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While today there is a much quieter media on the Gillard situation, an important development is the direct intrusion of Abbott into the debate. He has (first) decided to comment on what is currently Gillard’s most exposed flank viz the behaviour of Attorney General Roxon and she has responded with vigour. But judging from the article below in The Australian, there remains considerable concern within the Labor Party about her handling of the Slipper/Ashby case.

Abbott has also stirred the leadership pot by suggesting Rudd is a victim of the ad hominisem of Labor’s senior ministers.

Fairfax press is not neglecting the issue either as it seeks to find an “unofficial” file that is apparently said to include a copy of a letter signed by Gillard in the 1990s to the Western Australian regulator of unions vouching for the body she recently acknowledged was in fact a slush fund.

Des Moore

Roxon defends Slipper dealings

Milanda Rout, The Australian, October 19, 2012

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Nicola Roxon has rejected Tony Abbott's "slur" that she acted without impartiality in the Peter Slipper matter as concern builds within Labor's ranks over her handling of the sexual harassment case.

The Opposition Leader yesterday accused Ms Roxon of acting like Mr Slipper's defence lawyer instead of conducing herself like the "first law officer of the crown" when dealing with the action by staffer James Ashby.

"Instead of trying to ensure we have the impartial administration of justice, she has clearly been acting as the leader of the Peter Slipper defence team," he said.

"Now on the one hand you've got the Prime Minister acting like a victim rather than leader, and on the other hand you've got the first law officer supporting someone whose attitudes to women and in many other areas are completely unacceptable."

Opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis also accused Ms Roxon of politically "micro-managing" the case.

Senate estimates hearings this week have heard Ms Roxon may have been briefed on the contents of lurid text messages just days before the commonwealth lodged an "abuse of process" claim to have Mr Ashby's case struck out and to use the texts to sack him.

Mr Ashby has since been paid $50,000 in damages from the commonwealth to settle his claim of sexual harassment and still has a civil case against Mr Slipper.

Mr Slipper stood aside as Speaker in April and resigned last week when texts, including sexually degrading comments, were made public earlier this month.

Ms Roxon yesterday dismissed Mr Abbott's criticism.

"I completely reject Mr Abbott's slur. It shows he understands as little about this case as his shadow attorney-general," she told The Australian.

"Mr Abbott should be keeping a close eye on his shadow attorney-general.

"Senator Brandis has shown gross misjudgment this week by telling police, prosecutors and the judiciary what they should do."

She has previously stated she was "very confident we've adhered to all of the appropriate legal obligations as well as those required by the commonwealth as a litigant in matters".

Labor members yesterday told The Australian there was growing concern among MPs and senators about Ms Roxon's handling of the matter and the "abandonment of Peter Slipper". This included questions about how the government could "go out on a limb" and try to have the case thrown out on an "abuse of process" claim and then do a backflip and settle the case.

One source said the government's legal strategy was hard to understand, did not quite "add up", and had left many Labor MPs and senators confused. Senior MPs also believe Ms Roxon's involvement in the case and her defence of Mr Slipper undermined the government's political tactics on gender, and Julia Gillard's claim to cabinet that it was a strategy that was winning support among female voters.

This was a view shared by others, who said "several eyebrows" were raised about the line of attack against Mr Abbott while in the background the Slipper matter was being settled. "It is fair to say there is considerable disquiet," one Labor source said.

Rudd ‘greatest victim’ of bitter politics: Abbott

AFR: 19 Oct 2012, James Massola, Online political correspondent

Kevin Rudd says Australians are deeply disappointed in political leaders after a bitter period in federal politics.

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he is not surprised Kevin Rudd has called for an end to personal attacks in politics because the former prime minister has been the “greatest victim of all of the politics of personal destruction”.

Mr Rudd said on Wednesday that Australians were fed up with personal attacks and the “whack, whack, whack” of daily politics and were hungry for a policy debate about Australia’s future beyond the mining boom.

In a wide-ranging interview given as Prime Minister Julia Gillard concluded her trip to India – and after a vitriolic period in federal politics – Mr Rudd told the ABC’s Lateline program that Australians were deeply disappointed in their political leaders.

Mr Abbott said Mr Rudd’s outspoken remarks about the vitriol in political debate were understandable. “The most savage attacks of all were those mounted by the Prime Minister and senior ministers on Kevin Rudd’’ during the leadership spill in February this year, he said. “Kevin Rudd knows what it is like to be the victim of a savage personal assault from this prime minister.”

