Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull: The frivolous litigant who “poisoned the fountain of justice” said Justice Hunt

In 1984 Justice Hunt in the NSW Supreme Court said Malcolm Turnbull had “managed effectively to poison the fountain of justice” in relation to defamatory statements Mr Turnbull had made in the media while representing Kerry Packer during the Costigan Royal Commission. Some say it probably also helped end Turnbull’s career in law.

Malcolm Turnbull likes to portray that he was a young super barrister who won a huge case (Spycatcher) and then moved on to business with his career but the reality seems to be different and it is worth reviewing his short legal career.


The real story is that in 1984 Malcolm Turnbull and his corrupt mate Bruce McWilliam instituted frivolous and vexatious defamation proceedings on behalf of Kerry Packer against Douglas Meagher who was counsel assisting the Royal Commission. They used the media and lied, deceived, ducked and weaved and trashed the reputation of Mr Meagher to help legendary tax cheat Packer dodge prosecution during the Costigan Royal Commission.

The proceedings were so frivolous and vexatious they only lasted a couple of days and it backfired badly as the Judge hearing the case unloaded with both barrels mostly directed at Malcolm Turnbull.

It’s worth noting that Malcolm Turnbull has a glass jaw when it comes to criticism of himself. He is well known to threaten journalists with defamation proceedings and he sued Fairfax Media in 1981 which I wrote about in an article last year. Turnbull’s partner in crime Bruce McWilliam also gets a fair mention in the article. (Click here to read the article)

The Costigan Royal Commission

The Costigan Commission (officially titled the Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union) was an Australian royal commission held in the 1980s.

Headed by Frank Costigan QC, the Commission was established by the Australian government in 1980 to investigate criminal activities, including violence, associated with the Painters and Dockers Union. The Commission was seen by many as politically motivated in keeping with a long running anti-union agenda by the governing party of the day.

However, its enquiries led away from union activities towards investigation of so-called “bottom of the harbour” tax evasion schemes. This involved the asset-stripping of companies to avoid tax liabilities and was facilitated by criminals among the Painters and Dockers but benefited wealthy individuals. (Click here to read more)

Malcolm Turnbull and Bruce McWilliam

Turnbull worked for Packer at Australian Consolidated Press Holdings Group from 1983 to 1985. McWilliam also worked with Turnbull when they defended Packer during the Royal Commission.

Not long after in 1986 they set up their own law firm Turnbull McWilliam which Turnbull left in 1987 and established an investment banking firm, Whitlam Turnbull & Co Ltd. (Click here to read more)

Malcolm Turnbull Kerry Packer

Kerry Packer and Malcolm Turnbull. Photo was probably taken in the early 1980’s.

Kerry Packer and the Royal Commission

Packer was investigated by the Royal Commission but they hid his identity and gave him the name “The Squirrel”. It was leaked to the media and they changed the name to The Goanna.

In September 1984, the now defunct National Times reported an amazing story sourced from a Royal Commission set up to investigate possible corruption in the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union. There’s no doubt the union had some questions to answer, since some of its members had ended up being shot dead at close range or otherwise disposed of, but the investigation had not gone according to plan. Kerry Packer was the publisher of the Bulletin magazine, which had first raised the corruption issue. But when the investigation expanded to follow up the union’s links to drug trafficking, money laundering, tax evasion, murder and pornography, Packer’s name bobbed up; it appeared he had been mixing in bad company. The Bulletin story had boomeranged on its own proprietor.

Aware of the extreme sensitivity of the information it was gathering, the Royal Commission – headed by QC Frank Costigan, noted for his fairness and fearlessness – disguised Packer’s identity, calling him “The Squirrel” instead. The National Times replaced this with the reptilian name “The Goanna”, but otherwise published the Royal Commission documents in full.

The Frivolous and Vexatious defamation proceedings on behalf of Kerry Packer

Several days after the National Times story appeared, anyone driving into the city from what was then the increasingly gentrified suburb of Balmain in Sydney’s inner west could see a big painted sign. “The Goanna = Kerry Packer”, it said in metre-high white lettering. It wasn’t long before Packer’s lawyer, the brilliant and often unpredictable Malcolm Turnbull, was threatening legal action – not against the obvious target, the National Times and its publisher Fairfax, but against Douglas Meagher, counsel assisting the Royal Commission. Turnbull claimed defamation on the grounds that

Meagher and Costigan have conducted themselves most reprehensively in failing to stop an unauthorised and illegal leak of information which was inevitably going to do immense or irreparable damage to the reputation of Kerry Packer.

It was a novel approach, but Justice Hunt in the NSW Supreme Court wasn’t impressed. His court wasn’t going to be party to an attempt to bully a Royal Commission, and Justice Hunt was scathing about Turnbull’s conduct. (Click here to read more)

In one of the most aggressive performances seen in Australia, Turnbull taunted Costigan to sue him – according to Justice David Hunt in the NSW Supreme Court, Turnbull accused Douglas Meagher QC and Costigan of being unjust, capricious, dishonest and malicious.

Turnbull’s scorched-earth use of the media made him unpopular with elements in the NSW Bar and was a factor in his leaving. He later moved full-time into merchant banking. (Click here to read more)

Below is the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday the 18th December 1984 which gives Malcolm Turnbull a hiding for the defamation case (Click here to see the full paper)

Malcolm Turnbull - Packer court case page 1

Malcolm Turnbull - Packer court case page 2

(Click on the above news articles to make them larger)

Malcolm Turnbull lied, deceived and defamed others to defend a guilty man

Much of the Goanna material was, as Packer described it in an 8000-word statement crafted by Turnbull and issued in 1984, “grotesque, ludicrous and malicious”. But the tax findings were not lightly based, nor easily dismissed. Even though the then attorney-general Lionel Bowen declared that Packer had been cleared of all allegations against him, Meagher later revealed that briefs for prosecution were prepared against Packer in relation to tax evasion after the commission was wound up. Costigan had told him three “very senior counsel” based in Sydney “each looked at them independently and recommended prosecution”, but it didn’t occur.

