Former attorney general Robert McClelland has set up office at State Chambers in Sydney’s Martin Place. He is back in the law game and trying to grow a legal practice. This raises numerous issues. The first thought that comes to mind is that he is already preparing for defeat at the next election. The problem for me and I am sure a lot of voters is that he is still on full pay as a federal politician and I naturally assumed federal politicians work in their position full-time.
In an interview Mr McClelland did with The Australian it says this “He said he had maintained a practising certificate during his time in parliament because he always intended to return to the law.”
“It was partly self-interest in wanting to retain some seniority and also be seen by the legal profession as being part of the legal profession,” he said.
“I have always seen myself as a lawyer rather than a politician. That may have been to my detriment in politics, I suppose.” (Click here to read more. They have a paywall now)
I must say that I have always seen him as a criminal and not a politician. Some reporters write what a nice guy and gentleman McClelland is. The same reporters who grovel to the government for stories. I would rate McClelland as one of the sleaziest politicians in Canberra.
For Robert McClelland to set up practise as a lawyer while he is still an elected federal politician says a lot about his own confidence in and commitment to the federal government. (click here to see his listing on the BarNet Directory Service) I have no doubt this should be banned. It is one or the other.
Conflict of interest
Also I have never seen a greater conflict of interest where someone who is totally committed to seeing the financial flourishing of an industry actually oversees that industry. But that is exactly what happened with when Robert McClelland was the Attorney General. Mr McClelland achievements as attorney general were almost zero. In fact he was a major embarrassment to himself and his party. He almost never gave interviews or called press conferences. I remember the couple of times he did call a press conference he would last maybe ten minutes and then take a couple of questions from the journalists and then do a runner once the questions got to hard.
It is interesting that Mr McClelland will be working in court with judges that he personally appointed. I wonder if they will repay the favour. I think there needs to be a law that the Attorney General is never allowed to practice law again or even better they should not be lawyers in the first place.
Failure as Attorney-General
Mr McClelland achieved almost nothing as the AG. He never brought in an independent body for the appointment of judicial officers although he did try some smoke and mirrors on this and set up two advisory committees for judicial appointments. One for federal judges and the other for federal magistrates, but he was never bound by their recommendations and the list of clear Labor Party appointments testifies to that. For example are we to believe that Julia Gillard’s former boss Bernard Murphy was approved and put forward by the advisory committee. I have a done a previous post on Justice Murphy’s appointment titled “Julia Gillard appoints Bernard Murphy, her partner in crime from Slater and Gordon Lawyers, as a Federal Court of Australia judge.” (Click here to read the post)
Nor did he set up an independent body to deal with complaints about judicial officers even though a Senate enquiry recommended this in a 2010 report.
It worth looking at the UK for example who have realised there failings in this area. They have the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) which “is an independent commission that selects candidates for judicial office in courts and tribunals in England and Wales, and for some tribunals whose jurisdiction extends to Scotland or Northern Ireland.”
It also says on their website “We select candidates for judicial office on merit, through fair and open competition, from the widest range of eligible candidates.”
“We were set up in order to maintain and strengthen judicial independence by taking responsibility for selecting candidates for judicial office out of the hands of the Lord Chancellor and making the appointments process clearer and more accountable.” (Click here to read more)
Can anyone name me one judicial officer in Australia and on what basis they were appointed. That’s right you cannot. In Australia it is a joke and no-more so then at the federal level and Mr McClelland was up to his neck in it.
The UK also has a number of bodies that deal with corruption and failings in the UK judiciary. For example there is the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) which says on their website “the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 gives the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice joint responsibility for the system for considering and determining complaints about the personal conduct of all judicial office holders in England and Wales and some judicial office holders who sit in Tribunals in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The OJC was set up on the 3rd April 2006, to handle these complaints and provide advice and assistance to the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice in the performance of their joint role.” (Click here to read more)
The UK even has oversight for the above mentioned bodies which is the “Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman” which “investigates complaints about the judicial appointments process and the handling of matters involving judicial discipline or conduct.” (Click here to read more)
Compare what happens in the UK to here and you really start to understand Mr McClelland’s and the governments failings. Dodgy judicial appointments for the boys and girls and complaints about judicial officers being swept under the carpet every week etc.
Remember this is the guy who supported Julia Gillard and said that “Wikileaks and Julian Assange had likely broken the law” after Julia Gillard said what they did was illegal. When this was found to be wrong neither apologised.
Australia deserves better than to have part-time politicians. Imagine the outcry if one of the federal politicians worked part-time for BHP, Telstra or one of the media organisations etc. The federal government claims they are looking at a new code of conduct for federal MPs and Senators. The first point should be they are not allowed to work part-time or full-time (and make their political role part-time) in other industries that they have ultimate oversight for.
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