Civil Liberties Australiaspacer

Systems Admin


A short history of the sinister City of London Corporation

By Evan Whitton

This is the first of three pieces under the general rubric: England: The Unlucky Country. The other two are short histories of sinister English politics and law. Since we use English law, Australia is also an unlucky country. We inherit our ‘hands off’, untouchables approach to bankers, lawyers, etc – Citymen – from “Mother England”.

England is effectively two countries: England proper and the almost unknown City of London Corporation, referred to here as The City.

Tax expert Nicholas Shaxson wrote in The New Statesman (24 February 2011):

The City’s “elsewhere’ status … stems from a simple formula: over centuries, sovereigns and governments have sought City loans, and in exchange the City has extracted privileges and freedoms from rules and laws”.

ABOVE: Sir John Boothman Studdard, an accountant, was Lord Mayor of the City of London (and Admiral of the Port of London) in 2006-7. Here he waves from the City’s coach.

Lord Glasman, an academic, wrote in The Financial Times (29 September 2014) that the Romans were “the City’s founders”. England was part of the Roman Empire from 43 AD until the empire collapsed on 4 September 476. In the Dark Ages (c. 500-c. 1500), England and West Europe succumbed to superstition.

The City’s “modern period” dates from 1066, when William the Conqueror “came friendly” and let the City keep its ancient rights. Lord Glasman said The City described itself in 1191 as a “commune” which “taxed itself, judged itself and governed itself”.

Magna Carta (June 1215) says: “ … the city of London shall have/enjoy its ancient liberties by land as well as by water..”

The City is said to have financed Henry V’s trip to France in 1415 which resulted in his surprise win at Agincourt.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), The City began to use a lobbyist/enforcer, the Remembrancer. I like to think Her Majesty asked him: “Are you the muscle?”

The City was not above treason and murder. Lord Glasman said Stuart kings (1603-88) sought to impose their authority on the City, and that “one [attempt] led to the execution of the king”. The executioner separated Charles I’s head from his body on 30 January 1649.

Lord Glasman said King (1660-85) Charles II also tried to make The City subordinate to the monarchy. For some reason, the City did not get Charles but fixed his brother, James II: he was forced to abdicate in 1688. A Dutchman, Willem of Orange, was imported. He and his wife, May, James’s daughter, became joint monarchs as William (III) and Mary. He was known in Scotland and Ireland as King Billy.

The payoff for The City people came in 1690; they got a new Charter which proclaimed noisily and at length:

“… the mayor, commonalty and citizens of London shall for ever hereafter  … have and enjoy all their rights, gifts, charters, grants, liberties, privileges, franchises, customs, usages, constitutions, prescriptions, immunities, markets, duties, tolls, lands, tenements, estates and hereditaments whatsoever.”

The City seems to have helped to make London what it is. Shaxson said in April 2016:

“London is the epicentre of so much of the sleaze that happens in the world. Usually there will be links to the City of London [Corporation], to UK law firms, to UK accountancy firms, and to UK banks.”

Shaxson noted that The City has “a private fund built up over the last eight centuries, which, among many other things, helps buy off dissent. Only part of it is visible: the Freedom of Information Act applies solely to [The City’s] mundane functions as a local authority or police authority. Its assets are beyond proper democratic scrutiny.”

Queen needs OK to enter

Queen Elizabeth II cannot enter the City without permission.

Shaxson: “She meets a red cord raised by City police at Temple Bar, and then engages in a col­ourful ceremony involving the lord mayor, his sword, assorted aldermen and sheriffs, and a character called the Remembrancer …”

Shaxson said the Remembrancer is “the City’s official lobbyist in Parliament, sitting opposite the Speaker, and is ‘charged with maintaining and enhancing the City’s status and ensuring that its established rights are safeguarded’.” The Remembrancer’s office “watches out for political dissent against the City and lobbies on financial matters”.

After 2000 years, the secret and sinister City tells us much about England…and not a little about Australia.


Evan Whitton studied History at the University of Queensland, and won the Walkley Award for Journalism five times. The text of his eighth non-fiction book, Our Corrupt Legal System, can be seen at a section of a site run by legal academic Dr. Bob Moles:

BACKGROUND: The City is known as the ‘Square Mile’. It is 1.12 sq mi (2.90 km2). Throughout the 19th century, the City was the world’s primary business centre. London came top in the Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index, published in 2008. The City has a resident population of about 7000 (2011) but more than 300,000 people commute to work there, mainly in the financial services sector. The legal profession forms a major component of the northern and western sides of the City, especially in the Temple and Chancery Lane areas where the Inns of Court are located, of which two—Inner Temple and Middle Temple—fall within the City of London boundary.

