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EYE-BALL Opinion – The Australian’s Hedley Thomas on – Gillard’s links to Federal Court candidate Bernard Murphy – not revealed –

February 19, 2013

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– The Australian’s Hedley Thomas on –
– Gillard’s links to Federal Court candidate Bernard Murphy –
– not revealed –
| Author: EYE-BALL Opinion | 19th Feb 2013 |
The Australian’s National Chief correspondent Hedley Thomas who since August 2012 has pursued Julia Gillard and her involvement with the AWU scandal has been seeking more documents via ‘FOI’ applications.

Thomas’s latest FOI requests have proved more fruitful with Gillard’s appointment of Federal Court Judge Bernard Murphy now being exposed as untoward, and an appointment where not all the relevant facts were disclosed to the selection panel.

Hedley Thomas’s story is republished below:

Julia Gillard’s links to Federal Court candidate Bernard Murphy ‘not revealed’

| Author: Hedley Thomas | Date: Feb 19th, 2013 | Link to On-Line Story. |

Senior public servants who advised the Gillard government on the appointment of a Federal Court judge were not made aware of his links to the PM. Source: Getty Images

SENIOR public servants who advised the Gillard government on the $400,000-a-year appointment of a Federal Court judge were not made aware that the successful candidate was the legal mentor, former colleague and longtime friend of the Prime Minister.

Documents released under Freedom of Information to The Australian show that the public servants who helped manage the selection process, including background checks, did not know of the long-standing relationship between Bernard Murphy and Ms Gillard until it was raised in media reports in 2011, soon after the appointment was approved by cabinet.

Mr Murphy was Ms Gillard’s manager in the industrial unit at Slater & Gordon lawyers until they both left the firm around the time of the Australian Workers Union “slush fund” affair in late 1995.

Mr Murphy had recruited Ms Gillard to her job as a solicitor at the firm in Melbourne.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman cited cabinet confidentiality for refusing to comment about whether cabinet was told, or knew, of Ms Gillard’s ties to Mr Murphy at its March 28, 2011 meeting.
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The meeting of cabinet, chaired by Ms Gillard, rubber-stamped the appointment after a recommendation by Robert McClelland, the then attorney-general. Mr McClelland refused to comment when asked if Ms Gillard told him to recommend Mr Murphy instead of one of the other four candidates, all barristers, who had been short-listed for the job.

The documents released by the Attorney-General’s Department this month confirm that the public servants closest to the selection process discovered the connections after receiving questions from journalists.

“We were not aware of PM connection until we saw it in press after appt was announced – not sure if advisory council knew,” Claire McAlister, appointments administrator, Federal Courts branch, wrote in an email to a senior public servant on May 25, 2011.

Mr Murphy, who declined to comment about the circumstances of his appointment, became only the third solicitor on the Federal Court bench.

Ms Gillard’s spokesman said: “We don’t comment on cabinet proceedings. The appointment was made in accordance with the independent federal judicial appointments policy introduced in 2008.”

Documents, many of which were heavily redacted prior to release under FOI, show that Mr Murphy was one of five candidates recommended by a panel led by former High Court chief justice Gerard Brennan.

In August last year, documents leaked to The Australian by Nick Styant-Browne, a former equity partner of Slater & Gordon, disclosed Ms Gillard’s role in providing legal advice to help set up a fund for her then boyfriend, allegedly corrupt AWU boss Bruce Wilson. At the time Ms Gillard was supervised by Mr Murphy, who was also a solicitor for Mr Wilson.

One of the leaked documents, a draft statement by the firm’s former senior partner Peter Gordon, states: “It is no secret and it has never been, that the firm’s senior partner in 1995, Bernard Murphy, fell out with the rest of the Slater & Gordon partnership over the Cheryl Harris-Ian Smith case and subsequently the AWU/Bruce Wilson matters. That falling out was irreparable and we ultimately went our separate ways and but for a few professional interactions, have not interacted since.”

The “Harris-Smith” case revolved around Mr Murphy’s role in representing a woman who made damaging claims about a Victorian Liberal Party minister in the Jeff Kennett government, Ian Smith. Mr Kennett made strong criticism of Mr Murphy and the conduct of the firm, which had briefed newspaper journalists about the explosive claims. The woman’s case soon started to unravel and the matter resolved with the law firm making a significant payment to Mr Smith.

Mr Murphy said on August 21 last year after the leaking of Mr Gordon’s statement: “My resignation was not in any way motivated by any suggestion of wrongdoing on my part in relation to Slater & Gordon’s representation of the AWU or Mr Bruce Wilson. I was not involved in any investigation at Slater & Gordon in relation to my conduct in respect of the AWU or Mr Wilson. If any allegation of wrongdoing was to be raised it would be completely unfounded.”

Ms Gillard has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in relation to the AWU matter, saying she knew nothing of the operations of the fund, which Mr Wilson later used to allegedly defraud the union.

The FOI documents released to The Australian include a “cabinet-in-confidence” briefing note by a public servant, which states that on December 24, 2010, Mr McClelland supported the appointment of Mr Murphy as a judge of the Federal Court. This support came three days after the selection panel provided its short-list of five candidates.

The briefing note, under the heading “consultation”, states that “media searches were conducted” and “nothing adverse” was revealed in relation to Mr Murphy.

Under the heading “Sensitivities and Media Implications”, the briefing note states: “The Federal Court will welcome the appointments. Given Mr Murphy’s involvement in a number of high profile legal cases, we anticipate that there may be some media interest surrounding his appointment.”

On February 24, 2011, in a letter to Ms Gillard seeking her approval for the appointment of Mr Murphy, Mr McClelland wrote: “As you are aware, I have put in place a transparent process for all judicial appointments. I established a panel to assess candidates and nominees against the published appointment criteria and provide me with the names of highly suitable candidates.”

But the following month, Mr McClelland’s staff “asked for some more defensive points the AG could use if he met with any concerns in relation to the Federal Court proposed (two) appointments”.

In his October, 2010 application for the job, Mr Murphy nominated his experience in class actions and said: “As the most experienced class action practitioner in Australia, I believe that I can assist the court in most effectively and efficiently managing such cases.”

Opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis subsequently questioned the decision to appoint Mr Murphy and said it “does rather raise the eyebrows when an old associate of the Prime Minister’s from a well-known firm of Labor Party solicitors is regarded by the government as the most obvious person in Victoria for this particular judicial appointment to the nation’s second-highest court”.

read story on-line

More recent Hedley Thomas stories:

  • Hedley Thomas reported another story on the 4th Feb 2013, on an FOI request to the Prime Minister’s Department that was declined … read that story here … [if the story prompts a login process, copy story title into a search engine and the full story will display.]
  • Yet another Thomas story on the 11th Feb 2013, covered the Ian Cambridge interview by Victorian Police in relation to the AWU scandal, and a plea for all those who had information to come forward and no longer be intimidated. That story can be read here … again – [if the story prompts a login process, copy story title into a search engine and the full story will display.]

There is no doubt that Hedley Thomas leads the charge amongst mainstream media journalists against this corrupted Prime Minister. Mike Smith, the sacked 2UE broadcaster has been tireless in his pursuit and is responsible for filing a complaint against Gillard with the Victorian police that initiated these fresh investigations.

Mike Smith runs a blog site and recently updated his site with a complete revealing on-line of all the documents the police are using in their enquiries. Link to Mike Smith’s blog site … [use this link to navigate your way down the right margin to the ‘DATE/EVENT LOG’ heading and see links to documents.]

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