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City Desk
30 April, 2003  
The Map of Tasmania

Silken art critic floored … restraint of Dr Scutt fades … BYO at The Tasmanian Club … entire family escapes public hanging


Famous artist derided by tired silk

In the pre-Christmas season there was a tired and emotional celebration at a public house known as “Barcelona” in the Salamanca area of Hobart.

Stephen Estcourt QC was exercising his right of free speech by telling local artist Geoff Dyer in no uncertain terms what he thought of him, to wit: he couldn’t paint.

The verbal component of the discussion was supplemented by jostling and breasting.

Estcourt found himself on the floor. There are different opinions as to whether this came about as the result of a scuffle or a punch.

The silk has told close colleagues that he was taken unawares as he tried to remove his $800 cashmere jacket so he could more properly make his opinion clear to Dyer.

In view of the public house pronouncement as to the worth of this local dauber it was alarming to see that the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW this month awarded Geoff Dyer the Archibald Prize for 2003 along with $35,000 for his portrait of writer Richard Flanagan (right).

Shum misstake, shurely.

Well done, Wayne

A source close to an official Hobart archivist has unearthed this missive from legendary Hobart barrister A.J. Abbott of Malthouse Chambers, Battery Point, penned to the President of The Tasmanian Club.

Although written 10 months ago, the principles expressed therein are as fresh and pertinent today as they were in July 2002.

Abo, as he is known to his close chums, identified a serious wine glass crisis at the club and a vile and defamatory corkage charge.

In the interests of context and a complete understanding of the complexity of the issues we reproduce the barrister’s letter here, in full.

It was too long for the “Flatulence” section of Justinian, which is where it rightly belongs:


4 July 2002

The President
The Tasmanian Club
132 Macquarie Street
HOBART

COPY TO: Mr J A St Hill
Motors Pty Ltd

Facsimile: 6223 8117

Dear Sir

PRIVATE WINE DINNERS

I write for two purposes, namely, firstly to congratulate the chef, Grant Fookes, and the other staff, including in particular the wine waiter Wayne, for the very high standard of service provided for two recent dinners which I have hosted at the Club for, on the earlier occasion, three friends, one of whom is also a member of the Club, and on the later occasion my immediate family.

On both occasions it was very clear that all of the persons just mentioned were striving for and achieving excellence in their respective roles in the production of the dinners.

I record that I provided field shot game for the main courses of both dinners, which added to both occasions.

As you may be aware, I have a major interest in wine and a substantial personal wine cellar. At dinners of the kind just mentioned I also, as wine master, strive for excellence, and, subject to the vagaries of bottle contents, cork and other uncertainties that always attend the great wines, I generally achieve it. As an example, my wine selection for the recent family dinner was Pol Gessner NV Champagne, Domain Maladiere Chablis 1996, Domain Gros Vosne Romanee “Clos de Reas” 1983, and a half bottle of Chateau Doisy Daene 1983. These wines are unobtainable in Tasmania and the “Clos de Reas” is very difficult to obtain in Australia. It is at the top end of the burgundy range, which in turn is at the top end of French wine. 1983 was a great year for it and it showed to perfection of the night. It was a sublime combination with the chef’s venison main course.

The performance of the wines at the second dinner was much enhanced by the assistance of Wayne in procuring the only proper wine glasses that the Club appears to have available. The table had been set with glasses which, whilst they were of appropriate shape, had a very heavy rim that was likely to and would have interfered with the performance of the wine. Wayne was good enough to point this out to me at the commencement of the meal and the glasses were discretely changed without any fuss or bother. That was just as it should have been. It is axiomatic that wine glasses, for best performance, should be of the correct shape for the kind of wine, rimless or minimally rimmed, and as thin as possible.

The Club should have available rimless or thin rimmed tasting glasses. They cost about $2.50 each and can be readily obtained from Tasmanian Hotel & Club Supplies at 321 Liverpool Street, Hobart. I am aware of this because I have just acquired a boxed dozen which I take with me to wine dinners held in restaurants that do not provide adequate glasses.

If the Club has any aspiration to excellence as an institution, it should acquire a set of 8 Riedel virium range glasses for the use of members at private dinners. These glasses are the apogee of wine glassware, but their sheer size can be a problem in practical terms. I keep them only for home use.

I write secondly to complain that the article in the Club newsletter for June by which there is recorded the decision of the Committee to now charge $10 per bottle corkage is:

1 gratuitously offensive to; and
2 defamatory of;

me and any other member who takes the time and trouble to present wine that excels at a private dinner. It is alleged that this has caused “a problem”, and I seek particulars as to:

1. what problem is alleged to have been caused;
2. what has been said, and by whom, in relation to that problem.

I indicate that upon receipt of these particulars I will take advice from my solicitors as to the next step to be taken. I will certainly not be told by the Committee, or by anybody else, what I am to drink or to provide to others at a private dinner.

I draw to your attention that the Club is a body of unincorporated persons the existence of which is to provide facilities and pleasure for its members. Some members, like me, make primary use of the kitchen and snooker facilities. If that is unacceptable to the Committee, then I have not the slightest further interest in the “institution”.

The Club has the most expensive subscription of any gentlemen’s club in Hobart, and for the subscription the Club ought to make the facilities available to any member either at cost or less. For the Club to seek to make a profit from persons in my position is an outrage. The per bottle corkage is, I observe, more than the per bottle corkage charge that is made by the Casino. I draw to your attention that the best of the BYO restaurants in Hobart make no corkage charge.

It is my privilege to view the “wine cellar” held by the Club as being mediocre and unworthy of significant attention. No doubt some members will like and enjoy the Club wine. That is their privilege. I will not have it forced upon me, or my guests.

