by PAUL COLLITS – FOLLOWING the deserved public humiliation of Gladys Berejiklian, all sorts of people whose judgement is normally sound have come out swinging against the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.
I would have thought we were in Blind Freddie territory here – arguing the need for powerful corruption bodies in failed liberal democracies like Australia – but no. Apparently, the case has to be made.
We can readily dismiss the objections of Minns, Dutton, Kean et al. They do what they do for political reasons, and it is in their interests – less obvious with Minns – to defend Berejiklian. And the only way they think they can do this is to attack the corruption umpire.
There was a cartoon by the estimable Johannes Leak depicting lawless ICAC “cowboys” who seemingly don’t get the irony of running lawless politicians out of town. A little like the legendary fictional (and possibly real) Judge Holden of the late Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece Blood Meridian.
I think Johannes is missing bits here. The ICAC officers aren’t really lawless cowboys. They are not evil Judge Holdens.
They are mostly respected career lawyers wedded to pursuing the principles of the democratically created ICAC Act. And they were appointed for a reason. And they do not have limitless powers.
If they did, Gladys would be in jail right about now. They can compel witnesses to appear, but also allow them to “object”, effectively letting them off the hook.
Others have referred to ICAC as a “star chamber”. According to one account: “Star chambers, named after the room in which the court met in Westminster Palace, had their origins in England where they were used to try people too powerful to be brought before ordinary common law courts. Their jurisdiction included forgery, perjury, riots, libel and conspiracy. Parliament abolished them in 1641.”
Ah, conspiracy! They were the days, when normal people knew and understood conspiracies. They were, then, and are now, quite real. They should still be punishable.
People too powerful to be brought before law courts? This is chillingly familiar. We have plenty of them now. And they rule us all.
Modern star chambers operated in Stalin’s Soviet Union and under the former East German leader Erich Honeker. These were real star chambers, which played for keeps. They carted off innocents to be executed.
No, ICAC is no star chamber, as having some historical sense and perspective would make very clear. Ironically, one of the defining marks of a star chamber was and is secrecy.
One of the main complaints against ICAC is that its deliberations are not private. Another mark of the star chamber is its control by the monarch.
ICAC is independent of the monarch, and therein lies its strength and its justification. It cannot put you in prison. Courts do that, still. And you can appeal its findings, as Nick Greiner did and Berejiklian may also do.
Abuse of power? The rule of law? That ICAC is above the law and so dismissive of the rule of law is the position of Chris Merritt of The Australian newspaper and the Rule of Law Education Centre, and perhaps of the Samuel Griffith Society (in member correspondence).
The high-profile lawyer Arthur Moses thinks: “The rights of the citizens were not meant to be infringed. Otherwise, there is a secret police force with coercive powers.”
Not to mention the legendary Graham “Richo” Richardson, who, it might well be argued, allegedly knows a little about corruption in public life.
If someone is described as a powerbroker, I instantly worry about due process and transparent democracy.
After all, Richo’s rule of thumb was “whatever it takes”. He even wrote a book about it. Do we want to listen to someone who thinks that literally anything goes in public life as a source of wisdom about ICAC?
Here is a Sky News headline: “An abuse of power: Calls grow for ICAC reforms following anti-corruption watchdog’s probe into Gladys Berejiklian.”
And this: “Former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson has blasted ICAC following its high-profile investigation into Gladys Berejiklian, arguing corruption allegations should be a job for the police and to ‘just get rid of the bloody thing’.”
Finally, star chamber wise, there is Peter Van Onselen. He was writing in 2014, lamenting the “besmirching of reputations” that he took to be ICAC’s main thing.
Whereas I thought its thing was to investigate allegations of corruption. With very few exceptions, you would be hard pressed to find a modern politician from a ruling class Party that needed any help in besmirching her or his reputation. (PVO also thought that Arthur Sinodinos was the best minister in the Abbott Government).
Let’s talk about the rule of law and the abuse of power, foundational principles of Western liberal democracy.
Only someone comatose could continue to hold that the political systems of Australia and its States remain based on any semi-sane notion of the rule of law.
