Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Federal prosecutors knew that key witness in prosecution of journalist Steve Barrett was a serial liar

Why are these hostile and destructive prosecutors suffering no penalty for the damage they did? They should at least be demoted

Commonwealth prosecutors pursued extortion charges against crime reporter Steve Barrett despite warnings from the Australian Federal Police that the principal witness against him was such a serial liar and fabricator of evidence that investigators had refused to continue taking statements from him.

Emails obtained by The Australian reveal senior police officers recommended that the AFP reject a request by prosecutors to obtain a statement from their star witness, property developer Daniel Hausman, because he was not considered “a witness of truth”.

All charges against Mr Barrett were sensationally dropped by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) on Friday after revelations about the extraordinary web of lies spun by Mr Hausman.

Mr Barrett had been accused of blackmailing the Plutus tax fraud syndicate in a joint effort to extort $5m from the scam’s mastermind Adam Cranston but his trial ended in a hung jury in May 2021.

In one email sent on 28 August 2020, eight months before Mr Barrett’s trial, AFP Detective Sergeant Morgen Blunden said his team had already discontinued taking a statement from Mr Hausman because he was “untruthful”, “unreliable”and at times “incoherent”.

Sergeant Blunden said that taking the statement “would compromise the credibility and reputation of the AFP”, and noted that Mr Hausman’s own lawyer had acknowledged his lack of credibility as a witness.

“The team feels taking a statement and calling Hausman as a witness is a significant risk to the prosecution,” Sergeant Blunden said.

But jurors in Mr Barrett’s trial were never shown the AFP’s assessment of Mr Hausman’s credibility because the reports were ruled to be inadmissable.

Since Mr Barrett’s trial, Mr Hausman has been found to have lied repeatedly in other proceedings, including at the trial of Plutus conspirator Sevag Chalabian in February last year, and in a compulsory Proceeds of Crime examination in May last year.

The Plutus syndicate defrauded the tax office of more than $100m from 2014 to 2017 through a free payroll service that shifted tax liabilities to a network of second-tier companies. But the conspirators were being blackmailed by Hausman and others with the threat of exposure.

Mr Barrett was alleged to have made threats on behalf of the blackmailers but on Friday NSW Supreme Court judge Natalie Adams ordered that Mr Barrett’s proposed retrial be dropped after a direction from the CDPP.

In his submission for an end to proceedings, top silk Greg Woods KC, who represented Mr Barrett pro bono, argued that allowing Mr Hausman to give evidence would be “an affront to justice and would bring the administration of the legal system into disrepute”.

Following Mr Barrett’s trial in 2021, Mr Hausman gave evidence in the trial of Mr Chalabian in early 2022, admitting to numerous lies about his contact with Mr Barrett.

Dr Wood said Mr Hausman “appears to have lied wherever it suited his purpose of the moment”, pointing out that the property developer had received a 25 per cent reduction in his jail sentence for giving evidence.

“In reality, it was only after Hausman realised that the evidence against him personally was overwhelming that he did his deal with the authorities to obtain a reduced sentence,” Dr Wood said.

There were more lies at a compulsory Proceeds of Crime examination into the whereabouts of the missing money from the extortion attempt. That hearing revealed Mr Hausman had breached restraining orders by dealing with his supposedly frozen assets, including cash and property, a criminal enterprise concealed from the court during Mr Barrett’s trial.

Outside the court, Mr Barrett’s solicitor Andrew O’Brien hailed the move to drop the charges as an important decision for the freedom of press in Australia, but was critical of the actions of police and prosecutors.

Mr O’Brien said Mr Barrett was acting in his role as a journalist when, before the Plutus fraud came to the attention of authorities, he became aware that there could be a big story in the offing, but before he could break the story was himself arrested by police.

“Thirteen months after this the authorities decided to charge Steve Barrett, even though they knew that he was a working journalist and has been seen on TV screens around Australia for decades breaking stories of crime and corruption.

“The prosecution of this journalist has caused much pain and suffering by way of a severe impact on his mental and physical health, and his financial position. The prosecution (now correctly but belatedly abandoned) has badly damaged his good reputation,” he said.

