November 07, 2003 | Graham

And saved by Milo Minderbinder

This morning’s newspapers show Pauline Hanson at her best, and most journalists at their worst. Pauline is busy doing what she does best – playing the victim – while the press is by and large improvising on her tune. Most guilty is The Australian with its headline – The truth has set me free. Surely very deep apologies are owed to John 8:32 because The Courier Mail headline calls it correctly – They’re free, but they lied (headline hardcopy only).
Hanson and Ettridge succeeded in their appeal because the court found that the Crown had not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the 500 names submitted to the electoral commission were not members of One Nation. According to Justice de Jersey they each “filled in an application form headed ‘Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’”, which was processed by the party office. They were issued with a receipt and a membership card in the name of the party and their names entered into the records of the party. They each paid a fee “of the order of $40/$50”. “Applying orthodox contract theory…” they were members. So why did Hanson, Ettridge and the Director of Public Prosecutions think they weren’t members?
Well there was a tricky little clause (Cl 9) in the One Nation constitution that required the Management Committee – which consisted of Hanson, Ettridge and Oldfield – to “determin[e] whether to admit or reject applicants.” The oral evidence adduced from all parties is that Hanson and Ettridge did not intend that these people become members. However, the appeal court ruled that intentions give way to presumptions of objective fact.
Yet in Sharples v O’Shea & Hanson (No 6318 of 1998), the case that made this one necessary, Atkins J appears to accept that the evidence of their intentions was relevant because it was objective evidence, in the absence of any other, that the management committee had not approved any other members. Two of the justices – de Jersey and McMurdo – ought to have been quite au fait with this as they were part of the bench that unanimously upheld this ruling on appeal. The major difference is that Sharples’ case was a civil matter and they distinguished this one in part through the issue of whether it met the standard of proof (and also because not all the same witnesses or evidence was led).
Maybe it didn’t, but the question that is unanswered for me, is why the court proceeded from this to quash the judgement. The evidence in Sharples appears very strong. Surely it would have been more satisfactory to order a retrial so that the standard of proof matter – which appears to be easy to overcome when you read all of the judgements in these cases – could have been put to the test?
Or is it that the court has decided that it has had enough of Ms Hanson, that she has served time and the matter should be expediently drawn to a close?
Whatever, one thing is clear – not one Justice accepts that Pauline Hanson and David Ettridge believed there were 500 members of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation when they applied for registration. They all accept that this was a lie, just not necessarily a criminal one.
One of the results of this is that my post of yesterday is wrong – the Commission will not have to pay them the public funding afterall. In a result that would make Milo Minderbinder proud they may be innocent, but they still fraudulently registered a political party. Is this why the bench made dire warnings about the propriety of questionning judicial rulings and blamed counsel and the DPP for the matter getting this far?

Posted by Graham at 3:48 pm | Comments Off on And saved by Milo Minderbinder |
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