Writing in The Spectator Australia, Roco Loiacono asked: “Can the rule of law be saved? Governments are trashing the fundamental tenets.”
He wasn’t referring to ICAC, either.
We now live in an era of untrammelled government power, executive mission creep, toothless parliaments, secret surveillance and rule by unelected officials.
Not to mention the outsourcing of public policy on a grand scale to private consultants, false narrative construction, States literally run by unelected lobbyists and the total abandonment of fiscal rectitude – with our money.
To further make the point, we also have governing without mandate, log rolling gone mad, routine outrages against individual rights, toothless (and woke) Human Rights Commissions, military police forces, a one-Party state (Lib-Lab) in which whole swathes of the electorate are utterly unrepresented.
In short, we are subject to the Deep State. Am I getting warm?
Five concrete examples from administration of the law itself and from government actions should suffice to demonstrate that, yes, we do have a serious problem with the rule of law, and it isn’t ICAC:
- The Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, Kerry Judd, has forced the termination of Justice Geoffrey Nettle’s inquiry into the unsafe prosecutions by VicPol that followed the unlawful use of Lawyer X as a police informant for a decade or so. All utterly illegal. He had thousands of pages of testimony that could have brought corrupt coppers to justice. All waved away by Victoria’s militia in suits. This isn’t only a Victorian problem. When two jurisdictions have DPPs who are unfit for public office, we have a problem with the rule of law. Broadcaster Mark Steyn has repeatedly called the American legal system a “sewer”. I wonder what scatological images one might now assign to our own judicial establishment.
- The same VicPol publicly advertised for complainants against the late George Pell, when at that time there were none. It then set the police onto him, in Operation Tethering. The Victorian system all but condemned an innocent man. On the back of a feminazi campaign against Pell and the whipping up of moral panic about child sex abuse by politicians and their media allies. It was what Frank Brennan has called “a sting”. Other appalling legal cases or the unexplained absence of a rigorous pursuit of justice have resulted in the guilty going free (Chris Dawson) and the innocent being convicted (Lindy Chamberlain, Kathleen Folbigg, David Eastman, or, in the matter of Bruce Lehrmann as close to a conviction as you can get outside a courtroom). Trial by media, and every case a disgrace, an embarrassment. Certainly not the rule of law. Bad, non-legal actors have colonised the judicial process, such that now a speech at the Logies can substitute for a prosecutor’s opening arguments.
- During the COVID non-pandemic, our elected politicians abandoned any semblance of belief in the rule of law. Lockdowns, vaccine mandates, internal border closures, illegal decision-making bodies like National Cabinet, secret decision-making and police brutality reigned. There was no rule of law in Australia during COVID, and the current proposal to outsource public health oversight to the Bill Gates and Chinese Communist Party-funded World Health Organisation will remove any democratic control of public health by Australian citizens. There is no rule of law here. Anyone who thinks there is, is delusional.
- The proposed Orwellian laws relating to misinformation on social media and other platforms will destroy free speech in Australia, by fining tech giants millions of dollars if they do not remove what politicians and government bureaucrats deem to be mis- and disinformation. Government agencies will be exempt from the laws! This is Jacinda Ardern’s Ministry of Truth. There can be no rule of law without free speech, and without the legal right to dissent.
- The forced takeover of the Australian Capital Territory’s (Catholic-run) Calvary Hospital by the ACT “Government” is a blatant abuse of power, beyond any apparent recourse to justice. The arbitrary acquisition of private entities by the State that this action presages cannot be aligned with any sense of the rule of law.
These few examples of Australia’s abandonment of any semblance of a pretence at ruling according to the law and not at the whim of the political elite are merely the tip of a very large iceberg. And people fret about ICAC. Let us get real, here.
Here is Roco Loiacono again: “To say that Australia has sunk into a morass would probably be making a claim for understatement of the year. However, the repeated attacks on the rule of law show just how deep that morass is.
“Probably best represented by the statue of Lady Justice, the rule of law demands that it be applied impartially, objectively and transparently to ensure that everyone is equal before it, thereby not being able to be manipulated to serve the ends of a powerful few. As Margaret Thatcher once famously declared, when this does not occur, the rule of the mob is substituted for the rule of law.