The CDPP did not respond to questions put by The Australian.


Australian universities are failing: James Allan, in conversation with Will Kingston

James Allan is an academic unicorn – an openly conservative professor at a prestigious Australian university. In this wide-ranging conversation, James paints a picture of a tertiary sector that simply isn’t making the grade.

Will Kingston: James, imagine a bright kid has just finished high school and comes to you for advice. He doesn’t want to do anything that legally requires him to get a university degree. Would you nonetheless recommend that he goes to university?

James Allan: It’s a hard question. We live in a world of credentials and Australia is about the worst of the ‘credentialed places’ so, in a sense, going to university is providing you with a credential that opens doors. But I do think people who went to university 20 years ago have no clue what they are like today. Whilst it’s very difficult to get to the top of any career without going to university (entrepreneurs being a notable exception), you must go in with your eyes open.

WK: What exactly should that student have his or her eyes open for?

JA: Viewpoint diversity, or the number of conservative academics in universities, is collapsing. We know this from looking at the donations to political parties – it’s public information in the US. Just look at places like Yale Law School or Harvard, and the numbers are getting more and more skewed. Outside of the Ivy League it’s even worse.

And it’s just as bad in Australia. There are whole departments [that are exclusively left-leaning]! Do you think there are many supporters of Tony Abbott or Peter Dutton or the Coalition more generally in a Women’s Studies department, or an Aboriginal Studies department, or a Sociology department? Even Law is massively skewed. You’ll find the odd tax lawyer who sits in the closet and votes Coalition, and that’s largely it. Heck, you can count the number of law professors in this country who teach constitutional law and are against the Voice on one machine operator’s hand. And we have over three dozen universities.

WK: Is this really a problem? What’s the ‘first principles’ argument ideological diversity amongst academics?

JA: The old-fashioned idea was, you go to university and you get exposed to ideas that you don’t agree with and that you’ve never encountered before. This is the John Stuart Mill view of free speech – you get closer to the truth via a cauldron of competing ideas. Today, many people on the left just do not accept that. They think some views have to be ruled out because people are weak and stupid, and if they hear those ideas they’ll inevitably be seduced by them. Mill thought that through hearing views you don’t agree with, you will strengthen your own arguments even when you conclude you were correct all along.

The other reason is that the so-called ‘expert-class’ has shown itself to be completely useless of late. They’re getting everything wrong. I was a huge ‘lockdown-skeptic’, and the results coming out of Sweden have demonstrated that the expert doctors were to a large extent useless. But even worse, whilst they were being useless, they were simultaneously trying to shut down the views of genuinely credible people like Sunetra Gupta or Jay Bhattacharya. Just look at Sweden’s cumulative excess death tally since the start of the pandemic till now. Better than ours and the gap is widening by the day. And Sweden did not close any small businesses or schools or weaponise the police or censor unfashionable sceptical views.

WK: Does the grants process exacerbate this problem?

JA: Absolutely. You have this big machinery in universities. If you’re a historian or if you’re a political scientist, you are judged by grants. Now think about how crazy this is! You wouldn’t buy a car based on which car manufacturer got the most government money. You would think, ‘My God this car manufacturer needs huge dollops of taxpayer aid!’

And the only people who get promoted are people who are good at getting grants. So if you want to write in favour of traditional marriage, say, or in any sort of conservatively leaning way, you have virtually zero chance of getting a grant. This allows universities to say to a conservative that they’re not promoting you because you aren’t being awarded grants, not because you are conservative. The roadblock is indirect, not direct. One of the things we need to do outside of the ‘hard sciences’ is just end all grants. They are inefficient, deliver near-worthless results and hurt only one side of the political divide. You could save a fortune and it wouldn’t affect the quality of universities at all.

WK: A further problem appears to be that most universities aren’t just ambivalent towards hiring lecturers who have had ‘real world experience’, they are actively hostile to the practice. Fair?

