Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has been using the media to give instructions and try to influence Justice Steven Rares in the Peter Slipper / James Ashby matter currently before the court.
While there has been plenty of media attention on the matter and some criticism of Nicola Roxon there has been no summary of Mrs Roxon’s clear and blatant interference in the judicial system to my knowledge. And that is what this post will do.
Relationship between Nicola Roxon and judges
Judges are meant to be independent of the government but they are not. It is a fallacy. The relationship between Nicola Roxon and Justice Rares is one of employer and employee as it is with other federal judicial officers. One of the reasons judges are assumed to be independent is that they are appointed to retirement age which is 70 years old for federal judges, but if they want promotion to the High Court for example it is the attorney-general who has ultimate say of recommending their promotion to cabinet for approval.
Judges pay and benefits are also set by the government. And if a judge is corrupt, guilty of misconduct or are no longer competent it is the government who are meant to take action. As I have written in a previous post Rares is as corrupt as they come. (Click here to read the previous post on Rares)
Nicola Roxon as attorney-general even has an office in the Law Courts Building in Sydney where Justice Rares is hearing the matter. I wonder if she has ever popped into his chambers for coffee.
Justice Rares while criticising others in the matter has failed to criticise his boss Nicola Roxon.
Peter Slipper and the federal government have been sued by one of Mr Slipper’s staff members for sexual harassment. The federal government in recent days has settled with Mr Ashby for $50,000. The government say this is to save on legal costs. More likely it was settled to keep Nicola Roxon out of the witness chair given her public statements meant she was a likely witness. The case against Mr Slipper is still afoot and there has been argument in court in the last few days that the matter should be dismissed for being an abuse of process. Justice Rares has reserved his judgement.
Interference by Nicola Roxon and perceived bias by Justice Rares
1. Nicola Roxon and a number of ministers making public statements about the case.
Various ministers, including Roxon, have made public statements on the matter which has already had an influence on the case.
“Federal minister Anthony Albanese had compared the Ashby case to Watergate and called for the Australian Federal Police to investigate Mr Ashby’s behaviour in allegedly leaking parts or Mr Slipper’s diary to political rivals and the media. These comments were highlighted by Mr Ashby’s lawyer Michael Lee SC as evidence of the fact Mr Ashby was being accused of criminal conspiracy.” (Click here to read more)
Nicola Roxon herself has said things like “The Commonwealth strongly believes that this process has been one which is really for an ulterior purpose, not for purposes of an ordinary workplace
complaint,” and ”A number of other participants other than the applicant [Mr Ashby] were party to formulating this complaint with the clear intent of publicising it before it was filed, with the clear intention of harming Mr Slipper and advantaging his political opponents.”
This ultimately led to a situation where James Ashby did not have to file a response to the abuse of process claim by Mr Slipper because Mr Ashby might incriminate himself. Justice Rares was left with no option but to make that decision. But he did not condemn Roxon and the other ministers for interference when he should have. He should charge them with contempt of court as well.
2. Commonwealth settle with Ashby then act as Slippers counsel.
The Commonwealth settled with James Ashby for $50,000 which was announced in the media on Friday the 28th of September. Although it was not finalised until the 4th of October after the commonwealth were trying to sneak another clause into the agreement. It was probably the protect Nicola Roxon clause.
Nicola Roxon, in announcing the settlement, made a public statement that the case against Peter Slipper should be dismissed because the commonwealth had settled. She was acting as Peter Slipper’s defence counsel and sending instructions to Justice Rares. It was not for her to argue that and she was wrong.
Michael Lee, SC, acting for Mr Ashby said:
He also claimed comments by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, suggesting Mr Ashby drop his case against Mr Slipper was ”unprecedented” and undermined ”public confidence in the judiciary”.
Ms Roxon’s comments followed news last Friday of a $50,000 settlement between the government and Mr Ashby.
In response to Mr Lee, a spokesman for Ms Roxon said, ”the judge himself made comments about the desirability of the matter being settled”. (Click here to read more)
Yes, Justice Rares after taking instructions from his boss Nicola Roxon says the same as Nicola Roxon.
3. Peter Slipper sent an email to the court and wanted mediation if it was not settled last Tuesday 2/10/12. He got what he wanted.
Last weekend was a long weekend in NSW with last Monday being a public holiday and the matter being set down for hearing on Tuesday. At this point Mr Slipper was representing himself as he had dismissed his legal team. Over the long weekend Mr Slipper sent an email into the court saying that he could not make the hearing and if it was not resolved that day then he wanted the case to be sent for mediation. He got exactly what he wanted despite Ashby’s counsel arguing that the matter should proceed without mediation. Given Slipper was not there he should have been given no favour by Justice Rares.