Court out by sexism

 Posted by on 12 February 2017  No Responses »

By Ben Aulich*

At the end of the American presidential election, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Relief, that I can stop hearing about it. It’s bad enough hearing the rhetoric of our own politicians, but having to go outside our borders to hear more seemed too much.

I was surprised, however, to understand the negative effect the result had on many of the lawyers at my firm, in particular the female lawyers.

After expressing my surprise at the result to one of my female Senior Associates, I was met with the answer, “Why would you worry about the result? You are a white, middle class male.”

There it was…’male’. I immediately thought to myself, “What difference does my gender make to how I feel about the result?” It’s 2017, and there are good numbers of females in our profession.

The comment however, gave me cause to think a little more about the situation for females in the legal profession, and to conduct my own “Google” and anecdotal research. In Canberra, we have 2 of 5 judges who are female (including the Chief Justice), and 4 of 7 Magistrates (including the Chief Magistrate) who are female. It all seemed OK.

However, it appears our profession may not have its house in order about this issue like I first thought. The statistics show that in Australia, female lawyers, on average, earn approximately 64% of what male lawyers do. A pay gap of over 35% is not an enviable one.

Every one of my female lawyers had a sexist horror story:

  • clients focusing solely on their chests,
  • clients ordering coffee from them as if they were merely in conference for catering purposes, and
  • even a Queen’s Counsel commenting that a female lawyer involvement in a matter was merely to ‘pretty the place up’. Needless to say, there were no more briefs for him.

The most recent story was where a potential client called and demanded to speak to “a man” because he wanted to appeal a decision made by a female Magistrate – partly because he had a problem with women having “that sort of power”. This is not an exaggeration. I refused to take his call or act for him (there are at least some people I am not prepared to act for!).

These are more extreme examples, but my female lawyers have disclosed to me that it is the regular, subtle differences in the way they are dealt with and treated by seemingly intelligent, well-educated people, that highlights a deeply embedded sexism in our profession.

Law firms are generally conservative and inflexible. Being a slave to the billable hour like many law firms are, there is a perception that if lawyers are not in front of their computers or in court, profit will suffer. If this is the mindset, then how on earth are females in the legal profession supposed to compete?

At least 4 of my female lawyers who have children are set up at home, have flexible working hours, early days and days not in the office so that they can manage work around their families. These lawyers are some of the most productive people I have the pleasure of working with.

Of the 13 lawyers we have at our firms, 8 are female, 2 of 4 are directors/partners and 3 of 4 are Senior Associates. We also have 4 of 4 female paralegals and both Practice Managers are female.

We did not structure our workplace like this deliberately, rather those people were the best performers for the role AND we allowed them some flexibility to manage their careers and families. Perhaps, in part, this is why they took the job, and are still with us – some for many years now.

My parents recently visited my offices. A rare visit from them in business hours. As parents seem to do, they formed the view it was most appropriate to ‘inspect’ my workplace, walking each of the 3 floors our offices occupy and meeting our lawyers and staff. They did not say much at all, until my Mum opened a freezer in one of our kitchens. There, she discovered it was full of frozen breast milk. She beamed and said “Good boy, I’m so proud of you”.

I’m sorry if this sounds like I’m preaching, I don’t mean to. In truth, I am not as blameless and progressive in relation to the issue of sexism as I would like.

Sexism is fraught and hard to talk about, so often we don’t. So, if there’s one positive about Donald Trump’s election, it is bringing this issue to the front of my mind.


– * Ben Aulich, Managing Partner, Aulich & Co lawyers, Canberra ACT

(Note: Ben Aulich is a member of Civil Liberties Australia).

This article appeared first in the ACT Bar Association journal.


By a special correspondent

For months before the last federal election in 2016 I was immobilised after surgery and had lots of time on my hands. I began using Facebook (FB), an important, but not the only, means of online communication known as “social media”.

I am writing this short article with people like myself in mind after discussions with some people over a pleasant summertime lunch. People who grew up to value privacy, civil liberties, strong democratic traditions and, in many cases, whose fathers battled fascism in WWII.

