Can Pauline sue Tony Abbott?

I must say I’ve been a bit bemused by the reaction of some in the media (not least Red Kezza on this evening’s ABC 7.30 Report) to the imagined revelation that Tony Abbott had lied to Four Corners in 1998 about whether he had bankrolled or arranged the bankrolling of disgruntled One Nation candidate Terry Sharples’ civil action against Pauline Hanson and David Ettridge. Abbott has now apparently issued a press release claiming that he didn’t set up the $100,000 “slush” fund until after his statement to Four Corners, so conceivably he didn’t lie anyway. But so what if he did? Four Corners is hardly Parliament, and there are numerous situations where politicians may be almost obliged to lie to the media, in a practical and sometimes even ethical sense.

What interests me more about the “slush” fund revelation is whether Abbott, and others involved in its establishment (including allegedly Peter Costello’s father-in-law Peter Coleman), may have committed the tort of maintenance, which would allow Pauline Hanson to sue them for damages. Here’s what Butterworths Halsbury’s Laws of Australia has to say about the tort of maintenance:

Maintenance consists of unjustifiable support or promotion of civil litigation in which the person has no direct or legitimate interest and may be accomplished by assisting either the plaintiff or the defendant in the proceedings without lawful justification. Champerty is an aggravated form of maintenance which consists of unlawfully maintaining an action, or a suit, upon an agreement to receive a share of any proceeds from the litigation. The torts of maintenance and champerty are actionable by a person who is caused special damage by the intermeddling. Both torts are of decreasing importance and have been abolished in some jurisdictions. Both wrongs also constituted a criminal offence.

The essential element of impropriety in an action for either maintenance or champerty is the officious intermeddling in, and supporting of, litigation in which the defendant has no legitimate interest. The intermeddling of the defendant must be shown to be intentional but there is no requirement of proof of malice or to show that the intermeddling was without reasonable and probable cause. The torts are applicable only to intermeddling in civil litigation and do not apply to assistance provided in criminal prosecutions, nor for intermeddling in administrative proceedings which are not contested litigation.

The most common way of committing maintenance is by providing financial assistance to a litigant, either by lending money to permit the bringing of the suit, or by bearing the full or partial costs of the litigation. It is not champerty for a solicitor to act for a client without means and to bear counsel’s fees and other disbursements where the solicitor has considered the case and has a bona fide belief in the client’s cause of action or defence, and there has been no bargain with the client for a share of any proceeds from the litigation. However, champerty will lie where a legal practitioner engages in speculative litigation on an agreement to receive a proportion of any damages recovered.

It is a defence to the tort of maintenance or champerty that the person interfering in the litigation has an interest recognised by law in the proceedings. Where there is a genuine and legitimate common business interest between the maintainer and the maintained in the result of litigation, some activities in support of litigation may be justifiable. A legitimate common interest may also be found in a direct and substantial pecuniary interest in the outcome of litigation such as contracts of indemnity, or contracts of insurance. It must be shown that the activity which constitutes some intermeddling in, or support of, the litigation is a proper method of seeking to protect the common interest. It is possible, but exceptional, to be able to justify a champertous agreement on the basis of common interest.

Acts which are prima facie maintenance or champerty may be justified on a range of grounds which include the relationship of master and servant, kinship, compassion and charity. Where reliance is placed upon charity as justifying an intermeddling it must be shown that there is a genuine belief in the litigant’s impecuniosity. However, it is not necessary to show that the litigant is in fact destitute and otherwise incapable of engaging in litigation without assistance. Charity to assist the poor includes the situation where the litigant has assets which cannot be reached or used. The privilege will not afford a defence where the intermeddler has sought to promote his or her private interests and it is very difficult to justify champerty on the basis of such relationships of privilege.

As far as I can see on a very quick search, although the tort of maintenance has been abolished in several States, it still exists in Queensland. Moreover, it’s difficult to see Abbott and his fellow Sharples benefactors successfully making out any of the defences discussed above. Hanson may yet have the last laugh.