Justice Rares did criticise Mr Slipper for not showing up to court and for emailing the court over the long weekend. Litigants are not meant to approach the judge without the consent of the other party. Just because it was sent to the court and not directly to Justice Rares does not matter in this situation and I doubt very much that Mr Slipper would have sought or received approval from James Ashby or his lawyers.
It must be noted that Mr Slipper is a lawyer and barrister and would know better.
Julian Burnside who was in court representing the government made excuses for Peter Slipper.
“Julian Burnside, QC, for the Commonwealth, said it had been a ”difficult time” for Mr Slipper and he may have stayed away from court to avoid ”intensive and intrusive media attention”.
“He also said the Speaker’s failure to have legal representation at the hearing was related to ”financial considerations”. (Click here to read more)
It was not for Burnside to do that, he is getting paid to represent the government not Peter Slipper.
4. Peter Slipper allowed to use court car park.
Slipper was given special treatment and allowed to use the courts car park which was organised by Nicola Roxon and in direct breach of the courts policy.
“Ms Roxon’s office yesterday admitted she had direct involvement in granting the Speaker’s ComCar access to the Sydney Law Courts car park – a manoeuvre slammed by a judge for undermining public confidence in the court.”
“Justice Rares said this would “undermine the public confidence in the court” because it was important that “justice should not only be done but be seen to be done”.
Yet still there was no direct criticism of Nicola Roxon by Justice Rares. I laughed when I read the above given how dodgy Rares is.
5. Offer from Julian Burnside to help Peter Slipper as he was a lay person. Slipper is a qualified lawyer and Barrister.
By Thursday the 4th of October the government had finalised settlement with James Ashby and the mediation the day before with Slipper and Ashby had failed so they were back in court with Slipper representing himself.
Julian Burnside was there to finalize in court the government’s settlement.
Mr Slipper, who is representing himself, is seeking to have Mr Ashby’s case thrown
out as an abuse of process. Earlier, Julian Burnside QC, representing the Commonwealth, offered to remain in court to offer Mr Slipper some assistance with the hearing. The Commonwealth is in the final stages of reaching a settlement with Mr Ashby.
“Mr Slipper has some disadvantage being here as a lay person acting for himself,” Mr Burnside said.
Justice Steven Rares said Mr Burnside’s attendance in court would not be appropriate unless he was directly acting for Mr Slipper. (Click here to read more)
Julian Burnside referred to Peter Slipper as a “lay person”. This is scandalous and straight out lie in the face of the court by Mr Burnside. Peter Slipper is a lawyer and qualified barrister and is well equipped to defend himself. Who was going to pay Mr Burnside to assist Mr Slipper? The tax payer! Julian Burnside would not have made this offer without first getting approval off Nicola Roxon.
If you are ever in court and cannot afford a lawyer just ring Nicola Roxon and I am sure she will send Julian Burnside to court free of charge to help you out.
James Ashby’s defence team has made statements that they are considering suing Nicola Roxon for defamation and instituting contempt-of-court proceedings against her. Whether they will or not who knows as they will probably consider many factors before they decide. But they have an open and shut case if they do. It does not matter how the case finishes, Nicola Roxon’s conduct has been a disgrace and her position is untenable. She has to go as the attorney-general.
As Rares quoted “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” R v Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy (
With Roxon at the helm justice will never be seen to be done. Nicola Roxon is the laughing-stock of the legal fraternity.
Imagine if it was you. Could you not bother showing up to court and just send an email in? Could you get the attorney-general to organise a car park in the Law Courts Building so you could avoid the media? Could you get Roxon to organise for Julian Burnside to represent you free of charge? Could you get Roxon to make a public statement that the case against you should be dismissed? etc.
It would be greatly appreciated if you spend a minute using Twitter, Facebook and email etc and promote this post. Just click on the icons below.
And make sure you follow this site by email which is on the top right of this page and about once a week you will get an email when there is a new post/story on this site.
This site is fully funded by myself, both time wise and monetary wise. If you would like to support the continuance and growth of this site it would be greatly appreciated if you make a donation, buy a t-shirt, coffee mug or a copy of my book. The links are below.
If you would like to buy a t-shirt or coffee mug visit my online shop (Click here to visit the shop)
If you would like to buy a copy of my non-fiction book on corruption in the Australian judiciary that names names visit my website for the book which has links to the online bookshops. (Click her to visit the website)
Thank you for your support.