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Judges
6 March, 2003  
Zena the Warrior Princess confirms and denies job with Dice

Unbuttoning the Dice Man. Strange tales from Heydon J’s whacky world


What’s going on with The Dice Man and Janet Albrechtsen, The Australian’s Warrior Princess?

On the day that Heydon was sworn in as a High Court judge word came from the court staff to startled hacks that the terrifying right-wing scribbler was deeply favoured by Dice to be his associate next year.

Indeed, they are regular attendees at the Old Drones Club, otherwise known as the Quadrant dinners, and hold each other in considerable thrall.

The Melbourne Age reported Albrechtsen was at the swearing-in ceremony and that she had confirmed “negotiations” for her appointment were underway.

At least that’s what people within earshot thought they heard her say, including The Australian’s High Court roundsperson Ben Haslem and court PR Fiona Hamilton.

However, next day poor Annabel Crabb, The Age’s reporter on-the-spot, got an earful down the telephone from an unamused Albrechtsen. She categorically denied she was to be appointed to sit at the right hand of Dice and there certainly were not any “negotiations”.

We really shouldn’t be surprised at the speed with which things change in this milieu. After all, it was Albrechtsen who was pinged in a Media Watch sting of considerable devastation over unauthorised changes last year.

It was at the height of the punditry about the rapes by Lebanese youths of young Australian girls in the western suburbs of Sydney. Zena, the Warrior Princess, tended to blame the rapes on Islamic values. But to get her argument to stand up she did a bit of twisting.

She purported to quote a French psychotherapist, Jean-Jacques Rassial, as saying that pack rape of “white” girls is an initiation rite of passage for a small section of young male “Muslim” youths.

In fact, it was a misquotation. Rassial had not used the words “white” and “Muslim” in this context at all. Zena had just added them in for a bit of zing.

Media Watch coined a new verb, “to albrecht” – which is to lift and twist somebody else’s words to support your own argument.

Was the original statement that she was in “negotiations” over a job with Heydon, or the denial, or both, a new fresh instance of “albrechting”?

The bitches are back

While dilating about Dice, it’s uplifting to report that the traditional spiky, arch remarks are to be found in the latest edition of Meagher, Gummow & Lehane’s Equity Doctrines & Remedies (4th edition) written by R. Meagher, D. Heydon and M. Leeming.

In the preface there are swipes, not only at Lords Denning and Diplock and their cultural vandalism, but so too at New Zealand’s Lord Cooke:

“In New Zealand, the prospect of any principled development of equitable principle seems remote short of a revolution on the Court of Appeal. The blame is largely attributable to Lord Cooke’s misguided endeavours. That one man could, in a few years, cause such destruction exposes the fragility of contemporary legal systems and the need for vigilant exposure and rooting out of error.”

On page 80, poor George Palmer, from the NSW Supreme Court equity division, gets a clip on the ear for awarding exemplary damages for a breach of trust in Digital Pulse Pty Ltd v Harris.

By page 839, the authors had anointed Palmer J, as “the poor man’s Robin Cooke” for his insolence in his disregard of “learning and principle” in deciding damages could be awarded in a claim for equitable compensation. They added, rhetorically: “One hopes that this is a decision which will never be followed.”

They didn’t have to wait long because on February 7, the NSW Court of Appeal rectified Palmer’s error.

Spigelman CJ and (not surprisingly) Heydon JA held that punitive damages were not available where there had been a breach of fiduciary duty.

However, Mason P thought that Palmer was correct, and sought to put to rights the snide personal attack, citing the case analysis in the book as:

Equity Doctrines and Remedies, 4th ed 2002 at [2-310], [23-020] (where the reasons are stated with customary trenchantness, but marred by an unscholarly descent into personal abuse).”

Could the use of the word “marred” be an indication of the authorship of this text book bitchery?