Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mate, it’s time to drop the Murphy name

Talk of Lionel Murphy’s “little mate” featured prominently in yesterday’s revelations about the late High Court judge, and not just about his friend Morgan Ryan. Someone’s little penchant clearly led him astray. A weakness for Asian prostitutes and orgies? A very silent partnership in a brothel with organised crime figure Abe ‘Mr Sin’ Saffron? A Swiss bank account? Presumably High Court judges were so poorly paid back then that a cash-strapped Murphy, also a recipient of a ministerial pension, had to moonlight.

It appears though that the second job was a lucrative one. In September 1985, in between Murphy’s two trials for attempting to pervert the course of justice, The National Times reported on the judge’s property holdings. They comprised “a building in the heart of Fyshwick, Canberra” (Australia’s porn capital), a house in Forrest, ACT (Canberra’s most expensive suburb), six units in Queanbeyan NSW, and a “harbour-front house in Sydney.” In addition he shared “173 hectares on the Yass River with some business associates.”

Nonetheless the Hawke government later made an ex gratia payment of $420,000 (around $1.1m today) for Murphy’s legal costs. After all, apart from his impressive property portfolio, and whatever was stashed in the alleged Swiss bank account, his Honour clearly was short of a quid.

It seems incredible in the wake of the additional allegations that the Hawke government did not initially oppose Murphy’s return to the bench following his acquittal. “The allegations against Justice Murphy”, said government frontbencher Gareth Evans in April 1986, “have been dealt with comprehensively, fairly and finally by the criminal courts.”

It was a much less forgiving Gareth Evans who, as Opposition Attorney-General in 1980, urged the Fraser government to pursue conflict of interest allegations against Sir Garfield Barwick, then High Court chief justice and former attorney-general in the Menzies government. “The standards we require of our judiciary are higher than might be reasonable to require of anyone else,” said Evans. A standard far beyond the absence of a criminal conviction, perhaps? To quote then Age journalist Claude Forell “To be innocent of criminal conduct is a necessary but not sufficient test of ethical and moral fitness to be a justice of the High Court of Australia.”

At the time of Murphy’s acquittal, the Stewart Royal Commission, which was investigating the so-called Age Tapes, had provided the Hawke government with a secret volume. Among those revelations were details of intercepted phone conversations between Murphy and Ryan. The royal commission had put seven matters to Murphy, but he refused to respond.

As reported yesterday, the subsequent commission of inquiry into whether Murphy’s behaviour amounted to ‘misbehaviour’ as per section 72 of the Constitution, considered the judge had a case to answer in respect to 15 allegations. They included offering an inducement to a police officer in return for providing information concerning a prosecution; perjuring himself at his first trial; illegally receiving copies of the diaries of NSW Chief Magistrate Clarrie Briese (one of the main witnesses in his prosecution); being knowingly concerned in an attempt to blackmail a NSW Liberal MP; using his political connections to get favourable treatment for Saffron and his business associates; and pressuring then NSW District Court chief judge James Staunton to arrange an early trial for his friend Ryan, who was to be tried on a charge of conspiracy.

The behaviour alleged was said to have occurred in the period 1979-1986, when Murphy sat on the bench. There is no Australian precedent for this level of malfeasance by a judge, let alone one of the High Court. In the absence of these allegations remaining unresolved, then High Court chief justice Sir Harry Gibbs was right to (unsuccessfully) oppose Murphy’s resuming his position on the bench.

Already the Murphy apologists are rallying. “When you look at the breadth of the allegations, how absurd they are,” said the sympathetic biographer of Murphy and Gough Whitlam, Jenny Hocking, yesterday, “It’s a pity they’re getting the circulation that they are.” How ironic that Hocking, a professor of Australian studies, would oppose the release of publicly-held material in respect to her subject. This is the same Hocking who insists that the National Archives release private correspondence between former Governor-General Sir John Kerr and the Queen.

Let’s examine one of those allegations in light of the material’s release, that being the so-called Greek Conspiracy case involving alleged mass social security fraud (as it turned out few of those charged were convicted). The Commonwealth Police chief inspector in charge of that matter, Don Thomas, and his superior, assistant commissioner John Davies, met in 1979 with Murphy and Morgan Ryan for lunch at a Kings Cross restaurant.

