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Posts Tagged ‘Ashbygate’

More #Ashby #mediafail: Joan Evatt on the appeal

In Ashby Conspiracy, Joan Evatt on May 13, 2013 at 6:02 PM
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Honourable Justice James Spigelman, second right,Source: The Daily Telegraph

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Honourable Justice James Spigelman, second right,Source: The Daily Telegraph

By Joan Evatt
@NoFibs legal writer

May 13, 2013

The last time I entered a courtroom, nearly 28 years ago, I was so heavily pregnant I waddled rather than walked. I was a character witness for a work colleague discovered driving without a licence.  On that occasion I exchanged heated words with the Prosecutor, a pompous prat with a Jimmy Edwards handlebar moustache, much to the amusement of the judge and a bunch of law undergraduates. With my last name it is always difficult to have anything to do with the law, as assumptions will be made. So it was with a certain concern mixed with caution when I decided to follow the Ashby v Slipper appeal.

I have long been frustrated by the quality of the dailies’ coverage of legal matters. My frustration was underscored by the media’s serious misunderstanding of issues and decisions at the directions hearing before Emmett J.  I decided to do that ‘mother’ thing.  You know: ‘If you can’t get somebody to do it right, go do it yourself and stop complaining.’

Throughout the recent hearing dates in the Ashby v Slipper appeal certain key matters constantly gnawed at my gizzards. I wanted to vent because I believe them to be of critical importance.

One was the mainstream media’s coverage of this case, which, if it is indicative of how they cover most cases, means we’re in trouble. (See here and here)

The media’s incompetence raised two critical issues, which are fundamental to law and the practice of law in this country, and more importantly, the effectiveness of the administration of justice.

Unbeknownst to me, I wasn’t the only one doing handstands on Wednesday trying to get my hands on the written submissions of the three parties; Harmer, Ashby and Slipper. The written submissions outline the key areas that each of the three lawyers would talk to during the two days of hearing.  To not be able to read written submission at the very least means you are walking cold into a case and will find it impossibly difficult to follow.

On Thursday – day one of the hearing – I discovered David Marr who was without written submissions as well. He toddled downstairs to the Registry while I went to work on the legal representatives to see if I could acquire the submissions for perusal. To give all parties their due they had no problem with sending and giving us their submissions. For that I’m very grateful to Michael Lee SC (Ashby’s barrister), Anthony McClellan, from AMC MEDIA –  (the well known Public Relations firm working for both Mr Ashby and Mr Harmer) – and to Peter Slipper’s barrister Mr Ian Neil who gave us the submissions immediately.  It wasn’t until the next day that their Honours let it be known that written submission would be placed online for our access.

The judiciary and the legal fraternity cannot have it both ways when it comes to being critical of the quality of mainstream media coverage of the courts. Just as judges and lawyers have to do their homework before going into court to either hear or present a case, so does the media.  For journalists to cover a case cold does the parties and the system a disservice. Is it any wonder then that the reports written by journalists with difficult deadlines become more error-prone? A journalist’s role is a critical one to a justice system where open justice prevails.

There are three principles that form part of the justice foundation stone that underpins any functioning democratic society. The first is the independence of the judiciary from interference, and especially political interference, known under the banner headline as the separation of powers; a principle enshrined in our constitution. Read the rest of this entry »

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#Ashby appeal: Slipper’s turn

In Ashby Conspiracy, Joan Evatt on May 3, 2013 at 11:48 PM

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By Joan Evatt

May 3, 2013

It was Peter Slipper’s turn today in Day 2 of the Ashby v Slipper Appeal. Slipper was represented by well-known Sydney silk, Ian Neil SC. He had to wait for twenty minutes or so while Michael Lee SC endeavoured to add further to his submissions from yesterday.

The issues Lee wanted to expand on were questions about the urgency of Ashby’s application preventing Ashby and his representatives from pursuing all alternative remedies available to him on the sexual harassment issue.

Lee also raised the question of whether there was evidence given on what was in the mind of Michael Harmer on the question of ‘genuine steps.’

He got short shrift from Justice Siopis. As Mr Lee had a right of reply following Ian Neil’s submissions it may have been more circumspect to wait until then to raise these issues.

It is the role of Mr Neil SC to argue that the decision of Justice Rares is correct and should stand. He outlined in order nine subject headings raised in the written submissions of Ashby and Harmer he wanted to address.

“The best laid plans of mice and men …” on paper this would have looked neat and logical. In reality their Honours were feisty and challenging. For most of the remainder of the morning Neil’s oral submissions were punctuated with rugged questioning as we bounced from issue to issue making it increasingly difficult for those few from the media and the general public present to follow with any confidence.

