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Polly Peck
9 September, 2005  
Capital Offences

Polly’s been in a whirl all week but has managed to discover that two of the great drones of the government, “Fabuloso” Phil Ruddock and Eric “The Alligator” Abetz, are in sizzling form

imageThere was more law than you could poke a stick at in Canberra this week.

Telstra, that half-public owned, overblown telco seemed to clog the agenda, with Little Johnny caught up in debate over his August 11 showdown with Sol (“Cowboy”) Trujillo and his amigos.

Specifically, the PM had “legal advice” not to talk about the information provided by the company’s big-wigs, even through it had been made public, first by Labor and then by Telstra itself.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this advice was of the same quality as the “blooper” legal advice that the government waves around when in a corner viz, the Reith telecard affair, the war in Iraq, et al.

On Thursday afternoon, the shadow attorney, Nicola (“Lillian”) Roxon came out with all her artillery firing after the deputy PM Mark Vaile seemed to reveal in question time that he had told his fellow National Party MPs about this same meeting.

“Either John Howard has been misleading the public, or Mark Vaile has broken the law. One of other of these things must be right. We want to know which one it is,” demanded Lillian.

Yet elusively, it was neither. The country party boss was quick to issue a clarifying statement. He had just talked to his colleagues in cockies’ corner about a story in The Australian on August 11, which happened to detail Sol’s $5 billion plan for the bush that Little Johnny rejected.

Besides, times had changed. By Thursday morning, the PM felt the need to, “make a number of announcements about counter-terrorism”.

Never mind that the proposed legislation hadn’t been seen by the coalition backbench, attorney general “Fabulous” Phil Ruddock was on hand to provide explanations. For example, on the new offence of “inciting terrorism”, he said:

“We’re not certainly intent on taking away from people the opportunity to contest the evidence or to see that the evidence is within the framework of the law as we drafted.”

“Not certainly intent,” hey?

Perhaps the suggestion from one press gallery cynic that Australia could become a “quasi police state” is not quite as “absurd” as Little Johnny thought.

Still, it’s unlikely to happen with Fabulous as our number one law officer, even though he’s becoming even less coherent with each passing day. Consider this insightful remark at Thursday’s terror-fest:

“So we’re dealing with incitement in a number of ways in relation to the way in which bodies might be prescribed, where incitement is clearly a factor that we want to see entertained and the broader issues in relation to the way in which sedition is seen.”

With great respect, you’d have to wonder whether even the PM caught a hold of that one.

In such a whirlwind of a week it was perhaps with little surprise that the most sophisticated legal argument went largely unnoticed.

The special minister of state, Eric (“The Alligator”) Abetz informed the senate during question time on Thursday that he’d found “a horrendous example of the absolutely perverse results” of Labor’s unfair dismissal laws – courtesy of his Tasmanian Liberal colleague, Senator Stephen Parry.

“The case goes like this: a worker in a [Tasmanian] west coast mine was dismissed after fellow workers complained about his most recent depraved antic at work,” droned The Alligator in his best high school debater monotone.

“What was that?” inquired Labor’s Kim (“Trotsky”) Carr.

“The smearing of human excrement, Senator Carr, on the steering wheel of a truck,” replied the special minister of state.

But The Alligator wasn’t quite finished – for the industrial relations commission had found:

”[the] worker had committed other acts of indecency such as urinating on people, throwing excrement around in the showers, urinating in other peoples’ drink containers and I am not quite sure how to say this, putting a piece of his anatomy that was not his index finger in a sandwich of a fellow employee.”

Upsetting stuff to be sure, but those evil trade unions had taken up the finger in the roll’s case resulting in a $20,000 payout due to, “a supposed lack of procedural fairness”.

Clearly, reasoned the special minister, this case alone was justification for the abolition of unfair dismissal laws in all companies with 100 employees or less.

We’ll have to wait and see if the High Court ultimately buys this sort of reasoning when the proposed law gets some judicial ventilation.