I actually have some practical professional experience with the tort of maintenance. Some years ago I acted for then NT Labor Opposition Leader Bob Collins in obtaining a Supreme Court injunction against the entire NT Cabinet after a Minister had been forced to reveal in the media that the Government had agreed to fund defamation litigation by former Chief Minister Ian Tuxworth against Bob Collins. Apparently the agreement to fund Tuxworth’s litigation had been made as part of a secret deal to get him to agree to resign quietly as Chief Minister in favour of another CLP nominee thought to have better electoral prospects. My morning in court as junior counsel was a personally memorable one. Not only was I suing the entire Cabinet on behalf of the Labor Opposition, but spectators in the public gallery included then right wing heavy and federal minister Graham Richardson. The argument got off to a seemingly disastrous start as soon as my senior counsel got to his feet and announced our appearances. The presiding judge, Justice John Nader, demanded to know in an imperious tone: “This isn’t another one of your political stunts is it, Mr McDonald and Mr Parish? I won’t have my court turned into a three ring political circus!”

Senior counsel then proved why his daily charge rate was much higher than mine. “Of course not, Your Honour, nothing could be further from the truth. This is simply a legal argument about whether an interlocutory injunction should be awarded on ordinary legal principles to restrain the commission of an ongoing and prima facie serious actionable civil wrong committed against a citizen of the Northern Territory.” It was, as Richo observed afterwards in tones of awe-struck admiration, one of the most brazen lies he’d ever heard in a courtroom. Justice Nader must have been impressed too. He gave us the injunction, and the entire case settled soon afterwards on terms not to be disclosed.

Update – Robert Corr blogs at length on the Hanson/Abbott affair, including a considerably more extensive look at maintenance in Queensland than I was able to afford. One side benefit of the affair is that it looks like it may have inspired Rob to postpone hanging up his blogging boots (as he’d threatened to do the other day). Stick around Rob. You make an excellent contribution to reasoned discussion in the ozplogosphere, and I for one certainly don’t want to see you drift away (as long as you give your studies first priority,the teacher in me feels compelled to add).

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
This entry was posted in Law. Bookmark the permalink.
82 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Ken, I first came across the terms maintenance and champerty in my early days of studying accountancy. I think it came up in Comercial Law A. I had long since assumed that these “offences” had long been consigned to the Dickensian archives to which they belonged. Not so apparently, at least not in the sun-belt.

Why is it that the imaginary east-west line drawn approximately at the mouth of the Tweed River continues to separate those north of it from normal humanity?

Rob Schaap
2022 years ago

The bit that annoys me is that it seems a Liberal Party campaign was put in place to bury Hanson and now the Liberal Party leader wails, banshee-like, at the graveside, and has Bronny throw herself in! Howard served up a bit of applied xenophobia to capture the Hansonite constituency last time. Seems he’s going the battlers-in-solidarity-against-the-‘elite’ route.

And, of course, the two are neatly reconciled, with the ‘news’ that no-one had told Howard …

Lateline might be worth a peek tonight.

mark
2022 years ago

Fascinating post, Ken.

Observa
Observa
2022 years ago

Now let me get this straight. Hanson can sue Abbott for camperty and intermeddling and the only defense he has is to show the ‘litigation is a proper method of seeking to protect the common interest’ (ie that Hanson shouldn’t be elected with illegally gotten electoral subsidies for a non-existent Party) Now to do this Abbott quotes ad infinitum every Left, Labor, Democrat and Green politician’s denigration of Hanson and One Nation to prove he did it for the common interest. Absolutely precious! If I were a judge it would be time to take my long service leave.

Niall
2022 years ago

Far too many similarities for my liking. No-one told Howard what was going on (plausible deniability?) and we see Abbott offering the now standard excuse that he was answering the first part of the 4 corners question, not the second. PUH-LEEEESE! It’s all going to come out anyway, and as you say, Ken, it’s not a lie before Parliament. Terry Scharpels is going to crap on Abbott at first chance anyway. I hope Abbott’s sword is sharp.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

If Hanson sues Abbott, can Abbott sue the Sydney real estate agent who’s bankrolling Hanson?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Quite possibly. Of course, both situations rather suggest how anachronistic the tort of maintenance arguably is, but as I say it still seems to exist in Queensland.

