*Pic: Tony Abbott … not the only liar …

Dot-joiner Evan Whitton looks at ways of diminishing the number of: 1) Lies told by people in public life, including politicians and judges. 2) People who defraud Australia.

The current Australian Prime Minister, A. J. (parp parp) Abbott, a lawyer, seems to blurt lies almost reflexively: no cuts to health, no cuts to ABC SBS, no cuts to education, no change to pensions etc. etc. etc.

Abbott is of course not the only liar in public life.

In the US, the penalty for lying in office is supposed to be five years in the slammer. Perhaps we need something like section 1001 of Title 18 of the US Code. It states:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—

(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;

(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or

(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years …

(Interestingly, subsection (b) seems to assume that trial lawyers lie, and specifically lets them out. It says: Subsection (a) does not apply to a party to a judicial proceeding, or that party’s counsel, for statements, representations, writings or documents submitted by such party or counsel to a judge or magistrate in that proceeding.)

Something like Section 371 of Title 18 of the US Code would also be useful, but in a different way. Elizabeth de la Vega, a former federal prosecutor, noted in The White House Criminal Conspiracy (The Nation, November 14, 2005) that s.371 “prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States”.

Vega wrote: “The Supreme Court has defined the phrase ‘conspiracy to defraud the United States’ as ‘to interfere with, impede or obstruct a lawful government function by deceit, craft or trickery’ …
“ … proof that [two or more people] were conspiring requires a comparison of their public conduct and statements with their conduct and statements behind the scenes. A pattern of double-dealing proves a criminal conspiracy …

“ … ‘fraud’ is broadly defined to include half-truths, omissions or misrepresentation; in other words, statements that are intentionally misleading, even if literally true.”

A number of people sought to defraud the United States by inventing lies to give them an excuse for a criminal war against Iraq. Vega wrote: “From the fall of 2001 to at least March 2003, the following officials, and others, made hundreds of false assertions in speeches, on television, at the United Nations, and to Congress: President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his Under Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz. Their statements were remarkably consistent and consistently false.”

In the event, none of those people went to prison for lying in office and defrauding the United States.

The question is: what can be done to make sure the law is enforced and crimes are not covered-up?

In Australia, can we think of people who conspire to defraud the country?

Would they include people who donate to – we won’t say bribe; it’s such a nasty word – political parties? Or lawyers, accountants and judges who think up ways of evading tax? Who else?

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Meanwhile, a few bars from Justinian (A Reasonable Doubt For A Reasonable Price) 18 January 2011.

Germaine Greer, mistress of self-parody …

In The Lost Diaries (Fourth Estate Harper Collins, 2010), one of satirist Craig Brown’s targets is Germaine Greer, 72. He says she is the mistress of self-parody; she “can never see the wrong end of a stick without trying to grab it with both hands”.

Another is Tony Blair, lawyer and war criminal. Blair, planning another campaign, diarises: “You know what matters? I’ll tell you what really matters. What really matters; that’s what really matters.

“I said No to complacency in 1997. I said No to complacency in 2001. And so I think to myself, it seemed to work then; so why not say it again now?”

Judge Igor Judge: mediaeval or Tudor?

A View from the Foothills (Profile, 2009) is an important and funny book. It is the first vol of a secret diary kept from 1999 by Chris Mullin, the reporter/politician (Labour) who got the wrongly-convicted Birmingham Six released from prison.

On 20 November 2000, Lord Falconer (later Lord Chancellor) told Mullin that in 1987, shortly before one of the Six’s failed appeals, he came across Judge Igor Judge brandishing a copy of Mullin’s 1986 book, Error of Judgement: The Truth about the Birmingham Pub Bombings.

Judge: Do you know of this man?

Falconer: Yes

Judge: He’s a communist engaged in an assault on the criminal justice system.

Falconer: But supposing he is right?

Judge had no clear answer. That confirmed Mullin’s view that judges can be very clever and very stupid.

Home Secretary David Blunkett complained on 27 November 2002: “It is proving difficult to bring them [the judges] from the medieval to the Tudor.” Judge Judge became Lord Chief Justice in 2008.