearson (in bold pin-stripes fresh from an SBS board meeting), barrelled their way through the throng into the gallery just as speeches were getting started, just in time for P.P. to thrust into Roddy’s paw the latest edition of Quadrant with Kirby’s review of the book.

Too late, the same review had appeared in Justinian three weeks earlier.

Pearson declared the party was, “more like the last pages of Proust than anything I’ve seen”.

There were some sleek A-listers (a list that has been divined by a scribbler for the (Sydney) magazine, including Chief Justice Spigelman and Justice Henric Nicholas.

Daphnis de Jersey was there from Queensland gently complaining of the crush. Dyson Heydon firmly gripped his drink as he discussed the finer points of ACCC v Rural Press with Jeffrey Hilton SC.

Janet Albrechtsen, the right’s pin-up chickadee, arrived in hipster jeans and clean hair. Justice Levine quietly corrected Roddy’s misquoted remark of Churchill’s that every truth should be surrounded by a flotilla of lies.

Plenty of Simon Fieldhouse’s highly praised art was on display. While all and sundry were intent of looking at themselves and each other, the drawings still sold smartly. A line drawing of John Howard was the third last item to sell. We wondered who possibly could be the buyer, later to learn it had gone to none other than the PM’s adoring older brother, Stanley.

I hear that Fieldhouse now is collaborating with another author on a fresh tome, which will imagealso appear under the imprint of the University of Bullamakanka (aka Central Queensland University
Press). His collaborator is M. Kirby J, who is mustering a further and better collection of his speeches, thoughts, reviews and commentary.

That one should be out in time for Christmas stockings 2004.

At the launch of his book Roddy (pictured) declared that The Tub was a renaissance sort of person and had even taken up ballet. Meagher also responded to Kirby’s criticism that the book is “marred by unnecessary nastiness”. This was because, “I didn’t want to be seen to be wallowing in the luxury of charity”.

But by the time of the bench and bar dinner on May 14, at which Roddy was the keynote speaker, all his jibes had worn a bit thin and the general feeling of the gathering about his oration was one of disappointment and a little sadness.

The person appointed to replace Julian Burnside as the advocate for the refugees at Topside Camp in Nauru was Reuben Kun, an uncle of the “Justice” Minister, Russell Kun.

A subscriber remembers Reuben at the ANU in the 1960s where he studied economics. The massive thighed Nauran was one of the tough fellows on campus and in the pub used to square up to a huge Russian migr. The amusement was that in turn each would land horrendous blows on the other’s stomach and see who would buckle first.

Worthy training for Reuben’s appearance before the Supreme Court of Nauru.

Barry Lane reports from Yarraville that there is no date yet for the expedited hearing in the Supreme Court of an action commenced by three stipes employed by the Law Institute against the Legal Ombudsman, Kate Hamond.

The plaintiffs are Kevin Joseph Power, the LIV’s general manager of professional standards; Steven Sapountsis, the assistant manager of professional standards; and Charles George Horvath, another LIV employee.

They are seeking declarations and injunctions.

The matter arises from the report to parliament last October by the Legal Ombudsman, which questioned a curious anomaly whereby Power was not subject to her investigating authority, unlike every other solicitor who manages trust accounts.

Kate Hamond thought this meant there was no adequate way of knowing whether the funds were being properly managed. Also, there was confusion about the status of Power’s practising certificate and insurance cover.

The Legal Ombudsman’s report urged the Attorney General, Rob (Fuckin’) Hulls, to send in the Auditor General to look at the accounts of those law shops taken over by the receiver at the LIV.

Needless to say, nothing happened.

Now Power wants declarations that he was authorised to carry on receiverships, regardless of the status of his practising certificate, and that the trust accounts he managed as receiver did not have to be conducted in accordance with Part 6 of the Legal Practice Act.

In addition, the plaintiffs seek injunctions restraining Hamond and her crew from continuing to investigate their conduct.

The co-regulatory regime in Victoria seems to be working brilliantly.

As if birching lawyers at the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal was not an exhausting enough task for John Nader. Yet I hear he’s also shuttling back and forth to Darwin conducting a special hearing for the Martin government as to whether magistrate Anthony Gillies should be sacked.

imageVarious legal aid lawyers doing Aboriginal work have complained to NT Chief Magistrate Hugh Bradley that Gillies is rude to them and is unsuitable for the bench.

Bradley, in turn, wrote to Attorney General Peter Toyne seeking an inquiry and so it is that Nader, a former NT Supreme Court judge, got the gig under the Inquiries Act (NT).

He is look at whether Gillies is incapable or incompetent in carrying out his duties, or for any other reason is unsuited to the job.

Nader’s first decision was to slap a big fat suppression order over the hearings.

In the meantime, the Top End is still waiting for the High Court to deliver its thinking on whether Bradley was validly appointed as Chief Magistrate by former Chief Minister and Attorney General, Shane Stone “QC”.

My Bananaland Field Agent, Sir Terence O’Rort, tells me that Brisbane barrister Paul Favell and his missus Dianna have gone down in their appeal over the great house fire story.

Last October Justice John Helman struck out the entire slate of 46 defamatory imputations the Favells claimed arose from an article in The Sunday Mail, published on January 19, 2003.

The most awful part of the story read:

“A multimillion-dollar Brisbane home which is the subject of a controversial development application burned down early yesterday morning.

