Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party have been caught out stacking the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), which is meant to keep the government accountable, with Liberal Party cronies. The AAT is a tribunal that reviews “a wide range of administrative decisions made by the Australian Government”. It is where people go if they do not like a government decision against themselves and they want it overturned.
What is happening in the AAT would is a good guide to what is happening with the appointment of judicial officers in all courts.
INQ reported on the 24/9/19:
“Over the past six years, dozens of people with ties to the Liberal Party have gotten plum gigs at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, despite many of them having no formal legal qualifications.”
It’s a glittering prize: a job as a member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, one of the plummest appointments within the gift of a federal government.
Tenure of up to seven years, renewable. Annual salary of up to $385,000 for senior members. Removal only by order of the governor-general after a vote from both houses of parliament. No compulsory retirement age. The prestige of effectively being a judge sitting atop a multi-pronged legal institution whose annual budget is nine times more than the cost of running the High Court. (Click here to read more. It is behind a paywall but you can sign up for a 21-day free trial)
On the 21st of February the government announced: “86 appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, comprising 34 new appointments and reappointments for 52 existing members. Most of the appointments have been made for five years with others being for a period of either three or seven years.”
“I particularly thank The Hon. John Pascoe AC CVO for agreeing to take up the position of Deputy President. The Hon. John Pascoe retired as Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia late last year.” (Click here for the full list of people appointed to the AAT)
John Pascoe is one of the biggest crooks to ever call himself a judge and I’ll detail that further on, but back to the AAT for a minute.
INQ followed up with an article titled “A who’s who in the AAT zoo” and listed the appointments and their Liberal Party connections and pointed out the appointments who had no legal training in which there were many. Some are:
|Name||State||Type of Connection|
|Gary Humphries||ACT||Former Liberal senator|
|John Sosso||QLD||Director-General, Justice Department (Newman government)|
|Robert Cameron||VIC||Liberal Chairman Kew State Electoral Council|
|Paul Clauson AM||QLD||Former attorney-general and minister under Liberal government|
|Michael Cooke*||NSW||Former adviser to Tony Abbott|
|Denis Dragovic*||VIC||Liberal preselection for the House of Representatives; Victorian Senate preselection|
|Ann Duffield*||QLD||Former chief of staff to Scott Morrison|
|Richard Ellis||WA||Former chief of staff to former premier Colin Barnett|
|Matthew Groom||VIC||Former Liberal Party member for Denison|
|James Lambie||QLD||Former policy adviser; senior adviser and chief of staff to George Brandis|
|Donald Morris*||VIC||Former senior adviser to Eric Abetz|
|Andew Nikolic AM CSC*||VIC||Former Liberal member of House of Representatives|
|Justin Owen||NSW||Lifetime member of the Sydney University Liberal Club; former treasurer of the Australian Liberal Students Federation|
|Jason Pennell||VIC||Liberal preselection for the House of Representatives|
|Belinda Pola||QLD||Former chief of staff to Mathias Cormann; former staffer to Joe Hockey|
|Christopher Puplick AM*||NSW||Former Liberal senator|
*No known legal qualification, or has not been able to provide evidence of qualification when contacted. (Click here to see the full list on the INQ website)
“Appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal were once subject to review via a separate council… until the Abbott government gutted it.” (Click here to read more)
The reason the Liberal Party is stacking the AAT so much is to make sure they get the decisions they want and to hide the corruption.
Another INQ article started off: “Members of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal are steadily losing their jobs and being replaced with people less qualified.”
“Terry Carney lost his job as a member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) via a short, blunt email. It arrived five months after he delivered a tribunal decision which declared Centrelink’s robo-debt scheme to be illegal — a finding that angered the federal government.”
“I had one of those feelings in my bones,” he remembers as the day approached for his contract to be renewed — or not. “I actually sort of paused and looked around in the hearing room when I completed what I knew might have been — proved to be — my last hearing.” (Click here to read more)
All of those appointed to the AAT would be donating back to the Liberal Party so the appointment of cronies is also a good way to fundraise for the Liberal Party.
