The Australian's editorial today takes it up to the partisan ABC - falling over itself to act in concert with The Guardian on its Snowden leaks but incapable of reporting the local AWU action involving Ms Gillard, its funder-in-chief.
Without quibbling over the ownership of this story - it actually belonged to The Guardian but was gifted to the ABC for amplification - this claimed ABC disposition to publish and be damned deserves scrutiny. We don't need to look very far to see another ABC, where rather than act as a clearing house for information on national affairs, it acts as arbiter of what is worth knowing and what is not. Last year, the ABC tied itself in knots to avoid covering substantive revelations about the Julia Gillard/Australian Workers Union scandal. Even now, those solely reliant on ABC news would be unaware of police investigations. The ABC knew the then prime minister faced documentary evidence that opened up the possibility of charges over her dealings with a union slush fund before she entered parliament, yet it constantly found ways to avoid the story. Melbourne radio host Jon Faine, for instance, boasted about how he deliberately "pooh-poohed" the story.
When the government established a media inquiry and sought to regulate the print media (a move this newspaper was told in no uncertain terms was in retaliation for daring to investigate the AWU affair), the ABC did not champion freedom of the press. It supported the government's proposed intervention to appoint a public interest media advocate, empowered with legal sanctions, to oversee self-regulation. "This is not an attack on a free press," wrote Barrie Cassidy, "just common sense." "Broadcasters already regulated through ACMA," tweeted Emma Alberici. "What is wrong with PIMA ensuring press does what its own self-reg says it will?" Rather than investigate the prime minister's questionable behaviour as a union lawyer, or argue to preserve press freedom, the ABC busied itself by ventilating unsubstantiated claims about an alleged punch to a wall by Tony Abbott more than 30 years ago at university. This was the ABC's selective curiosity writ large.
``Slater & Gordon is a business. There is no point running a case we can't win. We have strict criteria in place to make sure of that."
The strict criteria did not work, however, in the Cheryl Harris unfair dismissal case, an episode that Gordon now describes as the firm's ``worst mistake".
The former Finance Minister, Ian Smith, sued Slaters for defamation, winning an out-of-court settlement after the firm had conducted a major media campaign on behalf of Harris. Just as important as the economic cost was the loss of face for Slaters which, like other labor law firms, had been under persistent attack from Jeff Kennett and his government since the coalition had taken office.
Had the prospect of representing the former lover of one of Kennett's ministers been too much of a temptation? Three years later, Gordon remains reluctant to discuss it.
So is the man who ran the case for Slaters, Bernard Murphy. He moved to Maurice Blackburn Cashman shortly after the case ended, heading up the firm's class-action workload. The change placed him in direct competition with Slaters, in the field Slaters knew best. The events around the Harris case and Murphy's subsequent move broke a lot of friendships. Only recently have Gordon and Murphy been able to repair their relationship.
Murphy says he did not leave Slaters because of the Harris case, but because of other issues and disagreements. And he argues that it's natural for any high-level moves between rival businesses to spark some antagonism.
``It's like when the full-forward at Collingwood goes over to Carlton. When Josh Bornstein came over (from Slaters to Maurice Blackburn Cashman, shortly after being offered a partnership at Slaters), yes, it was unpleasant ... but not now. He's not focused on Slater & Gordon.
``I certainly don't see Slater & Gordon as the enemy, and I'm sure they don't see that either. Our enemies are the corporations against whom we are running our cases."
Slaters and Maurice Blackburn Cashman are already working together on one class action, the massive litigation against Esso over the explosion at its Longford gas plant in September 1998.
Yet the sideways glances continue. A Slaters figure, for example, bristles when I describe the two firms as class-action pioneers. ``We're the pioneers in this - there's no comparison," he says quickly. ``As long as you remember that." But Murphy says that since the merger with Cashman and Partners, he disputes Slaters' claim to be number one.
Perhaps the tension is inevitable. Labor law is a relatively small field: the same people meet again and again, at labor lawyers' functions, at community legal centres, at ALP branch meetings. It can lead to a hot-house environment.
