Media coverage: The Saturday Paper
Paul Bongiorno covers former president of the Law Council of Australia and current president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Pauline Wright on accusations against Christian Porter in The Saturday Paper.
'Pauline Wright, like Bradley, gives far more weight to the seriousness of the allegations against Porter than mere scuttlebutt.'
Media coverage: The Guardian
A former president of the Law Council, Pauline Wright, and workplace expert Narreen Young, said that if a CEO of a company or a senior lawyer in a firm were accused of a similar historical crime, they would normally step down while an investigation took place.
“If it was a partner in a law firm, generally speaking a complaint would be made to the Law Society of NSW, if it was in NSW, or the office of the legal services commissioner,” Wright said.
“And an investigation would take place by the independent body, and it would be looking at whether the person was fit and proper to continue on the roll of solicitors, or admitted as a barrister. The potential outcome for a solicitor or barrister is being struck off. Because this is the sort of thing that would bring the profession into disrepute”.
Wright said that, as the first law officer, the attorney general should be held to a similar standard.
Any inquiry would look at “fitness to continue in the role as opposed to criminal guilt”, she said, and thus would not conflict with the criminal law.
“It is not looking at his criminal guilt,” she said. “It is looking at whether or not he is of that very high standard that we expect of ministers, particularly of the first law officer.
“There would be numerous examples where individuals are accused of inappropriate behaviour where it is not referred to the police necessarily,” she said. “You might find the complainant doesn’t want to go to court but is very happy for there to be an investigation internally.”
Wright, who is also the president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said that an independent inquiry could also apply a different standard of proof – higher than the usual civil standard of “balance of probabilities”.
“There is another standard called comfortable satisfaction, which is a higher standard than balance of probabilities, but not as high as reasonable doubt.
“It is the kind of standard that is often applied in administrative proceedings. I would have thought that is the kind of standard you were meaning to apply in a potentially serious allegation”.
Media Coverage: Australian Financial Review
Ms Wright said the “fact that a criminal prosecution is not proceeding does not mean that the matter is settled in the minds of the public”.
“There is nothing novel about independent inquiries being called to look into allegations even where the conduct alleged amounts to criminal behaviour.
“There is no breach of the rule of law if such an inquiry is conducted fairly in accordance with principles of natural justice or procedural fairness.”
Ms Wright said that if the allegations were true,“it would cast serious doubt on the integrity of the Attorney General and his fitness to be a Minister.
“For that reason, the PM should call an independent inquiry ensuring that procedural fairness is followed, ensuring the AG knows the case he has to answer and is given the opportunity to respond and clear his name.”
Media coverage: Sky News Australia
NSW Council for Civil Liberties President Pauline Wright says an inquiry into Christian Porter is necessary because until it is conducted his character and innocence will be in doubt.
Mr Porter yesterday declared historical rape allegations laid against him were false, stating he would not be stepping down from his position as attorney-general because it would set a precedent which could see anyone removed from a position simply by an allegation.
Asked whether he was right in making the point about bowing to pressure over allegations, Ms Wright said his comments proved the need for an inquiry. “Because unfortunately … unless and until an inquiry is held there will be a shadow over the attorney general and over this government,” she told Sky News.
“For a start he is the attorney general of Australia, he is the first law officer, he has got to be above reproach, ministers are held to higher account than others in the community.
“And again the prime minister’s ministerial standard require that conduct of his ministers must both in fact and in appearance comply with the standards.
“And their private conduct in a private capacity has to demonstrate those high standards of personal integrity.”
Media Coverage: The New Daily
Pressure is mounting on the cabinet minister at the centre of a historic rape allegation to step down and for a judicial inquiry into the claims.
The accused minister, who emphatically denies all allegations, is expected to make a public statement on Wednesday and repeated his staunch denial of the brutal assault.
Pressure is building on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to establish a judicial inquiry into claims the man raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988. The woman at the centre of the accusations died in 2020.
Lawyer Michael Bradley, who represented the woman, said it was no longer a criminal matter.
“We have a senior cabinet minister who’s been accused of a grave crime and that calls into question his integrity and, at the moment, the integrity of the whole cabinet,” he told the Seven Network on Wednesday.
Mr Bradley believes the minister should step down while an independent inquiry looks at the allegation.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Pauline Wright said independent inquiries were routinely conducted in government and corporate settings.
She said any investigation would need to ensure the minister received a fair hearing.
“The Australian people deserve to have it got to the bottom of. There needs to be some kind of investigation into this,” Ms Wright told ABC radio.
Media coverage: 7News
'Senior lawyers have schooled the prime minister on his understanding of Australia's criminal justice system as they urge him to launch an independent investigation into rape allegations against a senior minister...
The NSWCCL's president Pauline Wright says passing the issue to the federal police is "nothing short of an abrogation" of Mr Morrison's responsibility for the proper governance of Australia.
