Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Lawyer X scandal rocks Victoria

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has called a royal commission into Victoria Police following revelations a barrister for high-profile Melbourne criminals leaked information to police for several years. On Monday the Herald Sun reported ($) that criminal barrister “Lawyer X”, who represented organised crime figures such as Tony Mokbel and Pat Barbaro, informed on clients to police between 2005 and 2009. In a scathing judgement on Monday, the High Court authorised Victoria’s Department of Public Prosecutions to notify some convicted criminals their cases may have been tainted. The High Court called Victoria Police’s conduct “reprehensible” saying that “the prosecution of each convicted person was corrupted in a manner which debased fundamental premises of the criminal justice system”. In a letter published by The Age, Lawyer X said they “became aware of high-level drug trafficking, money laundering, witness tampering, firearm offences and a variety of other serious criminal activity” in 2005, and has “been forced to live day to day with a degree of hyper-vigilance and fear” as a result of their informing.

The federal Liberal Party has adopted new rules designed to circumvent leadership challenges against first-term prime ministers. Prime minister Scott Morrison called a surprise party-room meeting on Monday night, where MPs endorsed a rule that elected prime ministers can only be removed by a two-thirds majority of the party room in their first term. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was removed from power in August, dismissed as “absurd” claims from conservatives he was damaging the Liberal brand by speaking out, saying “I'm not a threat to Scott Morrison or anyone”.

Former national security legislation monitor Bret Walker has claimed home affairs minister Peter Dutton was “not up to the job” of overseeing Australia’s national security apparatus. Speaking to Guardian Australia, Walker criticised Dutton’s claim that federal Labor had walked away from a bipartisan approach to national security after dissenting over a proposed bill allowing law enforcement agencies to access encrypted communications. Labor has proposed an interim bill allowing use of the expanded powers for terror and child sex offences, while calling for more time to study the government bill’s likely impacts, including security backdoors into mobile phones and other devices.

And Independent MP Cathy McGowan has introduced a bill establishing a code of conduct and a parliamentary standards commissioner to govern the behaviour of politicians and staff. Speaking on Monday, McGowan said she was “still working on Labor and the government”, while most of the House of Representatives crossbench were likely to vote for the bill. The code would work in tandem with a national integrity commission, the details of which are being negotiated between government, Labor and crossbench MPs. Last week the Australian Capital Territory parliament passed a bill establishing its own integrity commission, which will begin operations in July next year.



“Cathy McGowan’s proposal is not particularly radical. The definition of corruption was modelled on Australia’s most effective state body, ICAC in NSW. And as McGowan said in introducing the legislation, the investigative functions of the commission largely mirror those of an existing body, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, known as ACLEI.”


“Dutton went into the last federal election holding a comfortable margin of nearly six points. Doubtless the ALP’s Linda Lavarch worked hard to unseat him, but the swing against Dutton was outsized and unexpected. Like a number of other insurgencies that cut down leading figures in the hard right of the Liberal Party, such as Andrew Nikolic in Tasmania, the rebellion in Dickson was sparked and fanned by an outside group. GetUp.”


“More than half a decade in the making, Sorry to Bother You is a bright, scathing and surrealist critique of capitalism in the modern world that captures the disaffected zeitgeist – one that didn’t need much revision, Riley says, to remain relevant in 2018. It’s one of the most overtly anti-capitalist films to have hit the screens in recent years – but given its director, that comes as little surprise.”


“The Morrison government frontbencher Sussan Ley says the Liberal party needs to consider adopting quotas to boost female representation in parliament because ‘if you look at our party, the picture tells its own story’.”


“Craig Kelly is all but assured to remain the Liberal Party’s candidate for the safe Sydney seat of Hughes after three moderate-aligned members of the party’s powerful executive decided to abstain from a vote on his future, despite former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull urging them not to.”


“In the past decade or so, there has been an explosion of cairns around the world – in national parks, in the Scottish Highlands, on the beaches of Aruba. Park rangers, environmentalists, and hikers have all become alarmed, to varying degrees. The movement of so many stones can cause erosion, damage animal ecosystems, disrupt river flow, and confuse hikers, who depend on sanctioned cairns for navigation in places without clear trails.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.