So if you are young and reading this forgive my recital of the obvious. Largely, this is for people who don’t know much about FB.

With FB one can accept the “settings” as is, or spend considerable time adjusting for “privacy”. I was surprised at the extent to which many FB “friends” accepted the stock standard settings and exposed themselves (and their FB friends) to open public scrutiny.

I adjusted my settings to ensure maximum privacy and decided early on not to post any personal information or photographs.

What I had to accept in signing up were the most onerous terms giving FB access to my personal details arising from my use of the facility.

”Big Brother” fears of government intrusion into personal life pale in comparison to what we give away to Mark Zuckerberg, FB CEO – and of course any police, security or spy agencies, domestic or foreign, gaining legal or illegal access to the data. FB knows everything. When it’s in use, for how long, what one reads, ones reaction to posts by others and any comment.

If ever our democracy falls to despotism it will be FB and its like that facilitate the round up and internment of dissidents. (But then if you write to newspapers about public issues of controversy or belong to a political party or activist group I guess you are within the sights anyway).

FB has some wonderful features. One can “save” articles for future reading or reference. Post photographs or short videos of public events or demonstrations. Attach You Tube songs to express opinions or just share the joy of music. Be reminded of people’s birthdays.

In the main I made friends on FB with people and colleagues I know in real life. Some friends used the service to engage others with aspects of their real lives – holiday travels, bushwalks, exercise sessions, meals, restaurants and family events. Many however suited me perfectly. They posted articles of interest to me about politics sourced from wide and diverse writers and publishers. I revelled in the free and ready access to news and opinion. I ignored the ads, trending news feeds and suggested posts.

A couple of weeks into my FB wonderment I ventured beyond my friends’ pages and decided to look at Senator Cory Bernardi’s FB page. I was gobsmacked at the raw and inflammatory reactionary articles posted by Bernardi. But what was even more arresting was the “comments” made by those who read his posts.

I was led to organisations, and questions, I had not previously considered. What was the ALA (Australian Liberty Alliance) ? Why were people preferring One Nation to the conservative Liberal/National coalition? What is Reclaim Australia? What is the United Patriots Front? Who are the Soldiers of Odin? What is the Q Society? Why are the commentators so agitated to the point of frenzy about halal foodstuffs, the construction of mosques and the Islamic religion?

Naked hatred

Most striking was the extent of the naked hatred of all things and people Islamic. I was enthralled and horrified as I followed individuals on Bernardi’s FB site to scores of separate FB “hate sites” set up and conducted by shadowy individuals and organisations.

All had a common modus operandi. An inflammatory article, photograph or racist meme was posted and then read and circulated, sometimes by thousands of supporters who signified their agreement with its content by either “liking” it , making a public comment themselves or “sharing” it with their FB friends. A common theme was that Islam is not a religion but an ideology and antipathetic to Western democracy, Christendom and civilisation. As such it deserved no protection under criminal or constitutional law.

Many of the anti-Islamic materials were sourced from US or European and UK organisations. I came across far-right Breitbart News for the first time and Steve Bannon who is now President Trump’s right hand man and ideologue.

A secondary object of derision and hatred were leftists, progressives (and centrists such as Prime Minister Turnbull and President Obama).

What follows are direct quotes from online FB pages made by separate individuals in Australia. I have the screenshots, which I forwarded to the national security authorities, in the hope that someone in those vast organisations were open to the dangers of terrorism from the right. All of the comments are taken over a two-week period in June 2016, so that they are sediments and sentiments from a closed period. I have not included the names of the individuals who made the remarks (but if they are real people and not made up names the police have their mark).

The plethora of continuing hate sites suggests that if anything the neo-fascists, racists and haters are emboldened by the Trump Republican rise to power in the US, the rise of white supremacists and the pending dissolution of the EC with extremists and neo fascists on the verge of power in Europe.

Of the Sudanese in Australia

“…these gutless Sudanese arseholes need to be killed or bashed and deported. NOTHING LESS…”

“Horrible black bastards, they all want shooting”

In relation to mosques

“Burn some more”

“Good stuff burn every single one of the cockroach barracks to the ground”

“Its a cult and all mosques should be burnt to the ground, and a complete ban on approvals for future mosques”

“Demolish the mosque, EASY.”