JA: In law, I’ve always thought you want some people with ‘practitioner experience’ and that’s what law schools used to be like. They’re still like that in a lot of the top US and Canadian schools. The problem here is the ‘one-size-fits-all’ on steroids approach. Australia is terrible in this regard. Everything has to run on the ‘science model’, and in the science model, all the people who are at the top have doctorates. It doesn’t matter to university administrators that law is different and that you have the smartest law students going off to clerk at the High Court or become top barristers or win Rhodes Scholarships. If any of these people want to come back and teach law they still have to get a doctorate. Not true in North America. True here. This is credentialism gone mad. Australia is crazy in this way in how they expect a law school to run the way a physics department does.

WK: This ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is driven by administrators, so let’s examine them. You once said that a moderately numerate Year 11 student could do the job almost as well as most of Australia’s Vice-Chancellors. Expand.

JA: I stand by that! Australia has the highest-paid university Vice-Chancellors in the world. VCs at the top-eight Australian Unis are making upwards of $1.4 or $1.5 million. The army of DVCs make over half of that again. Don’t you think it’s weird that our VCs are making double or triple what the President of Harvard is making? We have these enormous bureaucracies that are incredibly highly paid and they enforce this rigid bureaucratic and for that matter political orthodoxy. For example, I think ‘welcome to and acknowledgement of country’ rituals are patronising, condescending virtue-signalling. Full stop! No one ever says, ‘I stole your land so come and take my house!’ But, you simply couldn’t get a uni administration job unless you’re prepared to mouth those words on a daily basis. But hey, if you don’t stand up for the national anthem, you’ll probably be applauded for taking a stand… Well not literally. You get my point!

WK: You’ve been teaching university students since 1989. How have they changed over that time?

JA: I’ve taught all over the world, and something which we often forget is how different university life in Australia is compared to other parts of the Anglosphere. In the US, Britain, Canada, and even New Zealand, the vast majority of people send their kids to a university away from their home. In Canada, if you grow up in Toronto, odds are you go to university somewhere else. In Britain, you leave high school and you move into residence somewhere and receive the benefit of learning what it’s like to be an independent person. In Australia, if you’re from Sydney and you’re a top student, you go to a certain university, and if you’re not quite top you go to another, and then work your way down the hierarchy from there.

So, in addition to not giving students that broader life experience, it means there’s no competition between say, the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney and the University of Queensland for the best students. That’s a real problem.

However, an indirect benefit of this is that the sort of radicalisation of the student body that has taken place overseas is not nearly as bad in Australia because all the students are living at home and just commuting in and out. They commute in for a couple of hours each day and then go home. It’s just harder to radicalise students who are rarely on campus! But by and large, I think it’s a shame. There is no campus life. If any of my students go on exchange for six months to North America or Britain they come back and say how much fun they had, and how different that it was to Australia. It doesn’t need to be this way.

WK: And I imagine Covid has just made this phenomenon even worse?

JA: Well, yes, the thuggish and illiberal governmental response to Covid made near on everything worse, including life on universities. It’s very clear from studies and surveys that students don’t like online learning and they don’t learn anything. They won’t turn their microphones on half the time. Zoom is a disaster for universities. It’s accelerated grade inflation, cheating, and lot more negative trends. And a separate but related point is students are no longer interested in learning, they are interested in the marks. And in a way, I don’t blame them. We put a lot more pressure on kids regarding jobs, and specifically the need for a job or internship whilst they are still studying.

I speak to kids on their first day of university who are already worried about what internship to get, or what grad role to get. It’s a prerequisite to a lot of the grad schemes now [an internship], but I think it would be better for students if we encouraged them to put less time into outside jobs and work and put more time into their studies. But that’s a hard message to sell when law firms are hiring students in their first year of university. And the funny thing is that a lot of the time these firms are getting students who aren’t terribly well-educated – in Australia (not Canada or Britain or the US) we cover noticeably less content because so many students have near-on full-time jobs on the side and so expectations of what they can read have to go down. And then the law firms complain about the quality of graduates. Look, it’s partly their fault!

WK: How would you fix the tertiary sector in Australia?