The apparent descent of the Club into mediocrity, after more than 100 years of excellence, is deplorable, and is further evidenced by the decision of the Committee, for no good reason, to ban the smoking of cigars throughout the Club except for one small area. There is no reason, I observe, to ban smoking in any area of the Club at any time when the staff are not present, so long as all members and guests present agree.

I look forward to receipt of the requested particulars.

Yours faithfully,

A.J ABBOTT

Scuttlebutt

And so it was that the interim retraining order against Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Dr Jocelynne Scutt dribbled to an unthrilling end.

In February Hobart magistrate Ian Matherson made an interim order that Dr Scutt stay away from Mark Bastick, one of the commissioner’s conciliation and investigation officers.

The distinguished feminist was ordered to keep away from Bastick, not to directly or indirectly threaten, abuse, harass or assault him, including by e-mail, telephone, fax or letter.

Kate Brown of the DPP’s office appeared for Scutt and said the interim order was opposed. Bastick pressed it saying that even though he no longer worked in the same office as Dr Scutt he was still concerned about contact with her in the “public areas” of the building occupied by the Justice Department in Murray Street.

The magistrate was quoted in The Mercury as saying that Tasmania was meant to be a paradise but seemed to have more restraining orders in place than anywhere else in the civilised world.

He set the full hearing down for May 12.

It now seems unlikely that it will go on now that Bastick has left the Commission. Scutt applied for the order to be revoked, submitting that nine days after the interim determination was made Bastick sought to register as an attendee at a disability discrimination forum at which the good doctor herself was the principal speaker.

She swore in an affidavit that Bastick wished to come to the forum along with three friends, from the Tasmanian Backyard Cricket Association which he said was seeking to expand its membership to include disabled cricketers.

As Dr Scutt said in her affidavit: “My concern was that it was most improper of Mr Bastick to seek the court’s protection on the one hand, but then to instigate a situation where contact between Mr Bastick and myself was likely to occur.”

To make matters ever more bleak for the anti-discriminationist, her application for silk did not pass muster. The recent contretemps could not have assisted her cause.

Richardsons not sent to Port Arthur

There was little to be depressed about in Justice Ewan Crawford’s reasons for not to do anything beastly to three lawyers from the one clan – father Greg, mother Anita and baby Scott (Richardson).

Crawfo had signalled his intentions pretty clearly at the conclusion of the hearing into this case, commenced by the Tasmanian Law Society. He said:

”...throughout this case I have had a growing sense of disappointment that the Law Society chose to bring these proceedings against these peopleÖ There will certainly not be any finding of professional misconduct against any of the respondents.”

Despite the split infinitive, you can’t put it much more clearly than that.

See earlier report on hearing in Law Society of Tasmania v Richardson

According to the Law Society, the Richardsons weren’t fit and proper types to be legal practitioners and should be struck off. In the case of baby Scott, the complaint was that:

  • in preparing his papers for admission, he failed to disclose to the Court the facts and circumstances of the determination of the academic misconduct committee;
  • he failed to make any or any sufficient enquiries as to whether or not he ought to make that disclosure;
  • he failed to instruct counsel appearing on his behalf to make that disclosure.

    Apparently Scott had shared some of his study notes with another student. The university stipes found that this heinous behaviour amounted to “academic misconduct”.

    Justice Crawford empathised with Scotty:

    “It is arguable that Scott Richardson did not commit ‘academic misconduct’, for I heard no evidence that he copied or used the thoughts or writings of student X, nor was it suggested to me that when he gave a copy of his notes to student X he was committing an act of ‘academic misconduct’.

    “It was his evidence that upon reading the determination, he could not understand what he had been found guilty of doing. I find that to be understandable.”

    Scott told the court that prior to admission he sought legal guidance from the two lawyers he most esteemed in Tasmania (his parents), who assured him he had no obligation to disclose the finding by the university.

    Crawford J accepted Scott’s evidence that this was confirmed when he spoke to two members of the law school, Professor Chalmers and Associate Professor Dal Pont.

    In any event the finding of academic misconduct was set aside on appeal after young Scott was admitted as a Tasmanian lawyer.

    This however did little to deter the upright souls at the TLS.

    Not only was Scott in the gun, but so too were his parents who moved his admission and therefore must have been parties to the non-disclosure of the adverse finding by the University of Tasmania. The TLS wanted them all struck off.

    In dismissing this extravagant application Crawford said something insightful about the cosy synergy of parents vouching for the good fame and character of their offspring:

    “With respect to the learned judge who heard Scott Richardson’s application, I express my disapproval of the making of a finding by the Court that an applicant is of good fame and character and a fit and proper person to be admitted as a practitioner, based only upon the expression of an opinion about those matters by a parent of the applicant.”

    With regard to young Scott the judge added:

    “The mere fact of the [university] committee’s determination could not possibly have amounted to justification for refusing Scott Richardson’s application for admission.

    The most severe criticism that arguably may be made against Scott Richardson is that he made an error of judgment, a mistake, based largely on the advice of two experienced practitioners who were also his parents. Even if it is valid, it is no justification for removing his name from the roll.”

    On Richardson senior.

    “He may well have judged his son’s conduct with the bias of a parent, when he made that decision in 1999, but he does not deserve condemnation.”

    On the Law Society’s action against mother Anita Betts, Justice Crawford was more fulsome.

    “In the case of Anita Betts it has shocked me… I have found it impossible to understand why the Society has actively sought to have her name removed from the roll for what she did or failed to do. The evidence falls far short of establishing that she is not a fit and proper person to continue to be a legal practitioner…”

    So there you have it. Another balls-up from the friendly folk at the Van Diemen’s Land Law Society.