Of Muslims

“Click click bang no more problems”

“Shoot it”

“Seriously?? WTF!!!!!! These animals should be culled”


“Why didn’t a true patriot get in and open fire what a chance to eliminate three disgusting perverted pedophiles”

“Just bloody shoot them”

“Send the animals and their wives back to wherever comedian (sic) or dump them in the ocean. Who cares. Just destroy the lot.”

“Our govt in Australia and most countries have allowed these human pests to continue. Kill the lot.”

“Get rid of them all. Traitors.”

“Eradication is needed, they are vermin.”

Of opposing politicians, parties, activists (in Australia, UK and USA)

“Guaranteed to be reelected and then entitled to life pension is $150,000 per year for life, shoot the imbecile”

“Fuck the greens, get the guns out”

“well there killing us. its about time we started killing them”

“I would have killed the prime minister but ahwell”

“..want (sic) she should be raped??? I don’t condone this but she could use a wake up”

“Those who defend Islam and who do not stand up and speak out against it have blood on their hands and it’s time they suffer dearly for it.”

“Kill him. Seriously, someone just kill him.”

Of gays

“friends of Q must be friends of Queers right? This is the only good thing muslims do, so let them do it !”

The above-listed threats to burn, murder and rape represent an extreme end of the spectrum of opinion against Islam and the political centre to left who are seen to be their defenders. What was surprising was how many thousands of people participated on these hate sites and how freely they expressed their prejudice, loathing and ignorance.

I followed many of the individuals to their FB home pages where they had privacy settings that enabled me to see their “friends”, their “likes”, the groups or pages they liked, photographs of their families and often their places of employment. Evil can be so suburban and banal.

My one attempt to object to offensive material was rejected by FB (I suspect by an algorithm). I have had no feedback from the police or security services as to what action, if any, has been taken to investigate the threats made online

The extreme end of the spectrum includes people who expressed support for white supremacy and mass racial cleansing. Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer and white supremacist, was nominated as a hero on one FB page and quoted with approval. “We, the first militant nationalists, are the first raindrops indicating that a big storm is coming” 17.12.2012

Artwork of atrocity

I have debated with myself whether to include the attached “artwork” published on the FB page of a neo fascist living in Australia. Again the police have his details.

The stylized and sophisticated artwork is worthy of close study. It is sickening. A white knight is gunning down fleeing children of multiple ethnicities. The bullets are exploding through their chests, spraying and pooling blood in all directions. Shock and horror fill the children’s faces.

What type of person would produce and then publish such atrocity? He walks our streets. What sort of person, in our gloriously diverse multicultural nation, would call for its destruction through mass execution of children and label it “The End of the Era of Multiculturalism”. He walks our streets.

He spreads his poison online, unhindered.

Remember. All that I have quoted above in this article was available on public FB sites. There are private sites and invitation only groups that the neo fascists use to organise their ranks and activity. FB is merely the public outreach; the tool for recruitment, activation and radicalisation.

Do not stand by. Do not be neutral. Neo fascism, nationalism, xenophobia, misogyny, Islamophobia, anti Semitism, bigotry and homophobia are spreading like a cancer through our body politic and the western world. Social media is facilitating its growth. Extremist politicians are using it to directly communicate lies and distortions to their millions of “followers”.

The fight is on. It is not just Islam they are after. It is the very fabric of our community that they wish to tear down.

It is the fight of your life.


Our special correspondent is an Australian uninvolved with social media until physical injury laid him low and opened his mind to some forms of extremism lurking openly online. The danger, he says, is extremism…whether from the left or right, or from religious or anti-religious people: hate fuelled by the simplicity of online expression without responsibility is a dangerous, explosive mixture.

The article poses interesting questions: to what extent are politicians responsible for the material that appears on their Facebook page? Should politicians monitor their Facebook page and remove offensive material and/or links to offensive material?