``There is not much space for constructive criticism or honest statement of views," says a lawyer at Slaters. ``Some partners do believe their own publicity. The top brass often see it as `if you're not with us, then you're against us'."
Federal MP Julia Gillard is a former partner at Slaters. When she left the firm before standing for Parliament, she noted the area's overly masculine culture.
``Slaters had a more upfront, ockerish, boysy culture. If you were prepared to cop it and give it back, you were incorporated into things more ... But at least that's more straightforward than many of the commercial firms, where the culture is very private-school."
I have to admit to not knowing who the Minister for Veterans Affairs was until I checked, the Minister is Senator Michael Ronaldson.
I have also checked Macbeth's antecedents with this site - Macbeth has a long history of posting with us and the IP address is consistent - so here's Macbeth's most welcome and reassuring comment.
Not all Ministers are tardy in their responses. Yesterday I emailed a request to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I received a response within the hour from his office saying that the Minister was unable reply in person, but his staff would deal with my query; which they very promptly did. This morning I received an email from the Minister himself apologising for nor being able to reply in person before, but hoped that now all was well.
Minister Ronaldson's website is here - this is a screen grab.
Chris "Ice Cream" McArdle says the freedom fighter and politically persecuted victim Craig Thomson heroically rejected an offer by the desperate, weak and frightened political-police. "Ice-Cream" said the Nelson-Mandela-style-hero will fight and defeat the 60,000 members of the HSU who the police-state prosecuters are perversely trying to paint as the victims of crime.
THE police fraud case against former Labor MP Craig Thomson could be in doubt with the revelation that Victorian prosecutors offered to drop all 173 charges over alleged misuse of union credit cards if he pleaded guilty to a single offence of "obtaining benefits by deception".
Here's their source.
Mr Thomson's lawyer, Chris McArdle, told The Australian yesterday his client was offered the deal to face a "single charge" on Friday during pre-trial discussions between prosecution and defence legal teams.
Here's how The Australian's subeditors saw it in their headline to the story:
Craig Thomson fraud case in doubt
And here's what the prosecutor said:
"I can say that we're not in the business of prosecution to make offers." Lesley Taylor, SC.
Earlier, Ms Taylor told the court the parties had held extensive, productive discussions, and the new charges were intended to clarify proceedings.
"Clarity is not something that's descending in any vast fashion, I might say," magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg responded. Mr Thomson's barrister, Greg James QC, said the parties were talking with "purpose and good intent".
Ms Taylor said Mr Thomson's alleged offences warranted the extra charges because, through each alleged act of using a union credit card for non-union purposes, Mr Thomson obtained a financial advantage as well as deceiving the members of the HSU and the service provider to whom he was making a payment.
Mr James disputed this, saying that it was immaterial to the service provider where the money came from.
Oh really Mr James. If I was a, ahem, service provider and I was presented with a card and invited to process charges for services onto it believing that was a good and valid order for the transfer of money in payment - only later to find that I was being subpoenaed, speaking to police, making statements, being available as a witness in court and facing orders for restitution, I think I might feel a little bit duped.
It would be material to me where the money came from - why, I might even feel bad if I thought it came from the toil of lowly paid workers. I might feel obliged to assist them in their efforts towards recovery. It all depends, my learned friend, on your sense of justice.
Jenstar & I rolled up at the Magistrate’s Court at9am, & went through security, only to have a very helpful staff member advise Jen that due to overcrowding, as happened last time, the matter would be heard over in the County Court. Jen went over there to wait while I hung around for a couple of extra observers & when they arrived, we were about to cross the road when I saw Greg James QC approaching. I asked him if was aware of the change of venue & he countered: ‘Who are you?’ I said I was a member of the public gallery for CT’s matter & he responded that he knew nothing about the change & walked off. We thought he’d been a bit brusque but concluded that it was probably fair, given that he didn’t know me from a bar of soap.
We went across to the County Court, went through security again & another very helpful staff member checked a listing & advised us to go to court 2.1. The very helpful clerk in court 2.1 checked her list & said her records showed the case would be heard in court 23 back at the Magistrate’s Court. Fortunately, the very helpful screener at MC security agreed to skip the cavity search this time, as he recognised us all from before & he apparently didn’t want to go through THAT again….