JA: Well the first thing I would do is get rid of grants for everything but the hard sciences. Do this and you completely defund research exercises that cost tens and tens of millions of dollars and just produce often meaningless information. A grant is an input. It’s money you get to produce something. What matters is the output! In Australia, we measure the input, not the output. Then I’d eliminate or defund the entire ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ bureaucracies from universities as some US States now are. These are ‘bullsh*t’ jobs that make universities worse, not better, and that deal in group rights and equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity.

Once I had sorted out that ‘low hanging fruit’, I’d send my entire fictional Liberal party room to Florida and tell them to copy what Ron DeSantis is doing in terms of standing up in the battle of ideas against illiberal Woke types. We need more courageous leaders like that in Australia, both inside and outside of universities.

WK: James, thanks for speaking to The Spectator Australia.

JA: Thanks Will.


Greens slammed for ‘confusing’ stance on housing amid crisis

Greens politicians are opposing thousands of new homes across Queensland electorates – and encouraging their constituents to do the same – despite campaigning for more development to ease the state’s housing crisis.

The federal Greens’ opposition to the housing projects sparked accusations from Labor that the party is confusing its electorate by saying one thing and doing another.

But Greens Housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather accused Labor of becoming “a lobby group for property developers” who did not want to provide affordable homes.

It is part of the ongoing impasse over the Albanese government’s Housing Australia Future Fund, which Labor says will create 30,000 new homes a year but the Greens say does not do enough and it will not support without rental caps.

Greens Griffith MP Mr Chandler-Mather has petitions on his website opposing a 220 unit retirement village at Birdwood Rd, Holland Park, two 24-level high-rises at 297 and 281 Montague Rd, West End, which would create 470 apartments, and the Bulimba barracks redevelopment which would create 855 new homes.

Ryan MP Elizabeth Watson-Brown is opposing a development at Kooya Rd, Mitchelton, which would turn a chicken farm into 91 housing lots. Brisbane MP Stephen Bates has raised issue with a 24-level building in McDougall St, Milton, intended to create 50 apartments, and two towers of 16 and 19 storeys at 310 Macarthur Ave, Hamilton Reach, which would create a 217 apartments and 11 townhouses.

It adds up to a potential of about 1900 homes.

Labor Queensland Senator Murray Watt said in the middle of the housing crisis the Greens were calling for more housing but also campaigning against just that.

“Communities must feel confused that the Greens political party are knocking on their door calling for more housing investment at the same time as they are actively campaigning against new housing developments,” he said.

Mr Chandler-Mather said he had written to the state Planning Minister Steven Miles suggesting 15 locations in Griffith which could be suitable for public housing but had not heard back.

“Every piece of land lost to luxury apartment towers no one can afford is another piece of land we can’t build good medium-density public and affordable housing for teachers, nurses and other workers who otherwise couldn’t afford to live in the inner city,” he said.

“Labor are resorting to these pathetic attacks because they know that their plan to spend just $500m on social housing while they’re spending over $30bn a year on the Stage 3 tax cuts is indefensible.

“The Greens have secured a one-off $2bn for public housing going out the door right now, and now we are trying to negotiate with Labor to lock in $2.5bn every year for public and affordable housing and a cap and freeze on rents.”

State Greens housing spokeswoman Amy McMahon said the Greens wanted high-quality, centrally located public housing builds.

“Labor’s just trying to let developers build high-end towers in flood plains. Queensland, just like the rest of Australia, desperately needs a mass build of public and genuinely affordable housing, and that’s exactly what we’re fighting for,” she said.

Meanwhile, Greens councillor Trina Massey emailed residents urging opposition to the Kurilpa temporary local planning instrument proposed by the LNP council. The council has said the TLPI will increase housing in the Kurilpa region with a two-year suspension of usual regulations to allow residential buildings in some parts of that area to reach the 274m aviation height limit.

Ms Massey said in the newsletter it would add to the housing crisis as 90-storey towers would take three times as long to build as the 30-storey current limit, while inflating rent due to property speculators.

She said she supported medium and high-density development that would create “liveable and healthy habitats with sufficient green space and public infrastructure”.

“The TLPI isn’t a development, it’s an undemocratic tool that throws out current development plans and will deliver no affordable or public housing,” she said.

