The Chief Justice of the Federal Court should let us know - does Justice Bernard Murphy enjoy the Court's confidence?
Some time ago I wrote to the office of the Chief Justice of the Federal Court about His Honour Bernard Murphy. I did not receive a reply.
So this letter today is an open and public letter to the Chief Justice, the Honourable Justice James Allsop AO.
Dear Chief Justice,
On 28 March 2011 Julia Gillard's cabinet approved the recommendation of Mr Bernard Murphy for appointment by the Governor General as a Judge of the Federal Court. Neither Ms Gillard nor the public servants responsible for background checks brought the matter of Justice Murphy and Ms Gillard's involvement in the AWU controversy to the Cabinet's attention - Cabinet papers here. The public servants responsible for making the background checks discovered the link only through media reports after Justice Murphy's appointment was publicly announced - link here.
On 13 June 2011 Justice Bernard Murphy was appointed a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia in Melbourne.
In August 2012 Justice Murphy's appointment began to attract media attention and the Federal Court issued this media statement on behalf of Justice Murphy.
Then Chief Justice Keane placed his thanks on the record for his staff's "calm and efficient" manner in "looking after all this".
Calmness and efficiency make for pleasant workplaces but don't do much to engender public faith in our Federal Court. Chief Justice Keane may well have been entitled to feel some relief and apprecation if "all of this" had indeed been "looked after", so far as the Gillard/Murphy malfeasance allegations went. But that is not the case. A police search warrant and a 9 page ruling by the Chief Magistrate of Victoria has revealed a lot more about "all of this" than Judge Murphy chose to share with us in 2012.
Ms Gillard and her Attorney General might help a proposed Royal Commission better understand how and why Justice Murphy was appointed to the Court. But Justice Murphy's conduct and statements in office as a Judge are a matter for the Court today.
Allegations of wrongdoing involving Bernard Murphy and Julia Gillard while they were industrial lawyers at Slater and Gordon until August 1995 have now been tested and proven.
On 9 December 2013 the Chief Magistrate of Victoria handed down this 9 page ruling arising from an Application by Victoria Police. Police searched the former Murphy/Gillard unit at Slater and Gordon pursuant to a search warrant granted by the Magistrates' Court on 15 May 2013. The police application to the court was wholly successful and the Chief Magistrate made this order:
For those documents that (would otherwise attract legal professional privilege under Section 118 of the Evidence Act) I am satisfied that, in each instance, the communication was made or the document prepared in furtherance of the commission of a fraud or an offence. I will make the order sought by Detective Sergeant MITCHELL".
The Chief Magistrate's order is subject to a notice of appeal in the Supreme Court of Victoria which will come before that Court for Directions on 3 February 2014.
On 14 August 2012 the former managing partner of Slater and Gordon Peter Gordon sent this statement to Slater and Gordon's current managing director for fact-checking on dates and the like. The statement was published in The Australian newspaper that month - link here.
Julia Gillard worked in the industrial department of Slater & Gordon in 1990 through 1995 where she was accountable to Mr Murphy. She was also within Mr Murphy’s‘camp’ of close associates and friends at the firm at the time. Mr Murphy and Ms Gillard acted for the Victorian state branch of the AWU from 1991/1992 until 1995 and also for two of its officials Mr Bruce Wilson and Mr Ralph Blewitt.
Mr Murphy and Ms Gillard left the firm in late 1995 in circumstances where their relationship with the equity partnership group had become fractured, and trust and confidence evaporated. We also had concerns about various aspects of the way in which Mr Murphy and Ms Gillard had acted with regard to Mr Wilson and the AWU. We felt that a number of matters required explanation and we were concerned as to whether they had acted consistently with their obligations of utmost good faith with regard to their partners.
The Federal Court of Australia's public statement released on the afternoon of 21 August 2012 on behalf of Justice Murphy includes this assertion by the Judge "if any allegation of wrongdoing was to be raised it would be completely unfounded". The Judge's public statement is now at odds with the 9 page ruling of the Chief Magistrate of Victoria who found that documents created by either Gillard, Murphy or their client Wilson were created in the furtherance of an offence.
The Chief Magistrate's ruling also publishes sworn evidence of police who say they contemplate charging Bruce Wilson, Ralph Blewitt and others with serious indictable offences including conspiracy to cheat and defraud, making and using false instruments, receiving secret commissions and obtaining property by deception.
Perhaps the Federal Court might revise its statement of 21 August, 2012?