At no stage did Mr Neil show any impatience with or discomfiture by this morning’s proceedings. It is worth noting that he didn’t wilt under the pressure either, but continued to argue the merits of his case.

Neil started his oral submission considering the questions of procedural fairness as raised in the Ashby submission. In his decision Rares J is satisfied Slipper established that Mr Ashby had combined with one or more of the persons named as part of the conspiracy that would result in his finding ‘an abuse of the process’.

Justice Gilmour asked whether it only related to Mr Harmer. Mr Neil’s answer took the court down a grammatical path. A definitive “No Your Honour” was his response. The relevant paragraph in Rares’s decision ‘has to relate conjunctively/disjunctively with each, some or all of the persons named… It’s inelegant English but it’s not bad syntax and its meaning is clear.’ His Honour didn’t continue asking questions about sentence structure.

The grammar lesson set the tone of the rest of the morning’s hearings. Read the rest of this entry »

My Twitter interview with #Ashby’s media adviser

In Ashby Conspiracy, Margo Kingston on May 3, 2013 at 6:57 PM
James Ashby (left) with Anthony McClellan after the Federal Court ruling on December 12. Photo: Wolter Peeters, Fairfax

James Ashby (left) with Anthony McClellan after the Federal Court ruling on December 12. Their moneyman Michael Harmer stands behind.’ Photo: Wolter Peeters, Fairfax

By Margo Kingston

May 3, 2013

Mr Anthony McClellan followed me this morning, after I tweeted on the #Ashby appeal. His invitation to talk. So I threw him some questions and he threw me some answers. We’ve published the interview for the record here.

It is interesting that he chose to speak for Ashby lawyers Harmers on the $millions question of who is bankrolling Ashby’s case. The amount of damages awarded on court success could not cover the enormous costs involved, and perhaps not even the solicitor-client costs remaining if the Court ordered Slipper to pay party-party costs. Another mystery is why, if Harmers was carrying costs out of goodwill to poor Ashby, as claimed, perhaps tongue in cheek, by McClellan, the firm chose the most expensive and risky route possible to pursue his claim – an action in the Federal Court.

Rares judgement states that McClellan’s clients are Ashby and Doane, so why did he answer, at least in part, questions about Harmers’ funding? And what evidence does he rely on as the basis for his statements?

Naturally he chose to answer some questions and not others. He stated that he was retained by Ashby’s lawyer Harmers and has not yet been paid. He stated that Harmers were carrying the costs, and there were ‘no pledges’ of support from 3rd parties. He confirmed the truth of the Rares judgement concerning him.

Rares’ judgement states:

‘Mr Harmer recommended that Mr Ashby engage Mr McClellan as his media consultant to handle dealings with the media because Mr Slipper would be a high profile respondent in the intended proceedings. Mr Ashby and Ms Doane engaged Mr McClellan at $550 per hour plus GST on a no win no fee basis.’

These are the questions he chose not to answer:

Whether he could guarantee that no-one else would chip in funds to cover Harmer’s costs.

Who asked Harmers to take the job.

Why he agreed to deferred payment.

#Ashby appeal, Day 1

In Ashby Conspiracy, Joan Evatt on May 3, 2013 at 6:52 AM
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James Ashby, flanked by his parents and his lawyer Michael Harmer at the NSW Supreme court for their appeal application. Photo: Kate Geraghty, Fairfax

By Joan Evatt

May 3, 2013

With the exception of Michael Harmer all the key players were there for the media to take quick photos and 15-second video grabs. Peter Slipper and James Ashby are starting to look a little frayed around the edges as they prepare to endure yet another round in this legal saga.

Yesterday was the first day of a two-day hearing by the Full Court of the Federal Court. Justices Mansfield, Siopis and Gilmour are concurrently hearing both the application for leave to appeal along with the more substantive issues of the appeal itself.

Justice Mansfield tipped the wink to the parties’ representatives as to how much time the court thought should be allocated to each of the lawyers. For Michael Lee SC, Mr Ashby’s counsel and the first legal cab off the rank, this was always going to be difficult. His job is to plough the field for the first time with no real indication of the legal hoops he may have to jump through when they are presented to him by any one of the justices presiding.

Lee’s argument is that Rares J. made three fundamental errors resulting in Ashby not being able to present his case in full and therefore ‘be determined on its merits.’ He put forward the view that Ashby had not received procedural fairness.