ENDS article

NewsletterCLA has called on PM Turnbull and AG Brandis to launch a robust, thorough national inquiry into all aspects of the justice-legal sector, which urgently needs to modernise. There has been no better time in recent decades to hold such an inquiry,” CLA President Dr Kristine Klugman said.
New passport-airport technology will mean greater data holdings on all Australians, including facial, iris and fingerprints held in a vast central database. The move comes as even volunteers look like having to undergo extensive vetting to serve for free at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. The battle to try to safeguard our privacy will escalate this year, with CLA moving to bring others into its campaign to create new laws to protect our rights to our genes, and privacy in relation to our genes and dealings with bodies like insurance companies.
In other items:
  • Aboriginal death/jailing rate ‘intolerable’, says Prof Triggs
  • Nudge-nudge: police want rights to ram chased cars
  • CLA launches two-year campaign for Charter of Rights in Tasmania
  • More than 82% of Aussies want a federal anti-corruption body
  • Rights in limbo as Brits Brexit
  • President pardons female domestic violence killer
  • Massacre man pleads for his human rights
  • Police and their friends kill 30 people a day
  • Two countries escalate state executions
  • Re-learning about ‘facts’ and porkies
Click Here for SINGLE COLUMN (read on screen or print out)
Click Here for TWO COLUMN version (to print out & read over lunch or a break)

Mr Malcolm Turnbull                                    Senator George Brandis
Prime Minister                                              Attorney-General
Parliament House                                         Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600                                CANBERRA ACT 2600

Civil Liberties Australia: Australia Day letter 2017                                           26 January 2017

aust-day-2017Regularly, at least every decade or so, industry sectors in Australia come under major reform scrutiny: transport, ports, banking, unions, agriculture, education, etc. National action is taken to make whichever sector is currently under review more efficient, leading to increased national efficiency and savings or increased revenue.

However, a key industry – the justice and legal system – has never been subjected to a national, whole-of-system[1] review aimed at making Australia a more efficient, less costly, more productive, fairer, better, and more just society in relation to its laws and their administration.

We call on you both, as noted lawyers in your own right and as the nation’s leader and first law officer, to launch an independent[2] national inquiry into preparing the Australia justice and legal system for the year 2050 and beyond. We envisage a long-term (perhaps up to 7-8 years) inquiry by a group or groups tasked with investigating individual aspects of the system. There could be up to 10 such panels, we suggest, and they might have an individual “life” of from 1 to 5 years.

Civil Liberties Australia has already specified aspects of the legal and justice system that require significant analysis and change (see CLA’s ‘Better Justice’ initiative, launched 1 Jan 2016, overview document attached). Some of the CLA proposals have long lead times. For example, judicial colleges and universities will need to conceive and design courses by about 2020 so that magistrates can become better qualified with Graduate Diploma degrees, and judges with Masters degrees, by the year 2025.

As well as the CLA proposals, the Chief Justices of Australia are already inquiring into ways that federal and state courts might cooperate, despite limits that appear to be in place due to the federated nature of our legal system.

Law societies and bar associations are also bending their minds to isolated aspects of the system. Other civil liberties and human rights groups, equally, have proposed ideas for improving the system.

A good foundation for such a wide-ranging, future-oriented, national inquiry into systemic issues and opportunities was completed in 2014 by the Productivity Commission, and provided to the Treasurer, Mr Joe Hockey, on 5 Sept 2014 (and released to the public on 3 Dec 2014 [3]). The Commission was astute in identifying some of the traditional millstones holding back a thorough review – in the national interest – of the legal and justice system:

There are widespread concerns that Australia’s civil justice system is too slow, too expensive and too adversarial.

Most parties require professional legal assistance in more complex matters. But the interests of lawyers and their clients do not always align. Reforms to professional regulation are required to ensure clients are better informed and have more options for selecting the tasks they want assistance with, and how they will be billed. Clients should also have independent and effective options for redress when professional standards fall short.

– Access to Justice Arrangements inquiry, Productivity Commission, December 2014

Of course, the innovative investigation, known as the Freedoms Inquiry – requested of the Australian Law Reform Commission by Attorney-General Brandis on 19 May 2014, with the report delivered on 2 March 2016[4] – provides a second foundation for the new national inquiry we are proposing. As the AG said, the Freedoms Inquiry report identifies “where traditional rights, freedoms and privileges are unnecessarily compromised within the legal structure of the Commonwealth”. That structure could be vastly improved, in cooperation with the States.

The PC and ALRC reports comprise the yin and yang underpinning of a once in a lifetime opportunity to create better justice through a better legal structure and system(s) for Australia. There has been no better time in recent decades to hold such an inquiry.