Jack Strocchi
2022 years ago

Very Ld Ken,

Great post.
I know nothing of legal principles, but an action against Abbott relying on the tort of maintenance seems, if not probably sucessful, certainly just. Someone needs to put a stop to his mishievous use of the courts for political ends. The fact that the civil law posesses a twin-edged political blade would make the service of that venegeful dish all the more satisfying.

Tiu Fu Fong
Tiu Fu Fong
2022 years ago

You’ve been Margo-quoted, Ken:

[URL]http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/08/27/1061663841332.html[/URL

(sorry, I don’t know how to create links)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Bloody hell, she copied the whole bloody thing verbatim. Not that I mind, but it would have been nice to ask.

Tiu Fu Fong
Tiu Fu Fong
2022 years ago

I understand Margo was once a law student. Plus she’s a journalist. Tsk tsk tsk… she should know better. She doesn’t even respect your moral rights!

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

What’s the problem? She’s giving full attribution. Ken, you should be flattered.

Why does Margo like Hanson so much? Perhaps its her (Margo’s) North Queensland bush roots (so to speak).

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Yes, I suppose I should just be thankful for the publicity. I’m becoming an old curmudgeon like Wickstein.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Yeah, I was going to say that Tiu erred on the side of generosity. Your’s Ken, was Margo’s article

Dave – you’ve got a very dirty mind. Though Margo’s fascination with Pauline does make you wonder……

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

Geoff – I don’t know what you’re talking about.

mark
2022 years ago

Your reference to Margo and Pauline rooting in the bush, Dave!

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

I made no such reference, and I am shocked, shocked, that anyone would think that I did.

Alex Robson
Alex Robson
2022 years ago

Wouldn’t Abbott’s liability (if he is liable at all) be limited to the costs that Hanson incurred in defending against the civil action? I’m not sure how much this was, but it is probably not much, given that Terry Sharples only spent 50k on the case.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Alex,

In theory the heads of damage wouldn’t be limited to costs, although it’s difficult to see what other recoverable damage she suffered. Certainly Hasnon wouldn’t be able to recover damages for loss flowing from her prosecution and imprisonment.

However, I’d be surprised if Sharples’ costs were as low as 50K in the totality of the civil proceedings, unless several of his lawyers were working pro bono or on concessional rates. Maybe you’re just talking about the first instance costs. If you look at the AustLII Supreme Court and Court of Appeal databases, you’ll see there were multiple decisions and stages of appellate and interlocutory skirmishing. I’d be quite surprised if either side had any change out of 100K, and in fact I’d expect costs would normally have been significanty higher than that. Thus, Hanson could be shooting for 200K damages or more in an action for maintenance (her costs and the other side’s that she was no doubt ordered to pay on losing the civil proceedings).

The real problem may be what Dave Ricardo mentioned earlier. If Hanson herself is being maintained by someone, suing Abbott could simply provoke a retaliatory writ against her own backers.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Abbott ran rings around O’Brien in tonight’s 7.30 Report. Even accused Kerry of not having a sense of humour. Surely not!

Maybe someone can blog or comment on what the big deal is here – other than the “maintenance” issue which I see even the SMH took up in its editorial this morning.

All of a sudden the Left (including the media) are wringing their hands about Pauline, after spending half a decade denigrating and promoting violence against her and her supporters (remember Keith Warburton?). Are they pissed off because the right were the only ones to plant an effective blow to her credibility when their own strenuous efforts were so ineffectual?

This trust thing has been on the public record for five years now. It seems to have been resurrected because of the hugely disproportionate sentence of three years on what was the political equivalent of a parking offence.

The assumption seems to be that Abbott was instrumental in causing this criminal prosecution. What utter rubbish! As Abbott so forcefully put tonight to an all but incoherent (with impotent rage) Kerry O’Brien tonight, the prsoecution was put into place by an independent DPP, tried by an independent judge before an independent jury.

Abbott was engaged in an appropriate political exercise to call out an opposition party who he and others suspected had broken the law and he used the law to run it down. Somewhat different to the ineffectual violence used against Hanson by the left! Why the hell should he disclose all his (legal) moves in advance to the enemy?

Brendan Driscoll
2022 years ago

Bren,it would seem likely that Tony Abbott is in a bit of trouble.I truly hope so !