"It is the prime minister, not the commissioner of the AFP, who is ultimately bound to consider whether the person is fit to serve in cabinet," she said on Tuesday.
"While the police investigation and criminal process should run its course, the prime minister should be considering as a matter of priority, and irrespective of any criminal process, the institution of an independent investigation into the complaint."
The council says Mr Morrison should follow the approach taken by the High Court and launch an independent inquiry.
Former High Court justice Dyson Heydon was last year found by the court's own independent inquiry to have sexually harassed six young female associates.
Ms Wright says independent investigations are a routine part of corporate and government department procedure for staff facing allegations of sexual harassment or bullying.
"Internal arms' length investigations are commonly undertaken in workplaces either in a parallel process if police charges are pursued, or as an alternative if police charges are not pursued," the former Law Council president said.'
Media coverage: Innovation Aus
The government-funded cybersecurity research centre has thrown its support behind the proposed “extraordinary” new hacking powers for the Australian Federal Police, its position that is at odds with human rights, civil liberties and digital rights groups, as well as a group of Senators who have all raised significant concerns about the new laws.
In a submission to government, the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre (CSCRC) said the Identify and Disrupt Bill, which hands sweeping new powers to the AFP and the Australian Crime and Intelligence Commission (ACIC) to hack into the devices and networks of suspected criminals, is proportionate, appropriate and safe.
The NSWCCL said that the new powers are “next in an accelerating wave, strengthening the powers of the state without any humility about the cumulative erosion of democratic freedoms they entail”.
“This bill builds on this ominous trend and takes it to a new level, providing unprecedented new powers for law enforcement to interfere and ‘disrupt’ communications of citizens without effective restraint. The abuse of power this bill enables will happen. Enough is enough,” the NSWCCL submission said.
A coalition of digital rights and civil liberties organisations said that the powers amount to “state-authorised hacking”.
Media coverage: Innovation Aus
'The federal government’s proposed new hacking powers for the Australian Federal Police are a “catch-all formula for abuse” and resemble something from the Hollywood film Minority Report, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties says.
The federal government late last year quietly introduced legislation to Parliament handing broad new powers to the AFP and Australian Crime and Intelligence Commission (ACIC) to hack into the computers and networks of suspected criminals.
In its submission, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) said it was time to draw a line in the sand over increasing laws that erode privacy under the guise of preventing “serious crime”.
The council said the latest legislation is the “next in an accelerating wave, strengthening the powers of the state without any humility about the cumulative erosion of democratic freedoms they entail”.
“This bill builds on this ominous trend and takes it to a new level, providing unprecedented new powers for law enforcement to interfere and ‘disrupt’ communications of citizens without effective restraint,” the NSWCCL submission said.
“The abuse of power this bill enables will happen. Enough is enough.”
The NSWCCL said that the data disruption warrants and account takeover warrants are “crime prevention” tools that resemble something from the science-fiction movie Minority Report.
The powers will apply to a wide range of potential crimes – any carrying at least three years of jail time – not just those referenced by the government in announcing the laws, the submission said.
“This is an extraordinary catch-all encompassing fauna importation, fraud and importantly, such vaguely worded offences as ‘communication and other dealings with inherently harmful information by current and former Commonwealth officers’,” the NSWCCL said.
“These secrecy provisions have already been used to intimidate whistleblowers in several high-profile cases over the last few years. They are framed in a way that prevents vital information regarding government wrongdoing from ever coming to the attention of the public.”
The NSWCLL said that the data disruption warrants, and account takeover warrants, are “crime prevention” tools that resemble something from the science-fiction movie Minority Report.
“We cannot accept a new species of warrant that is based on the notion that the role of law enforcement is to stop possible future offences from being committed where the breadth of their application is so wide,” the NSWCCL said.'
Media coverage: The Star Observer
The New South Wales Parliament has permitted One Nations leader Mark Latham to lead an inquiry into his own controversial Bill.
The Parliament committee headed by Mark Latham is inviting submissions through an online questionnaire and LGBTQI advocacy organisations are asking the community to register their protest against the Bill.
The Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 says its aim is to give parents, not schools, the primary responsibility “for the moral, ethical, political and social development of their children.” The Bill allows parents to object to the teaching of anything related to gender identity and sexuality in schools if it contradicts their values.
The danger from the Bill is not just to the LGBTQI community. The NSW Council For Civil Liberties said that if the Bill is enacted, “parents could object to curriculum that covers Australian Indigenous history, the Stolen Generations, climate change, immunisation, evolution, LGBTIQ+ people, different cultures and religions, science, refugees and people seeking asylum.”
The Council said it was important to ensure the NSW Parliament “rejects this unnecessary and harmful bill.”
The submissions to the inquiry into Mark Latham’s Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 can be made by filling the online questionnaire here.