Diarist-at-large Richard Ackland flys about the nation. By Richard Ackland.

Heroes of the Justice League

We need to get up to speed on the activities of the International Tribunal for Natural Justice – a seriously neglected outfit fighting in your corner to “protect and defend the natural rights of all peoples and all sovereign beings everywhere”.

Importantly the “chief justice” of the ITNJ is Norfolk Island barrister and member of the Melbourne bar Sir John Walsh of Brannagh, Duke of Ronceray, etc. The tribunal currently has two cases on its books – one against the Republic of South Africa, which is accused of impersonating a lawful republic, and the other against the Commonwealth of Australia, where a child protection organisation is seeking a declaration that the Family Law Act is a “direct breach” of the UN convention on the rights of the child.

So far it’s been slow progress, particularly with the Republic of South Africa, which doesn’t want to appear to answer the allegation that it is impersonating itself.

None of which is to take away from the fine work of the ITNJ’s international board of trustees, which include: Dr Nancy Ash, a “modern day mystic ... and Oneness advocate”; Justin Deschamps, a physics, psychology and spirituality student in search of the “truth”; Caleb Skinner who has “a great deal of interest in developing out a world where the person stands in the middle of the circle, not the edge”; and Sacha Stone, who founded the New Earth Nation, “the world’s most fully integrated movement for sustainable, sovereign and self-determining communities”.

Despite this collection of talent, all is not well with the tribunal. There’s dissension in the ranks and the founding members from the United States have jumped ship.

There are allegations about money. Sir John denies running up expenses for a trip he and Lady Walsh took to Britain.

The Americans also want a powerful grand jury model rather than one where the final word comes from a “judge”. Members of the US team are nonetheless continuing their mission through other organisations, the Natural Justice Academy and Adventures Into Sovereignty.

There’s a lot of fun to be had standing in the middle of the circle.

1 . Meaning constitutional

It was pleasing to see Chris Kenny, leading constitutional law authority and scribbler for The Catholic Boys Daily, making an important contribution to the refugee debate.

Prof Kenny was slapping down state premiers, such as Victoria’s Daniel Andrews and New South Wales’s Mike Baird, for saying they can take the refugees that Peter Dutton and the Turnbull government want to return to Nauru after getting the all clear from the brains trust on the High Court.

Kenny tweeted: “On Viewpoint tonight I’ll also explain why state premiers ought to re-read the constitution and quit their virtue signalling on refugees”.

Strong stuff, but blow me down if a couple of rank amateurs didn’t enter the fray.

Simon Evans, a professor at Melbourne Law School and pro-vice chancellor, along with Cheryl Saunders, a laureate professor emeritus from the same law school, who slaved in the constitutional boiler room, started tweeting impertinent disagreements with Prof Kenny.

Evans said that the constitution is no obstacle to Daniel Andrews’ proposal to accept responsibility in his state for asylum-seeker children and their families.

Kenny replied with his razor sharp analysis: “federal power prevails ... as you know”. Simon even tried to contradict that: “to be clear – it is not federal power that prevails. It is federal legislation to the extent of any inconsistency.”

Cheryl added: “The Constitution will reveal that the provision of services, including to immigrants, is largely a state function.”

Someone else butted in that Simon Evans should realise he’s “arguing with a ham sandwich”.

It’s mystifying why these people think they can contradict someone of the learning and eminence of Chris Kenny, whose record of excellence even extends to championing the splendour of the Iraq war.

Fortunately, Tuesday’s editorial in the Daily delivered a brilliant squelch to Melb Uni’s upstarts: “NSW premier Mike Baird should follow his father Bruce into federal politics if he wants a say in border control and immigration.”

2 . The Quiet Achiever

Last Saturday our favourite prime minister strode into the Wombat Hollow Forum in NSW’s Southern Highlands, squeezing the flesh of the well-padded and amply-beamed bankers and plutocrats decked out in neatly pressed check shirts.

Most people arrived at Michael Yabsley’s property by car, including the PM. Dick Smith arrived in a helicopter.

Malcolm had no idea in some cases whose hand he was shaking, but no matter: they were all fans.

Local artist John Olsen presented a painting showing Turnbull in a small boat being chased by a shark.

The PM’s speech was curious. The “tax take” would not be increased (squeals of delight all around) and the proper place for babies was Nauru (great news).

Of course, we all live in exciting times and our problems are nothing compared to our opportunities.

Consequently, there’s no need to put any strategies in place; anything too heavy might split the party.

It’s beginning to feel like the Menzies era. Everything is going along calmly in a warm and mushy vacuum and sleeping dogs are snoozing comfortably. The hottest thing on the market is the collected speeches of Warren Truss.

3 . Private Wilson

It’s gratifying that Attorney-General Bookshelves Brandis has cleared up a lingering doubt about Freedom Boy, Tim Wilson.

There had been concern that the Human Rights Commissioner had been attending Liberal Party events and fundraisers – precisely the issue that dogged commissioner Dicey Heydon.

Indeed, there was an occasion in August last year when the party faithful coughed up $40 for cocktail food at the Moonee Ponds San Lorenzo restaurant to hear Freedom Boy talk about the “future of rights in Australia” (drinks at bar prices).

Senator Penny Wong put a question to Bookshelves on notice: “Has the Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Tim Wilson, attended any Liberal Party fundraisers since his appointment other than ‘An evening with Tim Wilson’ hosted by the Liberal Party’s Essendon SEC on 11 August 2015; if so can details be provided, including the date, description and ticket price of each function?”

Bookshelves replied: “Mr Wilson has not attended any Liberal Party fundraising events in his capacity as Human Rights Commissioner. He has attended a number of Liberal Party events in a private capacity, as a guest of his partner.”

Attending a Liberal Party event in a private capacity is just the ticket for independent commissioners on the government’s payroll. Why can’t someone find the Boy a safe spot on the party’s senate ticket and put an end to the pretence?

4 . Chronicles of Ruddock

There’s been a lot of criticism of Philip Ruddock’s appointment as a human rights ambassador with the daunting task of securing Australia a spot on the UN’s Human Rights Council.

I won’t hear a word of it. For a minister in the Howard government to describe the six-year-old boy Shayan Badraie, ailing and traumatised at the Villawood detention centre, as “it” took special pluck.

5 . Beer judging

Gadfly is delighted to announce that the former solicitor-general of Tasmania, Leigh Sealy, SC, has brewed what he describes as a “nuptial stout for mature gentlemen”, which he has called “Nettle’s Best”.

It was to commemorate the recent wedding of Victorian Supreme Court judge Peter Vickery, a close friend of High Court justice Geoffrey Nettle.

One suggestion was that the fermentation be described as being of assistance to the mature gentleman in his discharge of conjugal duties – but that wouldn’t fit on the label.


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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 13, 2016 as "Gadfly: Heroes of the Justice League".

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Richard Ackland is The Saturday Paper’s legal affairs editor. He publishes

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