The Guardian March 27, 2002


Of falsified records and the big picture

by Marcus Browning

In backing Senator Bill Heffernan's scurrilous attack on High Court judge 
Michael Kirby, Prime Minister John Howard revealed himself to be party to 
an orchestrated attack on the judicial system with the aim of subverting 
its powers to become a tool of the Government's political agenda.

That Howard, along with Attorney-General Daryl Williams, backed Heffernan 
is an indication of the extent the Government is willing to go in order to 
achieve its goals.

In an article published in The Age newspaper, Dr Jenny Hocking, head 
of Monash University's Centre for Australian Studies, called Heffernan's 
attack "sinister and cowardly" because it masks a more profound agenda 
which Dr Hocking says he is running with Howard.

"Let there be no misapprehension about the Prime Minister's parallel 
interest in this judicial fracas, different from Heffernan's, yet 
intersecting with it", said Dr Hocking.

"While Heffernan's `obsession with homosexuality' has been widely remarked 
upon, this reflects only Heffernan's specific interest in Kirby. Howard's 
interest, however, is in the big picture, in reshaping the mechanism for 
the dismissal of judges and hence recasting the key constitutional means of 
effecting the separation of powers.

"Kirby's particular case is merely the means through which this more 
profound shift is now being engineered."

There is also some dissent in Liberal Party ranks over Heffernan's long-
time homophobic obsession, an obsession now clearly tied to a conscious 
political campaign of character assassination.

The heat was also turned on Williams for the part he has played, with 
former chief justice of the High Court Sir Anthony Mason questioning his 
inaction. "To my knowledge, Attorney-General Williams is the first 
attorney-general to assert that an attorney-general could not discharge 
that responsibility [to defend the courts] simply because he was a 
politician.

"In effect, he's saying that political interests have to take predominance 
over defending the courts.

"He could have made a statement emphasising that the judge was entitled to 
a presumption of innocence; he could have referred to the judge's very 
distinguished record, of his public reputation. He might also have referred 
to the curious way in which the allegations were presented to the Senate."

Heffernan's "evidence" alleging that Kirby was in Darlinghurst soliciting 
prostitutes, has been shot to pieces. The Commonwealth car job sheet for 
the date in question in 1998 was supplied by a former driver of Howard's. 
It has two former MPs, Ian Sinclair and John Dawkins, and current MP Laurie 
Brereton, recorded as being in Sydney when they were all in fact out of 
town, as was Justice Kirby.

Someone falsified the document.

Greens Senator Bob Brown amended a Parliamentary censure of Heffernan  
who as part of damage control was sacked as parliamentary secretary  to 
also include a censure of Howard "for not preventing Senator Heffernan's 
reckless and abusive actions in the Senate".

For his part, Justice Kirby's response to an enforced apology from 
Heffernan said in part: "My family and I have suffered a wrong. But it is 
insignificant in comparison to the wrong done to Parliament, the High Court 
and the people.

"I hope that my ordeal will show the wrongs that hate of homosexuals can 
lead to. Out of t his sorry episode, Australians should emerge with a 
heightened respect for the dignity of all minorities, and a determination 
to be more careful in the future to uphold our national institutions  the 
Parliament and the judiciary."

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