August 16, 2007 | Graham

The Liberal Party Disciplinary Committee

Well, I’ve had my interview with the Liberal Party Disciplinary Committee, and it doesn’t improve my prognosis of the party’s health. I think I was more prepared for the meeting than they were, despite the fact that they didn’t serve me with the offending passages until about 24 hours before the hearing.
Last Thursday 9th August, at 4:59 pm I received an email from the State Director attaching a notice and copies of various articles that I have written, or where I was quoted. I asked for clarification. Did they object to the whole of the articles, or just some parts, and if so, which parts? It’s hard to see them objecting to the sections where I give them good advice, but then again, who knows? I also asked to be told who would constitute the committee.
The response didn’t arrive until 2:32 p.m. on the 13th, with the interview to occur on the 14th at 4:00 p.m. It included some passages excerpted from the material, and refused to tell me who my inquisitors would be. By this time I had already written my response which was due not less than 24 hours before the meeting. So I sent it without regard for the additional material as there was no time to incorporate it.
Then, on the day of the hearing I became aware that one of the tribunal members, Peter Fardoulys had declined to take part because of a conflict of interest. I’ve known Peter for almost the whole of my 30 years in the Liberal Party and he was a key participant in my two state campaigns. In fact there was considerable opposition from some quarters to including him, and I lost some support as a result. I haven’t spoken to him for years, but I can imagine that he made the right decision for the right reasons.
What surprised me was that he was to be replaced by Elaine Bowers. Elaine Bowers is 89 years of age, 14 years past the mandatory retirement age for Australian judges and has actively worked against me in the past. In 1991 she lost a ballot for Griffith FEC Chairman to me and gave my mother an earful when she drove her home. I’ve been watching her from those visual organs that sit in the back of your head ever since.
Party office-bearers were in such disarray that rather than call a meeting of State Council they decided to appoint her via a flying minute which was sent out on Monday, to be signed by 12 midday on Tuesday. One small problem with this is that the party’s constitution does not appear to allow the council to make decisions this way.
Another complication is that tribunal members cannot have sat on the party’s State Council during the last 5 years, and she was Chairman of Women’s Council, and therefore a state councillor, until mid-August 2002. This is a condition imposed in an effort to ensure that tribunal members are not biased by virtue of having been involved in recent arguments in the party. But then, as they could have more easily, and legally, just adjourned the meeting and appointed someone via the conventional route, I’m sure Mrs Bowers wasn’t the nominee because of her presumed impartiality.
Needless to say I raised some of these matters with the chair, John Miles, a Brisbane barrister, when I arrived at the committee. There was no response from Mrs Bowers to the charge of apprehended bias. In fact there was no response from Mrs Bowers to anything during the whole meeting. Miles did not attempt a defence, and he didn’t offer Mrs Bowers the opportunity. He didn’t offer a defence when I asked him to disqualify himself because he was in his position as “a representative” of the Santoro faction, and that his failure to provide adequate materials and notice, along with some of the bizarre rulings of the Disciplinary Committee meant that a reasonable person would have concerns about his impartiality. He did however decide this did not impede him from charing the committee.
Perhaps my aggressive opening threw Mr Miles. He was completely confused about the role of the Discplinary Committee. The way the Liberal Party system works is that the committee inquires into the matters referred to it by the State Council and it then decides whether the charge is proven. It then reports its findings to State Council which can then impose a penalty not exceeding the penalty recommended by the committee. In other words, the committee determines and the State Council sentences.
Despite this, Miles kept asserting that the committee wouldn’t make any determinations and that these were all for State Council to make. That was apart from the times when he said that the committee would reserve its decision and not announce it straight after the meeting. Very confusing.
He also refused to give me a right of reply, apart from making a submission to State Council. But by the time the matter gets to State Council it has already been determined.
Because he said that it was an investigation and it wouldn’t make any decisions he refused to tell me where he thought I had breached the constitution, or even where it was possible that I might have breached the constitution.
He said that the committee had read my submission and then gave me an opportunity to address them. I didn’t take it – if he wasn’t prepared to go through the allegedly offending material with me there was nothing I could add to my written words. I asked the committee if they had any questions about my written submission. It’s a very complete submission they told me. Peter Johnson, former MHR for Brisbane, even helpfully pointed out that it was 35 paragraphs in length.
“So you agree with it?” I asked hopefully. Well, no. “Then you disagree with it?” Well, no. “So can you tell me what you don’t agree with?” Well, no. They might all have been as completely silent as Mrs Bowers for all the difference it would have made.
25 minutes after the meeting began I suggested that if they were going to conduct proceedings like this the party might as well appoint a post box rather than a committee and said that if they didn’t have anything to say to me I had nothing more to say to them, so they might as well take an early marker for the afternoon.
I’ve no idea whether they did or not, but if they want to avoid bringing the party into disrepute themselves I’d suggest that they need to go back to the State Council and ask them to start again. Afterall, this is a party whose objects include the rule of law, which means, amongst other things, that they can’t act capriciously.

Posted by Graham at 1:15 pm | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. And these people want to run the state?
    Good on you Graham. It sounds as if you did very well in the circumstances.

    Comment by Lyn — August 16, 2007 @ 3:13 pm

  2. That’s the problem when the person being “tried” knows the rules better than those doing the trying.
    Is there an appeal process?
    Is the appeal process more of the same?
    Sounds to me like you have the grounds for a civil action if they decide to proceed along the lines you have outlined and impose a penalty. Natural justice, due process and all that stuff. Hang in there.

    Comment by barney — August 16, 2007 @ 4:11 pm

  3. I think it’s an absolute hoot.

    Comment by Niall — August 16, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

  4. Bravo, so are you ready to start a new party yet? I hear the ghost of Don Chipp.

    Comment by Danny — August 16, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  5. the 89 year old must push up the average age of Queensland liberal party members. and fancy complaining to your mother.
    it would all be rather funny except as Lyn commented “these people want to run the state”

    Comment by Jennifer — August 16, 2007 @ 9:19 pm

  6. You need to form yourself a libertarian party.

    Comment by Benedict Spearritt — August 19, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

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