Thomas stated that Murphy’s High Court associate had contacted him to arrange the meeting. He was not aware that Ryan would be attending and said later he felt uncomfortable about it. “I’ve invited an old friend to come to lunch”, said Murphy when introducing them. Murphy was in charge of the seating arrangements, and sat next to Thomas.

During lunch, Murphy told Thomas that the criticism of the handling of the Greek Conspiracy case was “political”. “We need to get into power in Victoria and we need the Greek vote,” he rationalised. Thomas declined Murphy’s invitation for him to arrange a meeting between himself and a Labor MP. Murphy allegedly said to Thomas “We’ll soon be in power again. We need to know what is going on. We need somebody in the Australian Federal Police — somebody at the top. If you are willing to do that we can arrange for you to be an Assistant Commissioner when it is formed. We have friends on both sides.” Thomas told Murphy he was not interested.

Even if one does not accept that Murphy said this, what legitimate motive would a High Court judge have to lunch with a mere chief inspector of police? And why was Ryan present?

In 1981, Ryan himself would be charged with forgery and later conspiracy in respect to an immigration scam. He was convicted of conspiracy in 1983, but later successfully appealed the decision. In 1987 the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued the charge.

According to intercepted phone conversations Murphy agreed to make inquiries about the two AFP officers investigating Ryan, James Lewington and Robert Jones. In the transcripts, Ryan later asked “Have you been able to find out about those two fellows who are doing the investigation; are they approachable?” Murphy reportedly replied “The answer was definitely no; they were both very straight.” Does Hocking really believe the allegations against Murphy are still “absurd” in light of this damning revelation?

In the leftist institutions of academia and the legal profession, Murphy is still revered. “I am greatly relieved to hear that the Lionel Murphy Library in this building still bears the name of that creative Attorney-General,” said former High Court judge Michael Kirby in a speech at the Attorney-General’s Department in February 2011. The National Portrait Gallery features a painting of him, along with a lengthy inscription which makes nary a mention of Murphy’s shenanigans.

It is time for the administrators of these legal scholarships, foundations, and libraries to quietly disassociate themselves from Murphy’s name. If they are after a replacement name, how about Briese or Paul Flannery, former judge of the NSW District Court? Both suffered, Briese terribly, as a result of blowing the whistle on Murphy when he attempted to improperly influence them to obtain a favourable outcome for Ryan. That is the price they paid for being a jurist who puts his integrity above doing favours for mates, be they little or big ones.


Do private education dollars count?
Despite new international education data showing Australia spends more on education compared to the OECD average, some media managed to report the opposite -- that we spend less.

How was this mathematical magic achieved? By sleight of hand that makes one category of funding vanish before the audience's eyes. And it requires no rabbits and hats ... just the blithe assumption that: Australia = Australian government.

Of course -- and as you would expect -- if we take into account both public and private money, Australia spends significantly more than the OECD average at all levels of education. This is because, in part, Australia has a relatively high proportion of students attending non-government schools compared to most other countries.

Common sense dictates that if people are spending more of their own money on education, the government should spend less, all else being equal. It's an incredibly strange mentality to think a private dollar is somehow worth less than a public dollar.

In regards to school education, Australian school spending was 3.8% of GDP, higher than the OECD average of 3.6%. Furthermore, public spending on schooling as a percentage of total government expenditure in Australia was 9.4%, much higher than the OECD average of 8.1%. Australia's spending in terms of money per student is also higher.

Based on this data, there is no justification for claims of widespread underfunding in Australia's school system.

In addition, this confirms there is no clear link between school funding and student outcomes at a national level. For example, Japan outperformed Australia on all recent international literacy and numeracy tests but spent much less money.
The comparable data released by the OECD is for 2014 and is always several years delayed, so the figures do not take into account all the large increases in 'Gonski funding' which only began in 2014 and increased at a faster rate in subsequent years. If anything, the numbers likely understate Australia's current level of school spending relative to the rest of the world.