Lee argued that the finding of an abuse of process by Rares J was
flawed as the seriousness of that finding required an onus that was a ‘heavy one’. Rares J needed to be ‘cautious’ in his consideration of this issue and, according to Mr Lee, Justice Rares wasn’t.

Mr Lee further argued that Justice Rares adopted an ‘impressionistic view’ about Mr Ashby’s involvement in a conspiracy to harm Mr Slipper with inferences being drawn that compromised the fact finding process.

The third error in the Rares decision, according to Mr Lee, involved the conduct of Mr Ashby’s solicitor, Mr Harmer. This was dealt with comparatively briefly as Mr Harmer, now a party to the appeal, is being separately represented by counsel, David Pritchard SC.

Lee SC also raised concerns about Justice Rares’s rejection of unchallenged evidence. Mr Slipper was representing himself at the time Michael Harmer gave evidence and didn’t subject Harmer’s evidence to any cross-examination. Read the rest of this entry »

Perrett urges AFP to investigate #Ashby now, adds Abetz to list

In Ashby Conspiracy, Margo Kingston on March 20, 2013 at 12:56 PM
AFP Commissioner Tony Negus

AFP Commissioner Tony Negus

By Margo Kingston
March 20, 2013

EXCLUSIVE

Graham Perrett has written to the AFP demanding it resume its investigation into possible criminal activity surrounding the court action by James Ashby against the then Speaker of the House of Representatives Peter Slipper.

He has also added Liberal Senator Eric Abetz to  the list of people the AFP should investigate for possible involvement in an alleged conspiracy to abuse the judicial system to bring down the government, referring to an email provided by a member of the public.

On December 21 last year Mr Perrett referred Mal Brough, Christopher Pyne, Julie Bishop, James Ashby and Karen Doane to the AFP.

On February 14, the AFP said by letter it would not investigate until Mr Ashby’s application for leave to appeal, to be heard in May, was finalised.

The appeal concerns the correctness of Justice Rares dismissal of Mr Ashby’s case as an abuse of Court process. It does not concern any criminal activity before the case was lodged in Court, including the alleged theft of Mr Slipper diary.

Mt Perrett told AFHP: ‘This is not a situation for caution – this is a process that can only benefit by speed in investigation because the days are counting down to an election in which the good character of the players is a big issue. Time is of the essence and the investigation of possible criminal offences is completely different to the issue in the appeal.’

‘When Mr Brough opens a campaign office two doors down from Mr Slipper that is a statement by the Liberal Party that Mr Brough has done nothing wrong. I believe he is a conspirator in an plan to bring down the elected government and that he has no respect for our democratic institutions.’

Graham Perrett

Graham Perrett

Letter from Graham Perrett MP to AFP Commissioner Mr Tony Negus Read the rest of this entry »

WANTED: Mal Brough for Questioning

In Ashby Conspiracy, Margo Kingston, Tony The Geek on February 7, 2013 at 8:16 PM

Wanted: Mal Brough

A long, day for Mal Brough, from ‘up yours’ fluff to, well….

The Courier Mail had a soft  story on Mal Brough where they forgot to do journalism and ask the hard questions.

Courier Mail

Mal Brough

Margo Kingston‘s incredulous reaction to the Courier Mail fluff piece came via Twitter”

AFHP Citizen Journalist Yathink took the Courier Mail to task in her blog post:

Punter call BS on CM’s Mal Brough ‘puff piece’

10th sentence – “Mr Brough was linked to this when the Gillard Government accused him of encouraging Slipper staff to leak diaries.”  (referring to James Ashby drama).   Two points of order on this one…
A. Mr Brough was not linked to this scandal by the Gillard Government, he was linked to this scandal by the Federal Court of Australia, Justice Rares.  You may like to familiarise yourself with the judgement “Ashby v Commonwealth of Australia (No 4) [2012] FCA 1411”.  In fact Mr Brough is referred to 113 times in this judgment.
My second point of order here is in relation to ‘leak diaries’.  Not sure about you, but if I ‘encourage’ a staff member in a competitors business to STEAL & COPY pages of my competitors diary to give to me to gain an advantage, that is actually THEFT and pretty sure I would be in serious doggy doo should I be caught, as is the case here?

Much to my disappointment the journalist has not asked any pertinent questions of Mr Brough in regard to his involvement in this scandal.  I do not know of this journalist, though considering how hard it has been for others of his profession to actually get Mr Brough to answer his phone, this is such a wasted opportunity.  See graphic above, (larger version here), in fact more than just the journo’s on this graphic have  tried to contact Mr Brough, even though he was very very cute in an interview with the Sunshine Coast Daily where he suggested no-one had phoned him?  Mr Hall obviously missed the opportunity for a ‘scoop’ here, alternatively it begs the question, was not asking anything serious about Ashby a condition of the interview?