Ashley Manicaros
Ashley Manicaros
2022 years ago

I understand Hanson was found guilty by a jury. I think the defense ought to be examining the makeup of the jury. She could argue that the sentence was manifestly excessive but the argument of political interference doesn’t carry any weight. (ie: the Judge/Magistrate can maintain that he wasn’t influenced) I do not subscribe to a single Hanson thought and I find myself in the unfortunate position of having to agree with Bronwyn Bishop (of all people) that Australia now has its first political prisoner. Who was it that said…”I may not agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it.”

Trevor Bates
Trevor Bates
2022 years ago

Kerry O’Brien, should have had some lessons from Mike Tyson and went straight for the ear,of Tony Abbott. They did’nt even shake hands after the last bell. With the look that Abbott gave O’Brien, I’m on your side Tony!

mark
2022 years ago

Ron, please don’t tell us what we think. It’s alright within right-wing enclaves to say “the Left is this!” and “the Left is that!” (hey, lefties have our equivalents), but out when you’re discussing such things with people from all sides of politics, it’s *probably* a good idea not to resort to such crap.

Ashley, unless Qld has switched to majority juries (has it? I don’t recall), it’s very difficult to rig a jury into *convicting* someone. Preventing a unanimous conviction is comparably easy (remember Joh?), but actually convicting someone means you’ve got to convince twelve separate people that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, it’d be a good idea to vote “Guilty”.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

I don’t remember Keith Warburton. Who is he?

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Ashley – Voltaire said, “I may not agree
with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it …”

Dave – Warburton was the ON suppporter who was kinghit from behind by anti-Hanson demonstrators outside a ON meeting in – I think – Dandenong.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Mark, what I said was:

“All of a sudden the Left (including the media) are wringing their hands about Pauline, after spending half a decade denigrating and promoting violence against her and her supporters (remember Keith Warburton?). Are they pissed off because the right were the only ones to plant an effective blow to her credibility when their own strenuous efforts were so ineffectual?”

The first sentence is self-evidently true and the second is a question only you lefties can answer. But the behaviour of lefty commentators in this ridiculous beat-up leaves very few other interpretations open. If you don’t like me holding up a mirror to yourself then perhaps you can offer some constructive explanation that even begins to make sense.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Well Ron, I think attempts to slip Hanson and her friends and enemies into neat left/right ideological camps are destined to fail, which is of course why she created, and continues to create, such a kaffufle. A v. crude generalisation is that many (a significant proportion?) on the left cheered on her opposition to economic rationalism, while many (a significant proportion?) on the right did likewise with her racism. And vice versa (if you follow). [My own *pet theory* is that the doctrines underlying economic rationalism and racism have more in common than you might think … with the emphasis on the former perversely licensing the latter … but we’ll leave that aside]. At the same time, she also embodied a form of globalisation-new economy-elite/battler-old economy-nationalism class division. Yet, even to type this is to realise so many exceptions that this it is all too crude (which, I guess, is why she really fascinates political journalists such as Margo). What is crystal clear, at least, is that she could generate up to 20 per cent or so support among voters … which is of course why there is now such an unholy scramble going on to see which party can now grab most of them.

Peter Hindrup
Peter Hindrup
2022 years ago

Some contributors have suggested that Hanson’s benefactor is at risk of being sued for ‘maintenance or chamerty’

I may be misreading this, but the following would seem to cover the point.
Acts which are prima facie maintenance or champerty may be justified on a range of grounds which include … compassion and charity. Where reliance is placed upon charity as justifying an intermeddling it must be shown that there is a genuine belief in the litigant’s impecuniosity. However, it is not necessary to show that the litigant is in fact destitute and otherwise incapable of engaging in litigation without assistance. Charity to assist the poor includes the situation where the litigant has assets which cannot be reached or used

Sandra Rew
Sandra Rew
2022 years ago

Having done my law degree at NTU and remembering the ethics lectures, I felt compelled to pull out an old (12yrs) torts textbook. It appears that there is no action in maintenance if the primary action is successful, unless there has been “special damage” i.e. outside of the amount of any judgment and legal costs for the respective sides. The example given was the case of a builder who proved special damage in respect of bank overdrafts and guarantees not provided in subsequent business activities.

mark
2022 years ago

My apologies, Ron: I had forgotten that we on the Left had sloppily left (heh) clues all over the place pointing to our guilt in this matter. Why, my own post on the subject is such a trenchant defence of Our Pauline’s civil rights that it would make even MLK Jr weep with compassion for poor whitey.