Federal Housing Minister Julie Collins has urged Greens MPs and senators to “get out of the way” of the Housing Australia Future Fund so more affordable and social housing can be built.

“We want to be seeing a lot more of these. If our Housing Australia Future Fund gets through the Senate, we’ll be able to invest half a billion dollars each and every year in perpetuity in more of these projects right around the country,” she said.


Peta Credlin: Labor’s net zero fantasy will wreck our future

When it comes to energy costs and climate change, too many Australians have come to believe the lies peddled for the best part of two decades by both sides of politics. We’ve been told that there’s a climate emergency so therefore the economy must be decarbonised at breakneck speed.

But that there’s no need for worry because doing so will actually save us money, as wind and solar (supposedly) are now the cheapest way to generate electricity.

Peak deception was Labor’s pre-election modelling purporting to show that meeting its emissions reduction targets would create 604,000 jobs by 2050, and spur $76 billion in investment, as well as reduce household power bills by $275 a year by 2025.

Last week, it was revealed that some customers’ power bills had soared by 45 per cent from July 1, to cover the costs of building new generation and infrastructure, plus the rising cost of gas.

The reality in NSW is that all the big three electricity retailers have just increased their average charges by over 20 per cent, or about $500 per household per year.

This is what happens when our power grid is run to reduce emissions rather than to produce affordable and reliable electricity.

Also last week, it was revealed that the cost of meeting the Albanese government’s net zero target, including 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 with 82 per cent of electricity from renewable sources, would be $1.5 trillion – that’s TRILLION – within the current decade, rising to $9 trillion by 2060.

To put these truly gargantuan figures into perspective, Australia’s annual GDP is currently about $2 trillion. So achieving the 2050 emissions reduction – which both sides of politics have signed up to – will cost about four years of our total economic production. And achieving Labor’s 2030 target will cost almost one year of production within the current decade.

What’s more, these cost estimates aren’t from sceptics trying to scare Australians out of the policies supposedly needed to combat climate change.

They were published this week by an expert climate advocacy group, Net Zero Australia, a collaboration of interdisciplinary teams from the universities of Melbourne and Queensland, plus Princeton University in the US, led by Professor Robin Batterham, a former chief scientist.

He says that the magnitude of what’s necessary and desirable (at least in his mind) would be “in line with the US-led Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II”.

Labor has now legislated to enshrine its 2030 target in law, but making something legally mandatory doesn’t mean that it will happen in practice.

As the former boss of Snowy Hydro, Paul Broad, said recently, achieving Labor’s emissions goals “is not just looking impossible, it IS impossible, it cannot be done”.

He said that we are “blindly charging on, simply because of political ideology” and that “to suggest that all of this is going to be at a price point that reflects past prices is absolutely false”.

Other experts, such as former Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott, Engie Australia boss Rik De Buyserie, and Origin Energy boss Frank Calabria essentially agreed with Broad, only in more restrained language, doubtless due to the fear of retribution from a minister and a government that’s still insisting that the impossible is achievable.

Meanwhile, an Ipsos poll, showing that cost of living should trump climate, highlights the government’s political quandary.

Concern about cost of living is now at the highest level in the past decade.

Yet even though it’s the cost of power that’s rising fastest, largely driven by climate policy, Ipsos found that 65 per cent believe Australia should be “doing more to address climate change” and 61 per cent say that Australia should be “a global leader in emissions reduction”.

Go figure.

When reality collides with the myth assiduously created by weak or fearmongering politicians over decades, sooner or later a crisis ensues. Even people inclined to subscribe to the “need to do something about climate” view now think we face a slow-motion train wreck – a power system that is neither affordable nor reliable but that is inevitable under current government policy.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is slowly trying to draw attention to the looming disaster but is still not prepared clearly to state the obvious, at least not yet: namely; that no more coal-fired power stations can close until there’s a reliable alternative, that new gas fields need to be developed as a matter of extreme urgency, and that – if achieving net zero really is necessary – the only way to get there without wrecking our prosperity is via nuclear energy.


Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM -- daily)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


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