Emma Alberici from ABC Lateline says Mal Brough is less than open and transparent as Mr Abbott would like us to believe:

Read the rest of this entry »

Liberals Ashby wall of silence cracks….

In Ashby Conspiracy, Margo Kingston on February 2, 2013 at 4:41 AM

First Labor – Liberal media debate on the Ashby Affair: Lateline transcript February 2,

David Bradbury-v-Christopher Pyne
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http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2013/s3681711.htm


Margo Kingston comments in red

DAVID BRADBURY: … Can I make the point, there is one word I would like to
remind Chris of and that’s Ashby and his involvement in the Ashby affair, but
more particularly the way in which Tony Abbott continues to stand by Mal
Brough. Now, whatever people say about Craig Thomson, these are very
serious matters and they will be progressed through the court system, but
when it comes to Mr Brough, he is a man that has an adverse finding from a
Federal Court case, he is not in the Parliament, he is not there as a result of
the people electing him into that place, he is out there as a Liberal candidate,
Mr Abbott has within his power the authority to bring that to an end, to send
Mal Brough walking if he wanted to do that, and in fact the sort of, the moral
purity that you have Chris pretend that the Coalition have on this issue would
dictate that that is exactly what Mr Abbott should do.

EMMA ALBERICI: Christopher Pyne, how comfortable are you then sitting
potentially next to Mal Brough in a Liberal Government

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: There are two factual things that David Bradbury has got
wrong and I can understand that in desperation to hide the fact that he was a
great supporter of Michael Williamson and Craig Thomson and that is that
Craig Thomson still is a member of the Labor party. He’s simply been
suspended from membership.

DAVID BRADBURY: Tell us about the drink that you had had with Ashby that
you didn’t have and the email that wasn’t sent, tell us about those things. I
won’t be lectured by you, Christopher Pyne, someone who has been outed for
having lied on that issue when it comes to questions of moral propriety. It is
about time you answered a few questions on those issues. And frankly…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, you are sounding a little hysterical.
(Pyne is projecting – he’s freaking out.)

DAVID BRADBURY: … we have a Federal Court judgment that implicates Mr
Brough. And you and Mr Abbott…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, are you sounding a little hysterical.
(Interrupting to soak up time…)

DAVID BRADBURY: … you and Mr Abbott are standing by that man. If you had
any decency and you wanted to apply the same standards to yourself that you
do to others, then you would pull the pin on him and you’d preselect someone
else for that seat.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: In terms of Mal Brough, Mal Brough has been
preselected by the LNP to be the candidate for Fisher. It is up to the electors of
Fisher whether they choose him next year – or this year now of course,
September 14th, to be their member. They will have all the information placed
before them by, I’m sure, the Labor Party about his involvement in the matters
to do with Peter Slipper. I’m sure that he will be elected. I think he was a fine
Cabinet minister and if he gets to serve in the Parliament again, he’ll be a fine
member of the House of Representatives.

(Weird stuff – who cares what he’s done, it’s a safe seat. Although this line
explains why Libs kept pre-selecting Slipper despite what Brandis has called
more than a decade of notorious salacious rumours.)

But let’s not forget that this all came up because the Labor Party and Julia
Gillard’s judgment caused her to make Peter Slipper the Speaker over Harry
Jenkins.

(The ends justify the means + we’re all as bad as each other + I don’t want to
answer these questions so I’ll change the subject) Read the rest of this entry »

Cinderella, Sunshine Coast Style

In Ashby Conspiracy on February 1, 2013 at 6:57 PM
  1. This is a story about the struggle to become one of the elite by doing their dirty deeds, collecting damaging information to hold power and getting rich along the way.  The moral of the story is : there are none, no morals that is. The lesson is: If you are not one, an elite, you will never be one. Better people have tried.The players: 1. Peter Slipper, long term initially National, then Lib federal MP in the seat of Fisher on the Sunshine Coast, QLD.
  2. @geeksrulz v strong hunger for money. See spending patterns. Taxpayers should not be happy with this MP.
  3. Player 2. James Ashby, one time radio announcer with attitude, strawberry farm PR, Slipper PR staffer, political grub.
  4. @marxdeane strawberry farm connection is intriguing. Just haven’t worked it out yet.
  5. Gowinta Strawberry Farm in liquidation and on the market as one business or 11 properties: http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2012/11/27/550825_property.html
  6. @sloughly @independentaus Just for good measure, the farm now with caravan park ripe for rezoning to res ie Big Bucks: news.com.au/national/sunshi…
  7. Player 3. Mark McArdle, longtime State Lib, now LNP member for Caloundra, wife was employed and ‘let go’ by Slipper. Evidently a different faction, perhaps different interests. Maybe lack of trust.
  8. @sloughly @independentaus And guess who has history in ‘losing’ investors money: laborview.blogspot.com.au/2…. BTW Slippers wifes family are in R/E.
  9. Player 5. Bronwyn Bishop, longtime Federal Lib MP At a fundraising event at the strawberry farm in better days. Spruiking to the old folks about that nasty carbon tax.  It’s not over til the fat lady sings, as they say. 