We urge you to make the announcement of a detailed, national inquiry into the justice and legal system either as part of the 2017 Budget process, or before, and to set a target date to start implementing improvements stemming from the national inquiry as of 1 July 2022. Resources committed to such a national inquiry will pay for themselves hundreds of times over during the 50-100 years before such a significant, national infrastructure reform project is likely be repeated.


Yours truly,
Dr Kristine Klugman OAM


Closing Arguements Made in Paul Shanley Child Abuse Trial– Diana Simmons, CLA member, Sydney.

With the vexed issue of false memory dividing legal authorities, courts, social groups and families worldwide, a global expert on the topic spoke in Sydney in January 2017 to a packed auditorium at Sydney University.

With the vexed issue of false memory dividing legal authorities, courts, social groups and families worldwide, a global expert on the topic spoke in Sydney in January 2017 to a packed auditorium at Sydney University.

Professor Elizabeth Loftus (photo) is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology & Social Behaviour, and Professor of Law, at the University of California – Irvine. She has published 23 books and over 500 scientific articles on the malleability of human memory.

Her research mainly involves creating false memories in the minds of people and comparing them to true memories. These studies have shown that we are all susceptible to false memory, even those among us with ‘superior memory’.

In 2008, as a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton told of being under sniper fire during a visit with her daughter to Bosnia in 1996. Videos of the event showed her being greeted by Bosnians and presented with flowers. Strange that such a highly educated person would ‘misremember’ when it was plain that had not happened.

Some ways of contaminating memory are to give the person false information, misidentify a situation, deprive them of sleep, and suggestive questioning.

People can be lead to believe they were attacked by a vicious dog as a child, rescued cats up trees and cheated on a game. In another study where 423 subjects were given false information about a past event in a shopping centre, 30% recalled a ‘rich’ memory of the event and 20% had a ‘strong belief’ that the event occurred.

The ‘lost in the mall technique’ found that an average of one-third of experimental subjects could become convinced that they experienced things in childhood that had never really occurred—even highly traumatic, and impossible, events.

Once planted, ‘false memories’ are similar to ‘true memories’ and can be recalled with intensity and emotionality. False memories are difficult to remove.  Prof Loftus’s research shows that we are a long way from being able to tell true memories from false ones.

Creating a false memory of rescuing a cat I consider benign. However, it is different in criminal cases where it is one person’s word against another and someone’s ‘false memory’ leads to another’s wrongful conviction.

Loftus told of 300 cases of wrongful convictions in the USA where some had spent 25 years in prison. DNA testing has helped further the cause of justice, as has the videotaping of interrogations. Memory therapy costs are not recoverable under Medical Insurance in the USA.

Loftus says she has developed a tolerance of people’s poor recall. Often they are not deliberately lying. However, her take home message is that just because someone tells you something, however intensely, it does not mean it really happened.  You need corroboration of the event, particularly in a court room.

For more information:

Born on the 20th January…

 Posted by on 26 January 2017  No Responses »

Presidential Documents

Proclamation 9570 of January 20, 2017

National Day of Patriotic Devotion

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

2339083A new national pride stirs the American soul and inspires the American heart. We are one people, united by a common destiny and a shared purpose.

Freedom is the birthright of all Americans, and to preserve that freedom we must maintain faith in our sacred values and heritage.

Our Constitution is written on parchment, but it lives in the hearts of the American people. There is no freedom where the people do not believe in it; no law where the people do not follow it; and no peace where the people do not pray for it.

There are no greater people than the American citizenry, and as long as we believe in ourselves, and our country, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2017, as National Day of Patriotic Devotion, in order to strengthen our bonds to each other and to our country—and to renew the duties of Government to the people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortyfirst.


By Bill Rowlings, CEO of Civil Liberties Australia

sml-sq-qui-tam-payouts-usAustralians might soon be paid money for blowing the whistle on crooks ripping off the government and Australian taxpayers.

In a move long promoted by Civil Liberties Australia, crossbench senators engineered recently a deal that could see ‘Qui Tam’ law passed in Australia in 2017.

Qui Tam is basically a legal action which encourages whistleblowing around government waste: people are rewarded with a share of the money saved, or the fines imposed, when they highlight corrupt or fraudulent behaviour by suppliers.

Writing in Fairfax online, Matthew Knott and Georgia Wilkins said the government had agreed to introduce stronger whistleblower protections for both public and private sector workers in a deal with Senate crossbenchers to secure support for one of its double dissolution trigger bills.

