Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Committee of Privileges releases legal considerations


The Committee of Privileges has agreed to the request of Australian Greens Senators Bob Brown and Christine Milne and today released their lawyers’ submissions on the referral about allegations originating from Liberal Senators Eric Abetz, George Brandis and Helen Kroger alleging corruption.

The case has already led to Senator Brandis SC, Senator Abetz’s key co-accuser, recusing himself from the committee, after Senator Brandis was described in the submissions as an ‘accuser’ who made ‘highly prejudicial and adverse comments’ with the inescapable conclusion that Senator Brandis was involved, directly and indirectly, in the complaint, and who ‘had a duty to disqualify himself’ for any participation in the Committee proceedings.

Senators Brown and Milne are represented by Ron Merkel QC, Frances Gordon, and Hobart solicitor Roland Browne, who have made it clear that an adverse finding may be challenged in the High Court. Costs are being sought.

The advice is that (extracts from the submission):

• The motivation for, and bona fides of, the Kroger letter and Senator Kroger’s motion of 24 November 2011 must be seriously questioned;

• The material before the Committee does not disclose any allegation that warrants investigation;

• The Kroger letter makes highly selective and inaccurate use of the sources relied upon;

• Neither Senator Kroger, nor her supporters and co-accusers in this endeavour, Senators Abetz and Brandis, have any material upon which to formulate any particulars;

• There is no case to answer of contempt or breach of privilege whatever standard of proof is applied;

• If the conduct the subject of the referred matter were capable of constituting contempt as is alleged, then the acceptance of any significant donation by a political party in circumstances where a Member asks a question in Parliament that relates to an area of policy in which the donor has an interest could be perceived to be a contempt of the Parliament. This proposition need only be stated to reveal its absurdity;

• The way in which this matter has proceeded and the contrast drawn with the other matters can undermine the integrity of the Senate’s process for dealing with matters of privilege and demonstrates the extent to which the process has been unfair to Senators Brown and Milne. At no point was that unfairness more apparent than when it became clear that journalists, but not Senators Brown or Milne, had had advance warning of the Kroger motion. The Senators await the Committee’s findings on this matter;

• The President should take adequate time and receive independent legal advice in the assessment of a request for precedence. In the usual course the President should also seek a response from the persons subject of privilege-related complaints;

• There should be an urgent review of the Senate’s procedures in contempt or privileges matters.


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  1. john hayward

    March 6, 2012 at 9:45 am

    I seem to recall the Libs getting a $50,000 donation from the logging industry just before they appointed Abetz as the Fed Forestry Minister.

    Does Eric’s fundamentalism confer some immunity from venal motives?

    John Hayward

  2. Garry Stannus

    March 3, 2012 at 11:49 am

    I’ve had a look at the documents, at the Abetz, Brandis and Kroger case and at Bob’s and Christine’s responses. I don’t see that there is actually any evidence in support of the claims. It is a flimsy, repetitive case, not founded on evidence and reason, but on cynicism and the tactic of repeating an unfounded accusation in the hope that the more that it’s repeated, that it will somehow become true, or be seen to be true.

    The allegations are unconvincing.

  3. Barnaby Drake

    March 2, 2012 at 9:18 am


    #5.’Given the fact that Graeme Wood is engaged in the ownership of the Triabunna facility and has very strong views on forestry it is at least worth a look, no?’

    Could it not be that Graeme Wood agrees with Bob Brown and wishes him to be able to finance his stance of preserving the forests. That was the reason he bought Triabunna in the first place. He is not asking for favours, he is supporting someone he thinks is doing the right thing. He recognises there are very few politicians who are prepared to stand up for the people in their fight against endemic corruption, and Bob Brown is one of those few.

    But when casting aspersions, you should also consider that Eric Abetz also has ‘strong views’ on Forestry and also received donations. His problem is the Bob Brown’s were larger than his!

    However, the main difference is, that the donation to Abetz was from Gunns, who definitely did expect favours, and apparently got them! The whole of the Liberal Party has been rooting for them ever since. Maybe that is what should be before the Privileges Committee?

    But what are these favours that Graeme Wood is supposed to have received? His ambition is to save the environment for the people of Tasmania!

  4. Barnaby Drake

    March 2, 2012 at 2:13 am

    Wasn’t it Eric Abetz who was campaigning to raise the limit of political donations before having to declare the source?

    If the donation had gone to him and not the Greens, would he have put himself before the enquiry.

    Is this not the same party who received a $50 000 donation from Gunns shortly after he was moved to the Senate?

    What’s his case?

  5. Karl Stevens

    March 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Comet 6. If each state has equal opportunity to protect its interests then why are we the poorest state, the unhealthiest state and the least educated state? With 7 million people there is a bigger talent pool than with half a million. Your defence says 7 million people equals half a million. What’s Tasmania suppose to do? Hire smart senators from bigger states?

  6. Comet

    March 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    #2 – I think you clearly miss the point of the Senate. It was designed deliberately so that each State had equal opportunity to to protect its interests.

    You state that Australia is a democracy and that is why Tasmania should only have 1 senator. Democracy is the rule of the many for the many to protect the interests of the poor, not the rich. That is why Tasmania is allowed an equal number of senators for 500k people over NSW’s 7m people.

    The House of Representatives will give you your proportional representation. As NSW is the largest state, there are bound to be more NSW MPs in the Federal HoR than Tasmania. There are 48 Federal seats in NSW and 5 in Tasmania. There’s your population based representation.

  7. bob palendrome

    March 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    The fact remains that Bob Brown accepted $1.68M from an individual for his election campaign. It is the largest donation in Australian political history.

    Surely you would expect a favour or two for that much money? or at least a pretty good hearing.

    Given the fact that Graeme Wood is engaged in the ownership of the Triabunna facility and has very strong views on forestry it is at least worth a look, no?

  8. Karl Stevens

    March 1, 2012 at 9:41 am

    phill Parsons 3. Plenty of countries in the world that do not have proportional representation and are therefore not ‘democracies’. Sadly Australia does not have proportional representation and is not a democracy. Honesty is very difficult for most people. They often never achieve it in a lifetime.

  9. phill Parsons

    March 1, 2012 at 9:25 am

    A Senate SKAPP writ. Who are the thinktank working on such tactics?. They need to be exposed and retired for incompetence.

    #2 suggests a simple change to the constitution to make the Senate representative of the largest State in a Federation. I dont think the States with a lesser number of residents will easily acceed if the major parties were to agree to alter the levels of their parliamentary members.

    A costometer. Could you imagine it. One in the lower and one in the upper house, one at the local school and one at the hospital and one over every desk or workbench. I thought we were past 1984.

  10. Karl Stevens

    March 1, 2012 at 12:52 am

    I’ve been a bit tough on Senator Brown recently due to the fact each Tasmanian Senator only represent 0.18% of the total Australian electorate. I should spread the responsibility evenly because Senator Abetz only represents 0.18% of the total national electorate himself. The once tiny flaw in our Constitution has turned into a gaping, ulcerous wound. After all, Tony Abbott defeated Malcolm Turnbull by 1 vote and this could easily have been cast by a Tasmanian Senator representing a minuscule 0.18%. If the Greens really are a party of ‘social justice’ then could we please have a renunciation of the totalitarian senate gerrymander? I know humble pie is hard to eat but the country is heading for complete social meltdown followed by foreign ownership unless somebody in the country gets real. If NSW has 12 Senators for 7 million people then Tasmania should have 1 senator for half a million. I know its tough but if you want to call Australia a democracy then that’s the way democracy is played. If Senators Abetz and Brown disagree with me then maybe they could join each others party.

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