Court 23 got underway at about10:15& we sat through a couple of preliminary matters, including a guy who was representing himself in a committal that had been abandoned yesterday & was today put off until March next year. The guy remonstrated with Magistrate Rozencwajg that he was getting mighty tired of all this – as the case had been going on for around 3 years, off & on.
Lesley Taylor (LT), for VicPol, opened the bowling, reporting that the parties have been talking to each other. She referred to an outline submission, which had been lodged this morning, while Greg (GJ) said he’d lodged a submission some time ago. LT said the prosecution has now proposed additional charges relating to ‘duplicity’ & GT said he felt that further discussions with LT might resolve them, or Mag R might have to rule. There was discussion over what the charges represented. LT said there had been a total of 66 ‘events’, each of which might have involved a number of separate transactions. Mag R observed that a single act can ‘found’ multiple charges. LT has prepared a chart which reflects the number of matters & the period of time. Mag R asked GJ for comment & he referred to a High Court case – Pierce/Pearce??? – which apparently involved the issue of ‘double jeopardy’. Mag R observed that at least the language at the bar table appeared to now be more friendly than before.
LT said they have now increased the number of charges from 172 to 224. There was some discussion of the definition of ‘duplicity’. Mag R referred to the example of an assault on a person in one room & another assault on the same person in a different room, which would give rise to 1 charge for assault. GJ suggested that the prosecution seemed to be arguing a series of alternative charges & referred to the recent Patel case (presumably the recent failed prosecution in Qld). Mention was also made of ‘Johnson & Miller’ (??) & ‘John L’ (??) – the latter involving seeking to identify the relevant deception, which had occurred.
LT submitted that CT wasn’t authorised to meet ANY non-union expenses of any kind at any time. The charges relate to occasions when an HSU credit card was handed over to a ‘provider’ of goods/services, for which CT did not have to pay. CT was making a false representation that he was authorized to do so. Handing over the card was a representation. GJ argued whether the service provider BELIEVED the HSU allowed the incurring of such expenses. He felt the prosecution case is doomed to fail because the service provider doesn’t know what the HSU’s policies are. ‘If the transaction was via cash, instead of card, the service provider doesn’t care where the cash came from. GJ suggested an example of a man who promises his wife that he won’t use his credit card to buy flowers for another woman but goes ahead & does it anyway. The florist doesn’t care what representations the man made to his wife.
LT maintained that the relevant matters involved obtaining property by deception.
The subject of ‘foundation’ arose.
LT submitted that the deception was that CT represented to the HSU that the transactions were all valid when he later approved payment of the monthly card balances. The HSU was the victim of the deception, being the entity which paid relevant sums to the bank. GJ submitted that the prosecution appeared to be arguing that offences occurred when the credit card was USED & again when the transactions were approved & paid to the bank.
LT said she & GJ were talking to each other with purpose & in good intent. Charges haven’t been amended yet but they are proposing to do so. Mag R observed that this is now a summary trial & all matters can be heard. GJ said that the problem relating to admissibility is NOT what’s admissible, but what issues might arise if things are ruled inadmissible.
Mag R observed that there had been a media request for a copy of the latest defence submission, however, he denied it, due partly to the fact that the prosecution case is still in flux.
The was reference to the matter of ‘forum’ and/or ‘venue’. Mag R said there is often a tension as to the ‘location’ of an offence. GJ submitted that relevant acts which occurred in Brisbane were not actionable in Victoria but Mag R observed that the harmful effects occurred to victims in Victoria. He referred to the Commonwealth Crimes Act as having extra-territorial effect, however, it appears that this may not be the case in Victorian law.
Mag R remanded CT on bail to appear again on2 December.
As we were leaving, GJ approached one of our group & apologised for his somewhat abrupt comment to me previously (see above), as he had only just arrived at court & had no idea that there were some last minute rearrangements occurring. Very generous of him, I thought.
We then adjourned to a local coffee shop, where we the benefit of additional background from a person with intimate knowledge of relevant events.
Bill, Jenstar & friends
And to add to the citizen journalism ground-breaking stuff - here's reader BBPD interviewing Jenstar!