A parliamentary inquiry, due to report in the middle of 2017, will examine whether the bounty system that operates in the USA should be introduced in Australia. In 2016, the US government paid almost $5 million to a former BHP Billiton employee for raising concerns about alleged corruption at the mining giant.

In the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission can reward whistleblowers by giving them a share of a fine extracted from a company, with payouts often reaching many millions of dollars.

Instead of being rewarded, private sector whistleblowers in Australia currently have few protections and take large risks in speaking out. They are usually ostracised at least, and frequently lose their jobs and their careers.

See also:

Qui Tam: In common law, a writ of qui tam is a writ whereby a private individual who assists a prosecution can receive all or part of any penalty imposed. Its name is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur, meaning “[he] who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself.” – Wikipedia


In October 2016, what was then the largest drug haul for 2016 was achieved when approximately one tonne of crystal MDMA was saved from entering the community. At the end of December 2016, 500 kilograms of cocaine was halted in NSW and 600 kilograms was intercepted in Tahiti. Most recently a boat was intercepted off the coast of Tasmania carrying 186 kilograms of cocaine (“Arrests follow seizure of cocaine”, Canberra Times, 19 Jan, p14).

No matter the size of drug seizures, the amount of drugs on the streets continually increases. One would think if seizures were having a positive impact that they would decrease over time but data collected by the AFP shows this not to be so. The AFP annual reports state that in 2009-10 drug seizures were 1244.9 kilograms, but in 2015-16 they were 9528.5 kilograms.

Whether so much money should be allotted to a system that is making little real impact surely deserves government attention. Alternative strategies such as decriminalisation and sharing the available resources more equitably with health deserve a trial.

– M. McConnell, CLA member, Giralang ACT

Letter to Senator Xenophon: The article in the Age 161230 describes how whistleblower Brian Hood has had to sell his home because he could not gain further employment after becoming a whistleblower  about behaviour at the Reserve Bank.
He is one of many. It is utterly disgraceful that individuals who are so courageous as to risk everything, including jeopardising their future careers, are so poorly looked after. The article states that in Britain, the head of the Serious Fraud Office, David Green, says that financially rewarding whistleblowers ‘seems slightly distasteful’. (Presumably he has never had to contemplate anything to distasteful, himself.)  His view is contrasted with Mary Jo White, the outgoing chairwoman of the US Securities Exchange Commission, who sees “the advent of the US whistleblower reward and protection program in 2011 as a ‘game changer’ “.
I would advocate the American view, so that whistleblowers are regarded more as ‘quality control’ leaders in our society who do not so much have to fear persecution and financial catastrophe. (When it comes to police who are whistleblowers, I remember reading of one ex-policeman whistleblower about 15 years ago, saying that he would never be safe again.)
I urge you to do everything you can to persuade your whistleblower reform parliamentary committee of the need to protect and reward whistleblowers and to recommend it in their final report.
– Marigold Hayler (CLA member) Darley Vic
Copies sent to:  Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia; Barnaby Joyce, National Party of Australia; Bill Shorten, Australian Labor Party; Richard di Natale, Australian Greens Party

In his letter ‘Matters of life or death’, Greg Cornwell (Canberra Times, 9 Jan 2017) poses a confusing question: “Do people who oppose the death penalty also oppose euthanasia?”

Clearly, the death penalty is a punitive act by the State following a court decision, while euthanasia is a humane option for terminally ill people with no quality of life, to be granted legal endorsement for their right to die with dignity, at a time and place of their choosing, often with medical assistance.

There is no evidence or reason to bind these two life-ending acts into a given endorsement or opposition by the people. Surveys will most likely reveal that many people who oppose the death penalty will support voluntary euthanasia. A humanistic response would demonstrate that there is no contradiction in people who oppose the death penalty, supporting euthanasia

As for Greg Cornwell`s views on the life and fate of life-sentenced prisoners, may I suggest he read “One Hundred and Three” by Henry Lawson..
– Keith McEwan, CLA member, Bonython ACT 

By Prof Ross Fitzgerald

The stark, unpalatable reality is that the numbers of prisoners in Australia grew 8% from 36,134 in 2015 to 38,845 in 2016. This is nothing short of scandalous.