Owners of the house on the Brisbane River at New Farm, which has views across the city, had applied to build a five-story block of units.

Barrister Paul Favell, his lawyer wife Dianna and his three teenage children will return home from holiday in Rome to find the Griffith St home gutted

It is understood neighbours had planned a meeting to protest against the impending unit development

Police said investigations into the cause of the fire were continuing.

Detective Senior Constable John Kilburn from the arson investigation unit said the cause of the fire was not known.

‘All fires are treated as suspicious until otherwise disproved and we will follow all lines of inquiry,’ he said.”

The nub of the complaint by the Favells was that the article meant they were guilty of arson or, the old fallback, there was a reasonable suspicion they were guilty of arson.

Guy Reynolds from the Sydney Bar & Grill, for the Favells, claimed that Justice Helman had neglected to look at all the “possible readings” as well as “each implication, inference and innuendo” in “minute detail”.

Even so, the Queensland appeal judges failed to throw a life-line to even a few of the truck load of imputations that had been backed up to the court.

imageStill in Brisvegas, it is now only a month away before a young law graduate by the name of Michael McDonnell can reapply for admission as a solicitor.

On December 18 last year his application for admission was “adjourned” by the Full Court of the Supreme Court of Queensland.

He was told to come back in six months because the court took exception to some youthful indiscretions, namely in company with another school leaver stealing a keg of beer which was consumer at an end of year party, some traffic offences, creating a disturbance at a club and using insulting language. The majority of all these lapses occurred when he was between 17 and 18 years old.

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court thought that this displayed “a lack of stability in his daily conduct”.

The keg of beer incident filled lad with such remorse that he went to the police the following day, made a full confession, was charged and placed on a 12 months good behaviour bond.

All the offences had been earlier disclosed to the Solicitors’ Board. The board did not oppose his admission, stating that the offences were attributable to “youthful indiscretion and immaturity”.

What was so upsetting was the way the Supreme Court handled the issue. Normally admission day in the Banco Court is an occasion for merriment and rejoicing. Not for young McDonnell. He had his family, his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s family along for the ceremony.

After all, the Solicitors’ Board did not oppose his application so he did not anticipate that Chief Justice Daphnis de Jersey would set out to the entire gathering his “serious offences”, and then intone gravely:

“The public rightly expects that those who carry on practice as solicitors will exhibit, among other qualities, stability in their daily conduct. I regret to have to say that, in my view, the applicant has not, at this point of time, satisfied me that he will demonstrate that quality if he is presently admitted.”

There was some argument with counsel moving his admission, during which Daphnis momentarily took pity on the applicant: “You can sit down. You needn’t endure the ”

One might have thought that if the lad was going to be knocked back he might have been given the gypsies’ warning and not been humiliated in such a rotten way.

“Stability in daily conduct.” Which among us has ever achieved that miserable condition?

The Law Society of NSW has plucked a key operative from Little Johnnie Howard’s office and created for him a grand title – Director of Communications.

Gary “Smokey” Dawson takes up the position on May 24 and will be in charge of media relations, government relations, events, regional law societies, the library and the journal.

More managers are precisely what the Law Society needs. He joins former Liberal apparatchik Michael Tidball who at one stage served a Liberal Minister for Corrective Services and the Arts and is now the society’s Chief Operating Officer, if you please.

Smokey used to be a policy wonk and a media adviser for Little Johnnie. His policy advice covered communications and IT, two of the government’s most triumphant areas.

Before that he was a hack for the Daily Terrorgraph, Aunty and “commercial television”.

Now it’s the Law Society. What fun.

Finally, a heartfelt, fulsome, unreserved and grovelling apology to Justice Robert Hulme, his associate and tipstaff.

I reported on April 22 that His Honour’s associate saw the tipstaff having a cigarette outside the court with jurors during a trial in Griffith.

Getting quite carried away, the report went on to say the tippy was hauled into the witness box and defence counsel asked for a retrial and that the matter was still under consideration in the Court of Criminal Appeal.

All of which was wrong, as His Honour has patiently pointed out to me.

imageWhat happened, if you can bear more detail, is that on the third morning of the proceedings in a murder case, and before a jury had been sworn, the tipstaff was outside the court having a fag. He was approached by a potential juror and asked a question about the amount of time things were going to take that morning.

The tipstaff said he’d check it out, but he had no further contact with possible jurors.

What he did report to the judge was that while outside he’d seen the accused arrive in handcuffs and he thought potential jurors had probably seen this too.

When court resumed Hulme told counsel of this development and Geoffrey Halsall, for the accused, asked that the associate be examined from the witness box.

Halsall then applied for a discharge of the jury panel saying that it was highly prejudicial for potential jurors to see the accused handcuffed with Corrective Service people hanging about.

Hulme rejected the application, saying:

“This is a murder charge. The accused is alleged to have shot the deceased. It would hardly be surprising to any member of the public that a person charged with that sort of conduct has been kept in custody pending his trial. It would be no surprise to many members of the public that a person so charged would from time to time when not within the confines of a prison be liable to be handcuffed

“If the fact of the presence of Corrective Services officers and, thus, some indication that an accused is in custody is to be regarded as a reason for discharging a jury it will be impossible to have jury trials at all.”

There was another crack at a discharge application to the Court of Criminal Appeal, but that related to newspaper coverage, and again, very sensibly, leave was refused.

I pray that’s all cleared up.