An example – Scott Morrison FOI Whistleblower
A prime example of when someone could go to the AAT is if a journalist or an individual makes a claim under freedom of information laws for documents from a government department. If the government fails to hand over the documents and only give you limited documents or redacted documents you can complain to, the watchdog of FOI laws, the Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner (OAIC). If you are not satisfied with the judgment of the OAIC you can then go to the AAT.
But let’s look at it in practice. There was a recent report titled “Whistleblower hits out at PM’s department over ‘pervasive and toxic’ disregard for law.” The whistleblower “accused the government of flagrantly breaching laws to thwart the release of politically-sensitive documents” and the “whistleblower alleged the department breached FOI law in one of every two requests it received, particularly when the documents were embarrassing or sensitive.” (Click here to read more)
If the government broke the law regarding your Freedom of Information request you would go to the OIAC but they are only a small department with limited powers.
Your next step would be going to the AAT. Who will decide your claim in the AAT? It’s a good chance that it will be a Liberal Party crony and possibly even a former Liberal Party politician or Liberal Party staffer. Will they be unbiased? Of course not and that’s why they were put there.
This is a judicial corruption website and has a role to help promote this type of corruption story and where I add value is my knowledge of the criminal history of newly appointed AAT Deputy President John Pascoe who I have reported on many times over the years. His handiwork of price-fixing and succumbing to blackmail shows up in a court judgment. John Pascoe even received his own chapter in my judicial corruption book “Love Letters from the Bar Table” that was published in 2009.
Well known fraudster and Liberal Party crony John Pascoe – Stacking the courts
John Pascoe started as Chief Federal Magistrate in 2004 when there was a Federal Magistrates Court before it changed its name to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in 2013.
Prior to that John Pascoe was up to his neck in price-fixing, fraud and succumbing to blackmail in an attempt to conceal price-fixing as CEO and Chairman of George Weston Foods. Most of the details show up in a court judgment: Australian Competition & Consumer Commission v George Weston Foods Limited  FCA 1093 (25 August 2004)
The judgment is a fascinating read because you can see the crimes of John Pascoe before he became Chief Federal Magistrate, then Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, then Chief Justice of the Family Court and now Deputy President of the AAT.
I read the full judgment and dissected it in one of the first articles I wrote for this website in 2011 titled “The handiwork of Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe – witness bribing, price-fixing, succumbing to blackmail to conceal a crime and lying to shareholders etc. Is there anything this man cannot do?” (Click here to read the article)
An overview of the issues and John Pascoe’s crimes I covered in the article are:
1. John Pascoe’s time as CEO / Director and Chairman of George Weston Foods where there was mass price-fixing, witness bribing and John Pascoe succumbed to blackmail by Dick Honan (Chairman of Manildra) to conceal price-fixing.
2. John Pascoe’s time as Director/Chairman of Aristocrat Leisure Limited where he was involved with making false and misleading statements and breaching continuous disclosure laws. This led to a multi-million dollar payout to the victims.
3. John Pascoe’s attempt to conceal plagiarism by the former Federal Magistrate Jennifer Rimmer.
4. The fraud at the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia under his direction and management after auditors uncovered a $5 million blackhole.
5. Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe hearing a case where there was an alleged breach of the Trade Practices Act. The same Trade Practices Act that John Pascoe was breaching on an ongoing basis when he was CEO/Chairman at George Western Foods.
6. Is Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe permanently out to lunch? His lazy work ethics as Chief Federal Magistrate. In the 2011 article, I wrote: “I did a quick search of the judgments on the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia website and I could only find one judgment from John Pascoe in 2011 and 2 in 2010 and the previous years were not much better. If those numbers are right, I think Chief Federal Magistrate Pascoe has a lot to answer for. He has obviously been out to lunch plenty. And why did he need 2 offices?” (Click here to read more)
The ACCC V Goerge Weston Foods judgment in 2004 was so damming of John Pascoe he was parachuted into the role of Chief Federal Magistrate a few months later by his good mate John Howard as Pascoe’s career in the business world was over after the judgment. Now John Pascoe is in one of the most senior positions in the country meant to be keeping the government accountable.
How is the AAT going to keep the Liberal government accountable when it is stacked with Liberal Party cronies? The answer is simple, it won’t and that is the way the corrupt government wants it.
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