“The whole notion of the rule of law, and the fairness and transparency (ie justice) it demands, seem to have been the real casualties of the Brittany Higgins saga [as per the reference to Bruce Lehrmann above] and the Calvary Hospital takeover.
“These sordid affairs have seen their antagonists captured by identity politics and/or an ends justifies the means mentality, thereby junking long-held ideals of the presumption of innocence, freedom of belief, and even basic fairness.”
Discussions in these debates often invoke the Magna Carta. Magna Carta was issued in June 1215 and was the first document to put into writing the principle that the king and his government was not above the law. It sought to prevent the king from exploiting his power, and placed limits of royal authority by establishing law as a power in itself.
Well, King John could only dream of the limitless powers of the modern “democratic” State. A State that can lie about a “pandemic”, and then simply snap its fingers and destroy every single freedom and right of its people. Every last one. And get away with it.
The corruption is now so endemic, so embedded, that types like Gladys may well genuinely believe they did nothing wrong. The COVID class thinks clearly it did nothing wrong (publicly at least).
The biodigital surveillance State will arrive without anyone thinking there is something deeply wrong about it. It matters when corruption becomes ho-hum, when “they all do it” becomes the default setting for political conduct.
The critics of ICAC need to get some perspective here. Exploiting political power. Limits on political authority. Hmmm. We should never forget that without ICAC, we would never have discovered Gladys’s corruption.
Or, for that matter, Darryl Maguire’s. The law wouldn’t have got them. The critics of ICAC seldom mention Maguire. Not just a weirdo bum.
Fix all this first, then let’s have an argument about ICAC’s powers.
Roger Franklin recently said this of Daniel Andrews: “Why should he apologise for the most recent eruption of Danism? Andrews, as admirers and apparatchiks note with some glee, is Victoria’s supreme and absolute power. Not the courts, not royal commissioners, not the Governor and certainly not the rule of law. Down here beside the Yarra, the law is what Daniel Andrews says it is at any given moment. Underlings and other beneficiaries of his patronage know it too, and as far as outside observers can discern, they act accordingly. Consider as but one example the inquiry into the hotel quarantine mess conducted by retired coroner Jenny Coate, a solid Party girl and onetime member of the Monash University Labor Club, of which Andrews was president. That investigation struck many as an exercise in suppressed curiosity; indeed, it wasn’t until Peta Credlin began turning up at the Premier’s daily COVID press conferences, a rare inquiring mind amongst the stenographers, that the full extent of the debacle’s cost (and who bagged those lucrative security contracts) could be dragged out into the sunlight.
“Such is Andrews’ suzerainity that even the most penetrating sunlight, supposedly the great disinfectant, now elicits no more than the public-stage equivalent of a ‘get lost’ shrug. It is the template for a familiar response, the contempt near palpable.” [emphasis added].
All very true, of course.
But the real problem is that it isn’t just Daniel Andrews that has contempt for the rule of law. He is simply the worst of the current crop.
Every modern Australian government, certainly since COVID and with the sinister globalist agendas they now all share, has all-but-Andrews-level contempt for due process and for the rights we have previously considered sacred.
We-the-people are in a war with our rulers. We need every damned weapon we can find in order to fight back against the State.
If anything, we should be reviewing ICAC with a view to strengthening its powers, not reducing or (God help us) removing them.
We are at an inflection point of history, at that crisis point where any powers that curtail the almost limitless capacity of the all-powerful State to crush individual rights and freedoms on a whim should be welcomed. Before it is all too late.
While ICAC won’t save us from the perils we face, we should, nonetheless, be cheering it on, not bleating about its alleged abuses of power.
Come to think of it, we actually could do with an ICAC for system-wide corruption, for government abuses of power. Now, that would be a sight to behold.
We couldn’t get Gladys and the rest of them for their COVID crimes, but we got Gladys nonetheless. Just as law enforcement finally got Al Capone for tax evasion.
In the meantime, the national Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) commenced operations in Canberra this week past. It already has a potential caseload as long as your arm.PC