Fairfax Media have a history of abusing the legal and judicial processes. There is a matter currently before the court where they are back doing the same. This is important as News Corp has come under severe criticism for the phone hacking scandal in the UK, and so they should, yet media organisations such as Fairfax Media in Australia are left untouched.
Fairfax Media are currently being sued by the former head of the Financial Review, Michael Gill, for age discrimination. The first judge who was meant to hear the matter, Justice Dennis Cowdroy, stood down after the first directions hearing given he went to school with and is a friend of Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett.
People would think that the bias or perceived bias is now gone given Cowdroy has stepped down. If you think that you are wrong. The new judge who is now hearing the matter, Nye Perram, has form on the board for being in Fairfax Media’s hip pocket. The group general counsel and company secretary for Fairfax Media, Gail Hambly, is well aware of this and without a doubt could not be happier.
I went to the directions hearing on Thursday and what is clear is that Fairfax and their trusty lawyers Freehills are back up to their old tricks of abusing the legal system and processes.
Mr Gill was head of the Financial Review for many years which is owned by Fairfax Media. He was sacked in March 2011 and launched his age discrimination case at the end of 2011 because he says the company said he was too old to change and he says he was not given a fair go at applying for the CEO’s role when the previous CEO Brian McCarthy left.
His termination was reported in The Australian a few days before it happened and he was told by the Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood to ignore the report in The Australian. Gill was clearly led to believe the report in The Australian was untrue. Mr Gill also says he was told by Gail Hambly that public relations consultant Sue Cato had briefed journalists of his departure before he was terminated which Ms Hambly denies. It is worth noting that Cato works for Roger Corbett on a regular basis.
Justice Dennis Cowdroy and his mate Roger Corbett
Cowdroy should never have been anywhere near the case. As soon as he knew the matter was in his docket he should have called a directions hearing and stood down. What he did was to go to the first directions hearing in February and let the parties know of his personal interest and said “I don’t know who the witnesses are to be called by your client. I know one of the executives in the Fairfax group and if it causes such concern I’d want to know it. It may mean, if that is the case, I will have to not sit on it,”
Whether Roger Corbett was to be called as a witness is irrelevant. Any judgement can and will impact on the reputation of Fairfax Media and it’s board and given Cowdrey has been a friend of Corbett’s for some 40 years he could clearly not hear the case.
Cowdrey did criticize Fairfax Media “Justice Cowdroy said the matter had been filed two months ago, and criticized Fairfax for asking for further particulars from Mr Gill this week, rather than earlier.” (Click here to read more) But Cowdrey went on to give Fairfax exactly what they wanted. Sometime between then and the next directions hearing in March Cowdroy had been replaced by Nye Perram. No reasons were ever published to my knowledge why Cowdroy stood down.
Justice Nye Perram
Perram is a grub. He was appointed in strange circumstances and is Bob Carr’s boy. (Click here to read my previous post on his appointment)
Perram was meant to hear my appeal in 2008 after my case had been dismissed on legal grounds by Federal Magistrate Robert Cameron. Perram never did hear the appeal though because he was caught pre judging the matter in Fairfax Media’s favour. I went to file a notice of motion to have costs stayed until the hearing and also for interim damages. I asked at the registry for it to be heard urgently. I was told that I would have to wait and go into court with Justice Perram and argue why it should be heard urgently.
Fairfax Media where not there, just me and Justice Perram and the court staff. At one stage Perram said to me that his decision would be the final decision in my matters and that it would not be granted Special Leave to Appeal to the High Court. The problem being is that for his decision to be the final decision in the matter he had to find in Fairfax’s favor. Because if he found in my favor it would be set down for hearing. And how did he know it would not be granted special leave to appeal to the high court.
I wrote about Justice Perram and his conduct that day in an email the Attorney General, Chief Justice Black and Perram etc. On the Federal Court website a day or two before the hearing I could see that Perram had been replaced by Justice Jayne Jagot. When the hearing started I asked Justice Jagot why Justice Perram was not hearing the case. She said for administrative reasons. Perram and other judicial officers did plenty more than what I have just written to aid Fairfax Media which is in my book. But I think that is enough at this point.
I did ultimately win the appeal which you might say shows the judicial system works. Well know it does not but that is another story.
Fairfax Media abusing the system.
As you can see above Fairfax after two months had done nothing and then they showed up to court wanting further particulars which is clearly nothing more than a time delaying tactic. They also flagged that they might file a 31A application to have the matter summarily dismissed on the grounds that it had no prospect of success, which at this stage they have not done and one would think could not now.
At the directions hearing on Thursday they were making an excuse of why they could not comply with the discovery request by Michael Gill’s lawyers (they want email’s, letters etc from Fairfax). Fairfax’s counsel told the court that it would take thousands of man hours. Justice Perram said words to the effect he was surprised by Fairfax’s set up given the nature of their business and Gill’s counsel said the same. The reality is based on my experience with Fairfax, they are lying to the court because they do not want to hand over incriminating emails and documents. It will be interesting to see what Perram does.
I wonder if Perram has declared to Gill’s counsel that he was previously meant to hear a matter involving Fairfax but stood down when he was caught pre judging it. obviously he has not.
Gill’s experience in court against Fairfax is very similar to what I experienced. Roger Corbett is crooked as and has been blugging off Fairfax Media for long enough. He would obviously be worried about hopping in the witness stand and I do not think he would ever do that. I am sure he has plenty to hide, in fact I know it. He would settle first especially with Gina Rinehart breathing down the company’s neck.
In my own matters I went to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission for conciliation which did not work. I filed my claim in the Federal Court. The first judge, Justice Gyles, knew the group general counsel for Fairfax Media Gail Hambly. He should never have been anywhere near the case like Cowdroy. Fairfax Filed a section 31A application and wasted over a year before I finally won on appeal and it was set down for hearing. Sounds familiar doesn’t it. By the way they ducked and weaved and withheld plenty of evidence and did not certify the discovery that I was allowed against them. Not certifying the discovery is like not signing an affidavit. A waste of time.
What will happen in the Michael Gill case I do not know, but I will keep a close eye on it. Not because I know the merits of Gill’s case, just to see what Perram does and if he aids and abets Fairfax which he has a history of doing.
This is the same Fairfax Media that closed down the reporting of Julia Gillard’s past last year by Mike Smith which led to him leaving the company after legal proceedings. (Click her to read my post on the matter) This is the same Fairfax Media where a male director in May this year tried to interfere and intimidate a presenter on Fairfax radio 2ue for his comments on the Gina Rinehart boardroom battle. (Click here to read more) This is the same Fairfax Media that is a member of Australia’s Right to Know coalition which is meant to protect free speech.
Fairfax Media staff and the public have been badly let down by a corrupt and derelict board of directors at Fairfax. People complain that if Gina Rinehart gets board control it will be bad for the company as she will interfere in the editorial. Well it is already happening make no mistake about that and then add-on the corruption.
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