Mr Abbott predicted the next federal election campaign, due in about a year, would be the “filthiest and most personal” Australians had seen.

In Wednesday’s interview, Mr Rudd called on political leaders to debate policies that would help shape Australia’s future.

The comments appeared designed to help lift Mr Rudd’s profile. Some Labor MPs still hope he will return as leader and turn around the government’s waning popularity.

“I think the challenge for all of us, whether it’s in the Labor Party or beyond it, in the Liberal Party and the national political, let’s call it establishment, is to actually lift ourselves above the ruck for a bit,” Mr Rudd said.

“I think the country expects it of us, I think they’re deeply disappointed in all of us at the moment.

“If you were to take a bit of a sweep over time, there’s been something of a kabuki play going on . . . there’s a certain terrible familiarity between whack, whack, whack and whack. Of course it takes two to tango in this.”

No glory in Slipper case

AFR: 19 Oct 2012, Marcus Priest

It is an understatement to say no one involved in the Slipper-Ashby litigation has covered themselves in glory. Justice Steven Rares now has the unenviable task of digesting this foul-smelling sandwich.

Aside from Peter Slipper, federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has been the most damaged. That she provided instructions in the case is no great revelation – that is the job of the first law officer. But it was politically reckless in this role in this role to provide ongoing commentary on litigation with such high stakes for Labor, even if her statements were carefully worded.

With the judge away in China, judgement in the interlocutory proceedings is at least some weeks away. However, it appears unlikely he will throw out the case, no matter how much he might like to.

Setting aside the recent lurid headlines, it’s worth considering what would happen if this case did proceed to final hearing.

Coincidentally, Rares was a member of a Federal Court appeal bench which last week upheld a judgment in a sexual harassment case in which the complainant was awarded just $12,000. The allegations were substantially more serious than Ashby’s: inappropriate touching and conduct, gifts of lingerie, sex toys and scanty clothing, text and multimedia messages containing explicit and pornographic content, and trips in which the employer forced her to share his bed. In contrast, the Commonwealth has agreed to pay Ashby $50,000. The government has spent about $750,000 on lawyers and Slipper about $300,000.

This week saw senior officials of the Australian Government Solicitor and the Attorney-General’s Department try to defend their handling of the matter. It wasn’t pretty. Initially, AGS chief executive Ian Govey revealed that 17 lawyers had worked on the litigation – perhaps explaining the high legal expenses – before hastily trying to clarify that only three lawyers primarily worked on the case.

AGD deputy secretary David Fredericks also stuck his foot in it by conceding the 16,400 emails and text messages had not all been read before the Commonwealth sought to have the case thrown out in June.

Given the explicit text messages that have now come to light, shadow attorney-general George Brandis had a field day with this admission. Sensing the damage done, AGD secretary Roger Wilkins blustered the “vast bulk” had been read, before clarifying that those within the relevant period had been read.

“As a lawyer who used to spend my life running litigation, you couldn’t possibly, in a professionally competent way, make a decision to apply to strike out somebody’s case because there’s no reasonable prospect of success if you haven’t even considered all of the evidence ,” Brandis said yesterday.

But for a man aspiring to be attorney-general, Brandis is either disingenuous or has been out of practice too long. Lost in the melee of the case is that the Commonwealth applied in June to have the case thrown out not because it was without foundation but because it was an abuse of process and brought for the improper collateral purpose of politically damaging the government and Slipper.

As Brandis should know from his time at the Queensland bar, the test of abuse of process is not whether a case is without foundation or “hopeless”, as he asserted. The High Court said in 1992: “The [court’s] power must extend to the prevention of an abuse of process resulting in oppression, even if the moving party has a prima facie case”. Even so, the term “hopeless” still has some resonance in this case.

The Australian Financial Review

Misogyny debate ignores reality

AFR Editorial: 19 Oct 2012

The extreme feminist position that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is a woman hater because he reflects endemic misogyny in our society is an absurd insult to the vast majority of Australian men and women and a sorry commentary on the indulgent nonsense that foments in our social “science” university departments.

