Re Webster: Members of Parliament, Pecuniary Interests and Disqualification – A Background

At the heart of the High Court challenge to Bob Day’s qualification to contest the Double Dissolution election of 2016 lies the case of Senator James Webster in 1975. Contentious at the time in the midst of wider political controversy, and thought potentially capable of opening up to scrutiny all manner of contractual arrangements, including residential leases, held between MPs and the Commonwealth, the relevant clause was narrowly interpreted by a single judge of the High Court and benefit of the legal doubt given to the Senator.

Since then, it has been the subject of criticism, and may well be overturned in the course of current proceedings. In its submissions in the current case, the Commonwealth has argued that, while Bob Day would fall foul even if the case were applied, Re Webster was too narrowly decided. Herewith the background to the original case, and its aftermath. Continue reading “Re Webster: Members of Parliament, Pecuniary Interests and Disqualification – A Background”

“Some Time” Before Decision on Secret Lionel Murphy Records

After a thirty year wait, historians, lawyers, journalists and the general public will have to wait “some time” more before knowing whether they can have access to allegations put before a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry in 1986 into the conduct of former High Court justice, Lionel Murphy.

By the time it was wound up in September 1986, the Inquiry had distinguished at least fourteen separate allegations against Murphy.

With only the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives permitted to have access to this material until now, they have authorised the Clerks of their respective chambers to see the material so they can provide advice.

The conditions imposed by statute in 1986 mean that even the Clerks have to wait until the 30 year secrecy provisions expire on Sunday before getting access. Continue reading ““Some Time” Before Decision on Secret Lionel Murphy Records”

Search and Seizure and Parliamentary Privilege

The Parliamentary Privilege questions enlivened by the series of raids on Senator Stephen Conroy’s office, the home of an adviser and the server maintained by the Department of Parliamentary Services, arising from the Australian Federal Police’s investigation into the leak of NBN documents brings to a head a series of questions raised across a number of legislatures in Australia, the UK and the US in the past twenty years.

On the matter being raised in the Senate yesterday, a background paper from the Clerk of the Senate, Dr Rosemary Laing was tabled. It indicates that she is not satisfied with the processes used by the Senate until now to deal with disputes over privilege between Senators and law enforcement. Continue reading “Search and Seizure and Parliamentary Privilege”

NSW Crime Commission faces staff upheaval, move from drug crime focus

In a remarkably frank session last week with the Parliamentary Committee responsible for overseeing the NSW Crime Commission, the Crime Commissioner, Mr Peter Hastings QC foreshadowed a renewed period of change, turmoil and upheaval at the state’s secretive organised crime fighting body.

Continue reading “NSW Crime Commission faces staff upheaval, move from drug crime focus”

A History of the Sir Garfield Barwick Address

The Sir Garfield Barwick Address is a lecture organised by the Legal Professional and Policy Branch of the NSW Liberal Party. Intended to honour the former barrister, Liberal Attorney General, Minister for External Affairs, and Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, it has been held at Sydney’s Castlereagh Hotel since 2010.

Until now, the speakers have largely consisted of lawyer-politicians, who either served with Sir Garfield, or followed in his tradition. Speakers have included the former Prime Minister, John Howard, three Commonwealth Attorneys-General and a Chief Justice of the High Court. Future speakers are said to include former High Court justice, Ian Callinan, and a former associate to Sir Garfield, Garry Downes, a former Federal Court judge and President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Continue reading “A History of the Sir Garfield Barwick Address”

Dyson Heydon, His “Greatest Teacher” and the Question of Bias

Later today, Dyson Heydon will rule on whether he should recuse himself as Commissioner for the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. The application on behalf of the ACTU, and several unions who are parties before the Royal Commission, rests on Heydon’s decision to accept an invitation to give the Sir Garfield Barwick address to a legal policy branch of the NSW Liberal Party. The argument is that in accepting the invitation to give the address, and not withdrawing when he was positively alerted to its association with the Liberal Party until such time as the event attracted media attention, could give rise to apprehended bias in his conduct of the Royal Commission. Continue reading “Dyson Heydon, His “Greatest Teacher” and the Question of Bias”

NSW Political Donations Reform – Background and Resources (Updated)

In May 2014, in response to the mounting revelations at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of breaches and circumvention of NSW’s electoral disclosure laws, particularly in respect of donations by prohibited donors, Premier Mike Baird announced a Panel of Experts to review the system of political donations. Continue reading “NSW Political Donations Reform – Background and Resources (Updated)”

Revealed: Links to Liberal Party funder’s mystery donor

A mysterious $200, 000 donation to the Free Enterprise Foundation (FEF), an associated entity of the Liberal Party facing scrutiny by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), can be traced to links with Australian businessman, philanthropist and television pioneer, Reg Grundy. Continue reading “Revealed: Links to Liberal Party funder’s mystery donor”

Ombudsman Flags Criminal Prosecutions from Police Internal Affairs Probe

The NSW Ombudsman has foreshadowed criminal prosecutions arising from its probe of the decade long controversy over an internal police investigation conducted by the NSW Police Special Crimes and Internal Affairs unit, the NSW Crime Commission and the Police Integrity Commission.

In legislation rushed through Parliament in a matter of hours last month, the Ombudsman secured the unprecedented authority to give evidence and produce documents in criminal proceedings arising from its Operation Prospect, overturning a four decades long bar on the Ombudsman and his officers giving evidence in such proceedings. Continue reading “Ombudsman Flags Criminal Prosecutions from Police Internal Affairs Probe”

Two Years, $3.5 Million for Ombudsman Police Internal Affairs Inquiry

The NSW Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, has told a Parliamentary Committee that he anticipates an inquiry into potential serious misconduct in the NSW Police Force, the Crime Commission and the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) involving a 14 year old internal affairs operation will take at least two years and cost at least $3.5 million. Continue reading “Two Years, $3.5 Million for Ombudsman Police Internal Affairs Inquiry”