This sort of thread usually degenerates into “it’s self-evident”, “no it’s not”, “yes it is you’re hiding it from yourselves”. Well, I’m happy to say that won’t happen this time. No, sir, we as lefties must, here and now, make a stand. We must say: while we do not agree with Our Pauline or her PHONies, we hate everything that is good, just and decent within Australian — no, no, Western! — society to such a degree that we’re willing to do anything it takes, up to and including calling Tony Abbot a “pinhead”, in order to destroy it. How dare the forces of light obtain justice before we had a chance to get our grubby little hands dirtier!

Good on you for exposing this dreadful conspiracy, this uniformity of belief in evil, before the cancer that is leftism spreads further.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Sandra,

Your point may well be another reason why Hanson won’t pursue such a strategy. I commented above that on the face of it her heads of damage appeared to be simply costs. However, a creative lawyer could no doubt mount arguments for other heads of damage as well. How likely they would be to succeed is another question.

Jack
Jack
2022 years ago

There is a thing called ‘separation of powers,’ in our Constitution: legislative, executive, and judicial. Hanson has been fairly dealt with by the judiciary of this country, and judged by her peers through the most rigorous test of our courts, and accordingly sentenced by a duly appointed judge.That is the reason why she is in jail.

Matters relating to Abbot or Howard are nefarious to the case, it probably comes under the executive ‘manipulations'(not in the Constitution)and nothing to do with the case of Miss Hanson.

I think we should all have cold showers (Margo included,) then we might feel a bit better. Use your energies for credible public interest items.
Jack

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I’m with Jack. The rampant hypocrisy of the ALP – whose sole and only aim here is to secure political advantage by trying to create the illusion of a case for Liberal Party funds having been diverted, at Howard’s direction, to destroy Hanson – is self-evident (whoops! Sorry Mark :)). This is not about the integrity of due process, the rule of law, the separation of powers or anything else that might be accorded worthy intent status. It’s all about raking through Pauline’s demise to secure her voter base from the ashes. “I may not agree with what you think but I’d sell you my Mum to get my grubby mitts on your vote.”

I’ve yet to see even the slightest shred of evidence in support of illegality on Abbott’s part. Seamy, grubby, politics-as-usual – whatever it is, it’s definitely not edifying – but it’s nothing that Graham Richardson wouldn’t recognise as par for the course.

And where lies the revelation therein? Abbott’s activities have been known for 5 long years. There aren’t any ‘secrets’ being exposed here, far from it. Nobody emerges in a good light here except – incredibly – Pauline Hanson. What a tangled web, etc………

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Geoff,

I wasn’t suggesting that the possibility of launching an action for maintenance against Abbott had anything much to do with rule of law, separation of powers or other high principles. Simply that it was a theoretical and in some ways intriguing legal possibility. You can mount a substantial argument that the continued existence of the tort of maintenance is an anachronism in a modern democracy. Where access to the superior court system is so expensive as to be practically available only to the very rich or legally aided, preserving a tort that also denies the possibility of getting outside assistance to pursue (meritorious) litigation is problematic to say the least.

Nevertheless, if you were Hanson’s lawyers you’d want to look at every available option, and maintenance might well be one of them (although I doubt that it would be very high on the list of priorities).

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Nobody has yet been able to say what is it that Abbott has done wrong. They use pejorative words like grubby, seamy, sly and underhand etc., but full disclosure, as Geoff admits, has been there for years. What the hell is grubby and seamy about it? It was a perfectly legal and sensible political tactic. In a “war” situation, as politics is by it nature, since when has it been obligatory to telegraph your moves to the enemy in advance?