“Packer was a man of great influence,” Meagher said. “He wasn’t cleared. Not at all.” (Click here to read more)

While Kerry Packer might have got away with tax fraud his son James isn’t so lucky. The Australian Tax Office has recently taken James to court for $362 million in taxes he has tried to avoid paying into the public purse. (Click here to read more)


Malcolm Turnbull was never scrutinised before he became Prime Minister so it is time to have a good look at his past and who he is now. Turnbull has represented tax cheats and in doing so he defamed people, lied, deceived and trashed the rule of law. Knowing some of his history it is no surprise he hasn’t achieved much as PM and many Liberal supporters don’t like him. Is that the sort of person Australia needs or wants as Prime Minister?

Declaration: Bruce McWilliam who is mentioned above is running frivolous and vexatious defamation proceedings against me on behalf of Kerry and Ryan Stokes and their lawyer Justine Munsie which is being funded by Channel 7. That has had no influence on what I have written above.

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12 replies »

  1. What a sorry state of affairs this country is in when all we have on offer is Turnbull or Shorten.
    I do find the tax fraud label more than a little annoying. The people who are at fault here are the thieving city of london and a few other players who take most of the taxes offshore. It might be a shock to you, but Australian Federal Reserve is NOT a government entity, but a bunch of bankers. They are the ones who get most of the tax money, so I don’t blame anyone who wants to pay less tax. He would pay plenty in GST anyway. Tax is thievery, full stop.

  2. I used to live in Sydney and remember vividly the cases being played out.

    I have never trusted Turnbull and never will, it is a absolute disgrace, that he stands for the position of prime minister of this country,

    The problem is we had one of those prime ministers before, questions were asked during the last days of her being prime minister in the Gillard government, Julie Bishop asked them.
    This Prime minister lied in Parliament and she was never asked during the following government to give account of what have been proven lies during the Royal Commission headed by Dyson Heydon.

    Thank you for bringing it to the attention of the voters. It is a shame this is not on the front-pages of the daily papers.

  3. A closely written press item from the SMH too. You wouldn’t get that amongst the lightweight “independent always” (sic) tosh they publish these days.

  4. Here we go again, hell and damnation to political crooks, and the effrontery of ‘The Pox-Ridden Democracy System which DICTATES that the voting citizens of Australia will be fined for not voting for gangs of crooks..
    OK, choices, votes for Lib/Nats, Labor, Greens, Independents et al who ride collectively with the hounds and the hares guarantees another Windsor/Oakeshott schoolboy-type lop-sided game, with the end result being red-nosed clowns governing Australia.
    Why then vote for blue-nosed clowns, all the clowns were spawned from the same ‘roll-in-the-sawdust’ pile.
    ‘She won’t be right mate’, until the masses of politically-illiterate Australians vote against being told what to do and how to live from the moment they open their eyes every morning.
    So many people should begin to understand, “Don’t whinge, moan and complain about something unless YOU are prepared to do something to prevent it.”

    • And one way to “prevent it” is to (compulsorily) vote for any Independent in sight. That should not be too onerous for anyone.

      If the MPs from big parties controlling the sorry, adversarial, two-party, political scene to which our representative democracy has sunk, can be shown they are on the nose and their cushy sinecures are there for the asking, they may just wake up that Australia is OUR country, not theirs.

      • Imagine a fractious Australian parliament with over 100 independents – each with their own wacky view of reality. Vote Liberal this election, if you want good government. If you want a complete mess for another three years, go with independants or minor parties.

      • But imagine what our parliament would be like if it is reduced to a two-adversarial-party American style . People would stop watching their childlike performance and tantrums on ABC TV. The next step of course, would be for them to simply eliminate the Senate as an unwanted obstacle.

        Red Ted Theodore did that in Qld in the 1920s and look at the rotten governments we have had since. The Federal system is not broken yet, just corrupted by the players. A little opening of the eyes by the public can overcome that.

  5. They call this the lucky country, it wasn’t very lucky when it’s MPs were picked, If you went round every penitentiary in the country you would not have had a worst bunch of crooks to serve us in parliament. Every where you look is pilfering, fraud, nondisclosure of assets, backhanders, rape allegations, Royal commissions, fiddling taxi fare,s taking bribes in the form of vintage wines corrupting farm sales with mining company’s MP’s dealings with the Mafia and bent Priests and now these latest revelations on the person that wants to remain PM. and the opposition leader is no better, all this that came out of the RC was not acted on and he is running around the country trying to prove he is mother Teresa come Santa Claus and is fit to run the “Lucky country” Strikes me they kicked out Tony Abbott because he wasn’t crooked enough. There is only one bloke that was locked up to my knowledge that was Williamson.all the rest were swept under the carpet and ignored by he law. And the worst thing of all is WE ALL KNOW ABOUT IT.and do nothing.We deserve what we get. Allan Usherwood from Myalup WA

  6. Why should one be surprised to find One Corrupt Judge. Closer investigation ought to reveal many more Lucies. By the way you should begin examining NSW Police Corruption. You will definitely find more than One to fit the bill of corruption and abusive authoritarianism.

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