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Polly Peck
20 December, 2006  
Capital Offences

Meet Kelvin Thompson – Labor’s new shadow attorney general … Legal aid spending is just Fabulous … Hicks is not in solitary, he’s in “a single occupancy cell”


imageKelvin “Funeral-Director” Thompson (snap) takes over as shadow attorney general in Kevvy Rudd’s new Labor frontbench, with Lillian Roxon being promoted to shadow health.

The director is qualified for the position, he holds first class honours in arts and law from Melbourne University and, like Lillian, took out the Supreme Court prize for top law student.

However, Thompson is a different type of polly to Lillian. She came across as the former High Court associate who was dismayed by the antics of party politics, while he enjoys the bare-knuckle backroom stuff and is also one of Labor’s stronger parliamentary performers.

In a former post as shadow minister for regional development and roads he led Labor’s attack over the regional rorts scandal, which at the time stuck significant amounts of mud to certain Nationals, especially De-Awful Kelly, who was demoted from minister to parliamentary secretary.

Thommo worked for former attorney general Gareth-Gareth Evans and held various stressful positions, such as project officer with the Commonwealth Ombudsman and Australia Post. He was past president of the Fabian Society and the Moonee Ponds Creek Association and, like Fabulous Phil, he’s a member of Amnesty International although, unlike Phil, his membership is not accompanied with loads of nauseating psycho-guilt.

Both Thompson and Lillian got promoted as a result of dumping poor Kimbo and switching to little Kevvie. Before the frontbench reshuffle there was speculation that Lillian was only a seat-warmer in the AG’s portfolio for Melbourne barrister Mark Dreyfus, who has won pre-selection in Victoria.

imageDespite Dreyfus (snap) having his own entry in Wikipedia the factional hacks will ensure he’s unlikely to move straight onto the frontbench.

Lillian got a bit dewy on leaving the shadow attorney’s job:

“I enjoyed my three years as the shadow attorney general and thank all those in the legal community working for a more equitable and accessible legal system. There are many passionate and hardworking advocates calling for legal matters to be more central in the broader social justice debate and I thank them for their persistent reminders that the law needs to be for everyone, not just the extremely wealthy or dreadfully poor.”

Well done Lillian. We’ll miss you too.

* * *

I think we can pick-up something of the director’s approach from his last question as Labor spokesman on public accountability. He asked Fabbo how much office space was free at the AG’s department.

Phil replied: “None.”

Other answers to questions on the notice paper are equally enlightening. I reported last time that Labor MP John “Spud” Murphy was claiming legal aid spending had declined by 51.5 percent since 2003-04. Spud put this as a question in writing and Phil replied that federal spending on legal aid had actually increased in the period.

The attorney general said legal aid funding for matters arising under federal law is distributed under two different appropriations, one to the states and territories and another directly to legal aid commissions. Spending under the two appropriations had increased by 16.01 percent since 2003-04.

Furthermore, Phil insisted, if the Commonwealth’s funding for other forms of legal assistance was included with its legal aid spending for federal matters, there had been an increase of 11.33 percent.

So that clears that up. Under Fabulous Phil’s warm and sensitive administration legal aid has never had it so good after being ravaged by Daryl “Rowdy” Williams.

While she was still shadow AG Lillian put in a whole lot of questions about government spending on legal services. Joe Hockey’s reply showed his department’s legal fees had not changed wildly, and he added this little quip:

“To prepare this answer it has taken approximately 39 hours and 26 minutes at an estimated cost of $2,003.00.”

Justice Minister Chris Ellison’s answer to another question from Kelvin Thompson reveals that between 2002 and 2006 there were 53 referrals from government departments and agencies to the Australian Federal Police for unauthorised disclosures of government information.

Calling in the AFP is now the standard way of spooking whistleblowing/leaking bureaucrats who cause embarrassment.

* * *

During parliament’s final sitting for the year Phil arranged a Dorothy Dixer to boast about the brand spankin’ family relationship centres.

Ruddock said in their four months of operation the first 15 centres …

“have received over 13,600 phone calls, had 3,700 people visit a centre, conducted more than 5,300 interviews and intake sessions and had more than 1,900 dispute resolution sessions.”

Fabbo added the government was currently evaluating tenders for the next 25 centres, with 65 to be rolled out in total.

That should keep the Family First senator on team.

* * *

In Phil’s latest parrot-like pronouncements on the David Hicks’ case he says he expects charges to be brought shortly after January 17 next year, which is the date by which regulations for the new US military commissions must be proclaimed.

The charges may well happen early next year, but any trial is still years away.

Major Michael Mori has said that it could be 2009 before the US Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act.

Meanwhile, action in our Federal Court rolls on. Bret Walker, for Hicks, told Brian Tamberlin that Fabulous Phil and Bunter Downer had failed in their “protective duty” by not insisting on a fair trial. The statement of claim says:

“The ministers’ conduct has been and remains informed by improper purposes, being the inability to prosecute Mr Hicks and the willingness to waive mandated trial standards.”

Labor’s Bob McMullan asked the attorney a lengthy set of questions on Hicks’ case and Phil’s reply included this:

“Reports that Mr Hicks is being held in solitary confinement are incorrect. Mr Hicks is currently being held in a single occupancy cell in the general block area of a newly completed facility in Guantanamo Bay. Cells in the general block area have windows providing natural light. Mr Hicks continues to have access to exercise in group areas and he is able to communicate with other detainees during exercise periods and between cells.”

What could be more humane than that?