Poor old Kerry last night had apoplexy about Abbott’s throw-away line that telling lies to the ABC is not in the same league of political criminality as misleading Parliament. This flippant comment is “self-evidently” true, but of course Kezza is as devoid as humour as well as being as thick as the proverbial brick. And takes himself sooo seriously, as do all the ABC politicos. It’s about time these interviewers realised the difference between being “devils’s advocate” and playing a participatory role in a debate.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Ken, thanks for making your own attitude clear on the maintenance and champerty issue. Couldn’t agree more. You said the some of the enlightened States have abolished it (NSW included I hope?). Only in Queensland…..

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

Ron,

you argument appears to be this: it’s perfectly OK to play the man rather than the ball, as Abbott does in spades, and did in particular against Hanson, but if someone tries to plays as hard against Abbott, well that’s just reprehensible.

Do you not see a teensy weensy double standard in your argument?

Abbott dishes it out, which is fine. But then he has to cop it too. And if that means the ALP or any of Abbott’s other political enemies beating up old stories to make him look bad, that’s just his bad luck. Abbott would do the same given the opportunity, in a nanosecond.

This comment applies to you too, Geoff. I agree that what Abbott did was just grubby business as usual politics. But that being the case, the attack on Abbott is also grubby business as usual politics. Why do you accept one with a world-weary sigh but condemn the other?

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

At last a sensible opinion piece in the mainstream media on this whole stupid beat-up.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Ken – I wasn’t actually commenting on your post directly I must confess – as appealing as “champerty” sounds – it was more the cut and thrust of the comments thread, and the whole matter in the broad. ‘Champerty’ kind of combines the vivacity of champagne with the pleasing results of a chamois leather cleaning session. We should have more of it!

Ron – I agree entirely with your assessment of the legality of Abbott’s actions. Nevertheless, presiding over an initiative aimed at undermining one’s opponents by legal machination does, on the surface ot it, lack that essential St George and the Dragon degree of sword-bearing honour…

Interestingly, Barry Cassidy was just recounting (on ABC 702) the story that Hanson herself told John Pasquarelli (by phone in the last court break before sentencing) that she thought her demise may have been Richo’s work….

Matt Price delivers a well-deserved serve to Labor’s grubby little beat-up in the Oz this a.m. and your assessment of the egregiously self-important Kezza O’B was spot-on. He could do with some relief champerty maybe?

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Dave – my world-weary sigh is entirely democratic in it’s application.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Geoff, what you see as something lacking “that essential St George and the Dragon degree of sword-bearing honour…” is simply what I see as “robust”. Oh well what’s in a word (or phrase) I suppose.

Robert
2022 years ago

If Hanson sues, it won’t be for the money. It will be to act like the victim of a vast political conspiracy (and if she loses the case, so much the better).

Ashley Manicaros
Ashley Manicaros
2022 years ago

The point about the jury is that it might be an idea to research their backgrounds…perhaps they were anit one nation…etc

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Ashley,

I would be the last to deny that conspiracies and dirty dealing sometimes happen, and jurors occasionally vote on lines of party political prejudice in cases involving politicians. We know, for instance, that that was certainly true with the single hold-out juror in the Bjelke-Petersen prosecution some years ago. However, the idea that all 12 jurors were covert Hanson haters happy to ignore their duty as jurors is just a tad far-fetched.

Although I accept that conspiracies sometimes happen, the Ockham’s Razor principle suggests that simpler explanations are usually much more likely where plausible. There’s no reason to suspect a jury conspiracy here, because the evidence, at least against Ettridge, was very strong, and I’m sure that’s why the jury convicted. I’m marginally less convinced about the case against Hanson herself, at least judging on the reasons for decision in the earlier civil case judgment in Sharples v O’Shea, which you can read here.

There are some real and important questions emerging for the Hanson case IMO. For example, should there be some legal limits on the manner in which major political parties can wage war on new minor parties in a bid to strangle them at birth? How would you design them? Should the rules for registration of political parties (so as to be eligible for public election funding) be as restrictive as the Hanson case showed them to be? But questioning the integrity of the jury is not a sensible question at all. It merely diverts attention away from these more important issues.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

BTW Just in case you’re interested in the public policy reasons behind the generally-accepted principle of jury anonymity and the sanctity of jury deliberations, here’s a link to a 1986 NSW Law reform Commission discussion on the subject. To varying extents, jury anonymity is rightly protected in all States and Territories. See, for example, sections 49A and 49B of the Juries Act (NT), which was enacted by the government for which you worked. If you were to seek to identify and ascertain information about jurors’ political affiliations in the manner you seem to be suggesting, you’d be liable to a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for 2 years.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

“For example, should there be some legal limits on the manner in which major political parties can wage war on new minor parties in a bid to strangle them at birth? How would you design them?”