The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world – with fewer than 5% of the world population but about 25% of its prisoners. Yet the US has started reducing the size of its prison population – quite significantly in some states, including Texas. This is because it is evident that there are cheaper, more effective ways to reduce crime.

For example, on 8 November 2016, California voted to tax and regulate cannabis, with much of this revenue allocated to “justice reinvestment”. This involves re-directing money spent on prisons to community-based initiatives that address the underlying causes of crime.

facebook-quotes-nowak-sml-sqHere in Australia there is a growing realisation that large prison populations are very expensive, with severe social costs for the community.

Meanwhile the health of our prisoners and parolees is a cause for considerable concern. Sometimes the health of inmates actually improves while in prison: if they drink less alcohol, smoke less, take fewer drugs, take some exercise, and avail themselves of health care courses while in prison. But these benefits are often not sustained after prisoners are released back into the community.

The denial of Medicare to Australian prisoners means that the benefits of an increasingly integrated community system of electronic health records is not available to prisoners, who often have severe physical and mental health problems. Yet health care in our prisons is actually rationed – in the sense that the supply of health care is much less than is needed.

An illuminating example is treatment for alcohol and drug problems, which are a major factor in recidivism.

Drug and alcohol treatment varies across the country. In NSW, inmates can continue on methadone/buprenorphine for heroin dependence if they are already on it in the community. But, perversely, in prison they cannot start such treatment, which is known to reduce deaths from heroin overdose and to reduce crime.

The sad fact is that prisoners in Australia have high rates of recidivism. My experience during 20 years on the Queensland Parole Board and the NSW State Parole Authority is that this is in large part because of ongoing problems with alcohol and other drugs and also because of the disgracefully high rate of functional illiteracy (and problems with numeracy) among our prisoners and parolees.

Keeping prisoners engaged with their families and community helps reduce recidivism. So, too, do conjugal visits and the ability to be educated in a practical way and to engage with the world outside the prison gates. Yet currently in Australia, people who have been sentenced for more than three years do not have the right to vote in federal elections while they are serving their sentence.

To echo the words of former British Conservative Home Office minister Douglas Hurd, who served in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, “Prisons are an expensive way of making bad people worse”.

State and territory governments in Australia claim to be anxious to reduce spending. Yet we currently spend huge amounts of money incarcerating people at a higher rate than any European country and at a rate that is steadily increasing.

We know how to reduce crime, reduce government spending and improve communities. As drug law and prison reformer, Dr Alex Wodak says, “Australian governments should start supporting schemes like Justice Reinvestment. Reducing extreme poverty and Indigenous disadvantage, and the number of people on remand, would also help us reduce the number of people we incarcerate.”

It is clear that, especially when major crimes like homicides, assaults and robberies are falling, rising incarceration rates are a sign of lazy governments.

We will always have prisons. But effective governments should be downsizing our prison populations, closing jails rather than building more, and using taxpayers’ money more efficiently in the community.


Article courtesy of Ross Fitzgerald, who is emeritus Professor of history and politics at Griffith University, the author of 39 books, including a memoir ‘My Name Is Ross: An Alcoholic’s Journey.’ This article first appeared in Fairfax online media on 19 December, 2016.

NewsletterThe above issues, plus the shape of our own democracy, will come to the fore in 2017, as will greater awareness of CLA’s 10-year campaign for Better Justice.
Age issues affect all us – older people, their children aged 40-50-60, as well as the grandkids – as does terrorism if police behaviour results in frightening the Australian people unnecessarily for the sake of “good” police TV coverage and PR opportunities. It will be interesting to see the outcome in late-April of “blockbuster” 400-police raids in the days before Christmas 2016.
Other stories include:
  • Note to PM: Democracy means enabling, not denigrating, peaceful protest.
  • Government data may be used in civil cases against individuals
  • TPP twitches as last rites applied…but be alert for other trade deals
  • Cyber security leaves ASIO in the lurch
  • Judge rules woman may not wear face covering when giving evidence
  • Same-sex couples get their overseas marriages recognised
  • NT plans new abortion laws
  • Policeman gets life in jail for stun gun use on handcuffed prisoner who died
  • Marketing ploys up costs of drugs by up to 2600%
  • Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba is down to its last 50
  • New execution court in Dubai aims for efficiency of official killing

Click Here for SINGLE COLUMN (read on screen or print out)
Click Here for TWO COLUMN version (to print out & read over lunch or a break)