Attack on Kirby collapses
by Marcus Browning In dramatic circumstances the Prime Minister has been forced to sack Senator Bill Heffernan as Secretary to the Cabinet and to call on him to make an "unreserved apology" to Justice Kirby and to the Senate. It had been revealed that the Comcar document which claimed to record the use of a Commonwealth Car by Justice Kirby and others was found to be fraudulent. It was apparently this revelation that forced a reluctant Prime Minister to act against a close adviser and personal friend. However, the full story behind the attack on Justice Kirby has yet to be revealed but any supposition that it was the one-off action of a homophobic Senator is disproved by the support given to Heffernan by the Prime Minister and Attorney-General Daryl Williams up to the time of the fraud being revealed. The incident began to unfold with the cowardly attack in the Senate on Justice Kirby by Senator Heffernan who hid behind parliamentary privilege. He publicly smeared High Court Judge Michael Kirby as a child sex offender. It was a coward's act by a fanatical homophobe. As such it contained the vicious inference that homosexuality is to be equated with paedophilia. The Prime Minister admitted that he had discussed the matter with Senator Heffernan on several occasions but claims he advised the Senator against raising the matter. At no time, however, did the Prime Minister have a check made on the authenticity of the documents used by Heffernan, nor did he publicly repudiate Heffernan's action. Daryl Williams also failed to give any support to Justice Kirby. It is considered as an obligation for an Attorney General to back up Justices of the Supreme Court. Howard also showed his complicity by reading into Hansard a letter from Bill Heffernan which also made allegations against Justice Kirby. Part of this deliberate and orchestrated campaign involves the government setting up a protocol which would provide for the investigation of "serious complaints" against members of the federal judiciary — federal magistrates, and members of the High Court, Family Court and Federal Court. An "independent" committee made up of retired judges and other legal experts would administer the protocol. It would look into complaints and report to Parliament which would then decide whether or not to dismiss the object of the complaint from his/her post. Senator Heffernan has given a fine example of how it might work — slander, slur, innuendo, accusations, defamation. If successful, the attack on Justice Kirby would have enabled the government to replace him with some reactionary appointment to the High Court. This comes at a time when the High Court could be dealing with important challenges to extremely dangerous and reactionary legislation to remove basic democratic and human rights in Australia. In a statement Justice Kirby, who is openly gay, said: "Senator Heffernan's homophobic accusations against me in the Senate are false and absurd. "If he has such accusations he should approach the proper authorities, not slander a fellow citizen in Parliament. Insofar as he attempts to interfere in the performance of my duties as a judge, I reject the attempt utterly." Heffernan has been shown to be yet another liar in a government of inveterate liars. It is believed that the documents submitted by Heffernan have already been considered by the NSW police, who found that there was no grounds for taking any action against the Judge. "I am advised these investigations did not warrant the laying of any charges in connection with any matters recently raised by the Senator", said NSW Police Minister, Michael Costa. On Howard's aiding and abetting of Heffernan, Greens Senator Bob Brown said that the Prime Minister had abused the Standing Orders by extending Heffernan's abuse of parliamentary privilege from the Senate to the House of Representatives. Revealing the deeper purpose behind the slander, Howard told the House that "proved misbehaviour" (which can be used by Parliament to remove a High Court judge) "can take many forms and cover a lot of conduct". "Any kind of misbehaviour involving people under-age would disqualify people in a whole lot of positions, not just being a High Court judge", he declared. At that juncture someone should have pointed out the refugee children locked behind razor wire in detention camps under the Government's immigration policy. Support for Kirby has come from individuals and organisations including the Law Society of NSW, the Family Court Chief Justice Alistair Nicholson, the Law Council of Australia, and University of NSW law professor George Williams, who noted the judge had no case to answer as a police investigation had already cleared him. An open letter signed by 35 supporters of Justice Kirby, including a former Liberal Premier and former Liberal MPs, stated in part: "We regard him as a person of the highest moral character and integrity. We are deeply angered that the reputation of this good man should have been besmirched by an attack made under parliamentary privilege. "This attack will have succeeded if it lessens Justice Kirby's ability to function effectively on the bench of the High Court. That must not be allowed to happen." The attack on Justice Kirby is the second occasion on which Heffernan has used the Senate to attack individuals. Last year he used the Senate to attack Terry O'Shane who is the brother of progressive Magistrate, Pat O'Shane. He also heaped slander on the leaders of ATSIC. None of his allegations have resulted in any action against the individuals concerned. Not only must Heffernan be removed as Howard's Cabinet Secretary, but he should face criminal charges and be removed from Parliament.