This is a further indication the 'Gonski 2.0' school funding increases are exorbitant, and the government should reduce the excessive funding growth in future years. 


New hospital is a Taj Mahal

This week saw the opening of Australia's most expensive building -- the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. The Royal Adelaide saga has had its share of  political controversy, dissension, threatened walk outs, peace agreements and court appearances.

However, the gigantic $2.4 billion in capital cost is just the start of the impost on taxpayers. The final bill be will north of 10 billion dollars over thirty years. The SA government is on the hook for one million a day till 2046 -- and this will only cover the initial building, ongoing maintenance and provision of non-clinical services in accordance with the private public agreement struck by the state government.

But according to the myths that rule the health debate, this must mean South Australians finally have some good economic news. While the cost of everything else in the state is increasing, led by the highest electricity prices in the nation, the people of South Australia can rest easy in the knowledge they will continue to receive state-of-the-art health care for 'free'.

This, of course, is equivalent to the South Australian state treasurer's voodoo economics claim that the state budget has a surplus 'net operating balance' for 2017-2018.

The even bigger irony is the warnings by health bureaucrats about a 'honey pot effect' -- hordes of patients with minor aliments piling through the front doors.

With 800 beds -- of which all inpatient beds are single rooms -- 40 operating theatres, state of the art technology and "relaxing and healing spaces"  who can blame the punters for seeking the bounty that politicians have promised.

The further irony is that the Royal Adelaide has an emissions reduction target of 50% compared to other hospitals.

If only the boffins had thought of a health policy offset instead of pouring even more money into bricks and mortar hospital infrastructure, before this Taj Mahal of a health project was ever conceived.

The better strategy for the health of the people of South Australia -- and the health of their wallets -- would have been for the South Australian government to have listened to the decades of research showing that health care dollars are far better spent preventing people from going to hospital than building new ones. Another tragic example of how great research and ideas fall on deaf ears when hands are in the money pot.


Israel Folau Is Hardly A Homophobe

The latest public figure to fall afoul of the militant elements in the yes campaign in the same sex marriage plebiscite is Australian Rugby Union star Israel Folau. He put out a respectful tweet stating that he loved and respected people for who they were but would not support gay marriage.

Of course the usual leftist trolls which infest twitter replied to his tweet to accuse him of being a horrible person and treating gay people as inferior.

There were also those who attacked his Christian faith which is the basis for his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

But if the yes side thought it was a good idea to label somebody like Israel Folau a homophobe then their abuse is seriously mislaid.

Just because somebody opposes same sex marriage doesn’t make them homophobe and Israel Folau has actively campaigned against homophobia in his sport of rugby union.

In 2014 he was an ambassador for the Bingham Cup which is an international gay Rugby union tournament that was being held in Australia that year. A spokesperson for the Bingham Cup said at the time “Israel is a strong advocate for ending all forms of discrimination in sport”.

He was also happy to appear on the cover of Australian gay magazine the Star Observer to promote the tournament.To their credit the Star Observer acknowledged Folau’s previous activism when reporting his recent tweet, but not before a snide remark at him at th end of the article

When during a game between the ACT Brumbies and the NSW Waratahs Brumbies player Jacques Potgieter was alleged to have used homophobic slurs, in the aftermath Folau said there was no place for homophobia in rugby.

If Folau is a homophobe which is itself a loaded term designed to demonise people then there are a lot of people who have no problem socialising or working with gay people who would also be considered homophobes.

So even though Folau has gone out of his way and used his profile to help gay people feel included in Rugby, because he has a traditional view of marriage that all counts for nothing and he appears to be on par with a gay basher.

Of course you don’t need to imagine if this is the type of abuse an ally like Folau receives what is dished out to others who questions other areas of the LGBT agenda. It has been on display this whole plebiscite campaign. All of this over the top abuse of people during this plebiscite is turning s few people who would be allies in the opposite direction.

Of course Israel Folau is an easy target for these people, it is much harder for these activists to take real homophobes such as Islamic State. Yes campaigners should just respectfully disagree with Folau’s view but still view him as an ally. The people who have directed this abuse at him need to think past their simplistic wooden view of this debate.

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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