You really are a nanny-state interventionist at heart, aren’t you Ken?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Ron

I’m sure you want to see it that way, because you seem to have a compulsive tendency to fit everyone into neat little ideological boxes. In fact I approach this issue from a JS Mill-type classical liberal approach, which is indeed somewhat more amenable to government intervention than its laissez faire variant or the peculiar version now promoted by modern neo-liberals. Neo-liberalism involves aggressively promoting and defending an international trading system which is carefully constructed and elaborately regulated, while simultaneously arguing that any form of regulation that doesn’t favour large corporations is illegitimate “nanny state” interventionism or worse.

If you believe in the primacy of democratic freedom of choice and diversity as I do, and you agree with JS Mill about the dangers of majoritarian tyranny (as I also do), then you should certainly be concerned to have a system which allows new parties to grow and flourish and prevents the large, powerful established parties from using their power and money to stifle competition. It’s really just a political system version of anti-trust/anti-monopoly laws (which incidentally many of the neoliberal apologists for large corporations also argue should be watered down because they supposedly prevent companies from growing and becoming “globally competitive”).

I think the treatment of One Nation and its leader suggests that Australia’s democratic system is anything but healthy, even though I find many of her ideas absurd and repulsive (if half-baked psychobabble can be dignified with the label “ideas”).

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

It is richly ironic that Peter Coleman should have been behind the fund to nail One Nation. Coleman, it may be recalled, hailed the 1996 election result as a “victory against political correctness”. (It might also be recalled that in 1978 Coleman led the NSW Liberal Party to a landslide defeat from which it has never really recovered, including losing his own seat. It might also be recalled that Coleman, the enemy of government largesse, accepted the sinecure of Administrator of Norfolk Island from Malcolm Fraser, but I digress.) The ideas – nay, the thoughts – that could not see the light of day under the evil P. Keating had at last been liberated! And what greater embodiment of that victory could there have been than the election of one P.Hanson as the member for Oxley.

However, once One Nation threatened the livelihoods (not to mention, parliamentary pensions) of Peter’s mates in the Liberal and National Parties, by winning their seats, then it was time to act. It was time for “honest politics”. It was all very good for this Hanson woman to say what Peter thought should be said, but heaven forbid that she actually compete successfully for the conservative vote.

For sheer hypcritical sanctimony and humbug, the Quadrant crowd just can’t be beaten.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Ken, I have no trouble with minor parties flourishing no matter how extreme their ideas (there are in fact plenty of examples of this in Australia), providing they do so lawfully. What you are proposing amounts to having one set of laws for large parties and another set of more favourable laws for small parties just because they’re small. Or if we do have uniform laws then we must not enforce them against minor parties, or at least prevent major parties appealing to the courts to ensure the laws are adhered to.

As I’ve said before Abbott is being hounded by the left (and I don’t apologise for so categorising those behind this incredible beat-up) for acting legally to have the law enforced rather than pursue physical violence against Hanson and her supporters as was done by the leftists.

I also don’t have any problem with regulation within the rule of law. One of the key tenets of the rule of law is that laws apply equally to all citizens.

Our trade practices laws appear to work quite well in preventing predatory behaviour by large corporations, although the showman style of Fels was an unfortunate fault in their administration. But you can’t act to prevent large corporations or large political parties from competing by using their size to advantage. Large retailers like Woolworths buy better than small independents and should be allowed to. It doesn’t automatically make them successful as the contrasting performances of Coles and Woolworths testify. This sort of competition is one of the reasons why prices of retail goods have come down spectacularly in real terms over the last half-century. There is certainly no lack of freedom of choice in either commerce or politics today. In fact a complaint I hear all the time is that there is too much choice. The poor dears find it all too hard and too confusing. They yearn for the nanny state to make their decisions for them.