Updated: Questions for Mr Abbott at the National Press Club

In Ashby Conspiracy, Margo Kingston on January 30, 2013 at 11:53 AM

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January 31 Press Club review: There are many reasons why the Canberra Press Gallery is failing to fulfil its democratic role. A collapse in media revenues, 24 hour filing, no time to stay with a story and investigate it, an atmosphere which sees journos run from one ephemeral topic to another in waves, an exodus of experienced practitioners with a corporate memory, the removal of quality newspapers as the bedrock of serious journalism…

When an institution is in trouble, leadership is required.

I was proud of the gallery I once belonged to today. It was on trial, and it delivered a solid performance. I was moved to tears, though, by the leadership of two of its most experienced, rational, hard-working, intelligent members. I know both of them. They are strong, fearless, and dedicated to the core values of journalism.

They broke Abbott’s silence on Ashby, and Laura Tingle also called Abbott on his policy of turning his back on hard questions.

As a result, they have opened a crack in the Coalition’s strategy of refusing to address the implications of the smoking gun Federal Court judgement on Ashby. Then another experienced press gallery journo, Lyndal Curtis, got an answer from Abbott on Thomson that removed all his clothes regarding his backing for Mal Brough. It is now up to the journo colleagues of these three women to pick up the ball and run with it.

Several days ago I urged citizen journos to find great MSM journos and support their work:

I think in terms of collaboration between Social Media and committed MSM journos. Old media is fighting for survival and new media can’t thrive without quality journalism reaching a broad audience. Flux. Each of us is helping shape what is to come.

The media silence post Ashby is system failure. Many MSM journos feel it too. If a way is not found to get the truth a dangerous line will have been crossed in terms of democratic checks and balances.

The Court has done its job. Politicians feel they cannot press for official accountability because of MSM silence. Social Media has demanded MSM action for 5 weeks yet even Richard Ackland’s column and the Sunshine Coast Daily’s devastating interview with Brough, in which he lied about the Press Gallery, drew nothing in response.

So Social Media must think laterally. And we are. And we must give maximum support to MSM journos who see their work as a vocation and are prepared to fight for its values.

Here is Laura Tingle’s question and Abbott’s answer, Lenore Taylor’s follow-up and his answer to her and Lyndal Curtis’s inspired question on Thomson. Abbott lied on Brough’s transparency. He promised that Brough would now answer questions. He promised to reveal the statistics on his press gallery press conferences. He failed to answer other points. And by his own words about the PM’s position on Thomson he condemned Brough to dis-endorsement – if journos keep the pressure on.

Brough’s read his Ashby questions: Who will make him answer?

In AFHP, Margo Kingston on January 25, 2013 at 1:45 AM

Kathy Sundstrom Sunshine Coast Daily article asked Mal Brough some of these AFHP questions.

The Slipper diary entries

1. What information regarding the diaries did you receive from Ashby?

2. What dates did it cover?

3. Why did you want the information?

4. What use did you make of the information?

5. Do you consider it ethical to gain unauthorised access to someone’s else’s diary?

6. What action would you have taken as a sitting MP if your diary was stolen and given to a political rival?

7. Have you had any contact with the AFP since the judgement?

Personal help for Ashby and Doane

8. Did you discuss getting employment for Ashby and Doane?

9. What steps did you take to assist them?

10. Did you know Ashby or Doane before they began working for Mr Slipper?

Dealings with Ashby

11. What did Ashby tell you re any possible legal action against Slipper?

12. Why didn’t you advise Ashby to follow standard and correct HR procedure if he felt he was being harassed?

13. What contact have you had with Ashby, his lawyer, agent or anyone else connected with the Court case since the judgement?

14. Do you believe Ashby is an honest person, and if so on what basis? Read the rest of this entry »