It is troubling that Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, should indulge in this post-1960s tradition by labelling Mr Abbott a misogynist and that our national dictionary should so readily follow the diktat to conflate the centuries-old idea of a pathological hatred of women with modern feminist notions of sexism.

This newspaper champions free debate. But many readers would have been astounded by Susan Sheridan’s opinion piece yesterday in which she claimed that misogyny is a “cultural norm” rather than an individual aberration.

Dr Sheridan, an adjunct professor in English and women’s studies at Flinders University, argues that Mr Abbott is a misogynist because he inhabits and reflects a culture “with a long tradition of hatred and fear of women”. She claims even women who do not consciously resist our modern society’s long tradition of sexism may speak and act in ways that are misogynist. This type of feminist fundamentalism bears similarities to other fundamentalist ideologies including Marxism, green environmentalism and religious fanaticism, all of which draw on notions of oppression and hierarchical power structures that jar with the reality of our modern pluralist culture.

Dr Sheridan’s suggestion that even women can unconsciously act and speak in a misogynist manner harks back to the Marxist idea of “false consciousness”, whereby even the consuming middle classes don’t understand they are being oppressed. The proletariat may have been “oppressed” in the early industrial revolution that prompted Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to publish The Communist Manifesto in 1848. Rather than revolting, however, the working class has long ago mostly morphed into a prosperous middle class that itself increasingly owns the means of production. As Paul Keating notes, Labor has failed to embrace the aspirational class that its own economic reforms encouraged in the 1980s.

Similarly, the role of women has been transformed since Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch 40 years ago. Ms Gillard would have had far better cause to raise the status of women, particularly low-caste women, in India over the past few days. Contemporary Australian women can still face some discrimination. But it is ridiculous to claim we are part of a culture “infected” by a hatred and fear of women. Sexuality and gender roles are far more complex and deeply embedded in the human condition than antagonistic “power” relations: you could say there are many shades of grey to it. In other words, there are many shades of gray to this issue.

Ms Gillard’s decision to accuse Mr Abbott of misogyny was based on political motives rather than any genuine grievance, and the debate has subsequently been hijacked by social media radicals and our politically correct chattering class. Rather than using outlandish claims and Orwellian word manipulation to exaggerate differences between people, politicians and thought leaders should encourage all Australians to make the most of the abundant opportunities this privileged society provides, whatever their gender, race or social background.

The Australian Financial Review

Lawyer fails to find PM's legal file

The Age, October 19, 2012, Mark Baker

A SENIOR lawyer who questioned Julia Gillard about her role in setting up a union slush fund that her former boyfriend used to steal more than $400,000 says he does not know where records of the legal work have gone.

Former Slater & Gordon senior partner Peter Gordon has also defended the management of the law firm after it confirmed on Tuesday that an unofficial file compiled by Ms Gillard and detailing the work she had done had disappeared.

Ms Gillard was a salaried partner at Slater & Gordon in 1992 when she helped establish the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association - without consulting her senior partners and without opening a formal file.

It was later revealed that her then-boyfriend Bruce Wilson, a senior AWU official, had stolen most of the money contributed by employers to the association, including about $100,000 used towards the purchase, with Ms Gillard's assistance, of a Fitzroy unit bought in the name of another union official.

She broke off her relationship with Mr Wilson after his activities were discovered by the AWU leadership. She claimed she had been deceived by him and has since repeatedly denied any personal wrongdoing.

Ms Gillard resigned from Slater & Gordon after being confronted about her role at a meeting with Mr Gordon in September 1995.

A transcript of that meeting made public in August confirmed Ms Gillard's unofficial file on the association work was ''exactly right in front of her''.

Mr Gordon yesterday responded to a written request from The Age asking whether he could explain how the file had gone missing. ''My former colleagues at Slater & Gordon have made a statement to the effect that they have searched extensively and failed to find any documents which relate to the establishment of the AWU Workplace Reform Association,'' he said. ''They are people of the highest integrity and I have no hesitation in accepting that statement.''

Mr Gordon said he had not personally retained ''any documents … which relate to these matters''.

''I have absolutely no idea where any such documents might be, while noting of course that some or some parts of the documents referred to may have entered the public domain with the relevant WA statutory authority and the originals may of course still be with that authority,'' he said.

The missing file is believed to contain a letter Ms Gillard sent to the West Australian Corporate Affairs Commission in mid-1992 vouching for the bona fides of the Workplace Reform Association.

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