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25 June, 2010  
The Laura Norda milieu

Goings On … Why Cowdrey had to go before the Labor government gets tossed out … Ruddock’s man goes to the bar … Cross pollinating the courts … Things go slow with Australian’s “forensic” investigation of Victorian coppers

imageThere was puzzlement when NSW DPP Nicholas Cowdery announced in mid-April that he’d be retiring just before the state elections next year.

The DPP says he’s going just as the clock ticks over to his 65th birthday, March 19.

The election is a week later on March 26.

So the question is, why the big hurry to go before the government, with which he’s been in constant entanglement, has gone?

It even might give the current regime wriggle room to line up his successor before the campaign starts in earnest.

As we know Cowdery has a “life” appointment, or at least till the judicial retiring age of 72.

The new 2005 schedule to the Act says the next DPP can only serve a maximum of 10 years and has to be gone by age 72. Senior offices get seven years to a maximum of 65 years of age.

imageHowever, under the old schedule to the DPP Act, under which Cowdery (pic) was appointed in 1994, there was an anomaly.

The DPP could stay till age 72, but he had to take his pension at 65, or he’d get zilch.

When the legislation was changed years ago to allow for life appointment of the director that part of the schedule dealing with the director’s pension was overlooked. This is what it said:

”(1) The Judges’ Pensions Act 1953 applies, with any necessary adaptations, to a person who is or was director (and the person’s spouse and children) in the same way as it applies to a person who is or was a judge (and the person’s spouse and children), except that:

(a) the pension payable under section 3 of that Act is payable on the director’s retirement at the age of 65 years after serving as director for not less than 5 years, and

(b) the pension payable under section 4 of that Act is payable on the director’s retirement after reaching the age of 60 years and before reaching the age of 65 years, after serving as Director for not less than 10 years.”

Normally, these inconsistencies are cleared-up every so often by amendments.

The AG must have known about this loose end for some time, but did nothing about bringing Cowdery’s pension into line with the “lifer” status that accompanied his appointment.

I wonder why?

* * *

I hear that the lease on the NSW Public Defenders Office at 175 Liverpool Street has run out.

The AG’s department has been on notice for yonks that the landlord was not going to renew – but nothing much happened.

Things dragged on and the defenders thought they may have to be working from tents in Hyde Park, but it seems they have gone onto a month-by-month tenancy while there’s now a frantic scramble to find suitable alternative digs around town.

* * *

The NSW AG has flagged that Chief Madge Graeme Henson will be adorned with the red and purple.

Henson will hold dual commissions as Chief of the the Madgies as well as a Dizzo judge – much in the way that Reg Blanch is the king of the Dizzo as well as a member of the all-singing Supremes.

Amendments to the Supreme Court Act and the Land and Environment Court Act will also mean those courts can be more easily cross-pollinated with each other’s judges.

imageThat old crook Murray Farquhar CM lobbied vigorously to be elevated to the Dizzo – unsuccessfully. But while some crave it, others are desperate to avoid it.

The late Paul (The Snake) Landa (illo) as attorney general was keen on the idea that his departmental head Trevor Haines should go to the District Court. Cabinet even went so far as to approve the elevation.

However, Trevor was horrified by this manoeuvre and refused to budge.

The impasse was resolved during a game of tennis in November 1984.

RIP The Snake.

* * *

Ex-attorney general Philip Ruddock’s press secretary, Michael Pelly, who worked so hard on spinning the line that David Hicks was a massive war criminal, has just completed the NSW bar exams and hopes to have a career at the Grill.

Chris Merritt, the legal affairs man at The Australian, tells me that Pelly will still do a column for the paper. “Anything, to avoid him driving a taxi,” said Merritt.

* * *

Things seem to be going a bit slow with The Australian’s “forensic” (its word) reporting of the police patch in Melbourne.

You’ll remember that Hedley Thomas, the ace reporter from Brisbane flew into Melbourne, picked up a couple of boxes of documents from the Mullett’s garage, went back to Brisbane and turned himself into a one-man Fitzgerald commission with a series on the police commissioner, the Office of Police Integrity and Operation Briars.

His accusation was that commissioner Simon Overland in August 2007 had breached the Telecommunications Interception Act and in the process scuttled the top secret Operation Brians investigation into the alleged involvement of coppers in the murder of a Melbourne “vampire”, Shane Chartres-Abbott.

imageBy Monday (June 21) the paper has turned the allegations against Overland into “questions”.

The paper’s Melbourne bureau chief, Chip Le Grand (The Big Chip), and reporter Lauren Wilson wrote a story based on the say so of former copper Dave (Docket) Waters (seen here), someone who in equitable terms might be described as having “unclean” hands.

Waters drank at a pub with a clutch of Melbourne low-life, including a man who pleaded guilty to the murder of Chartres-Abbott and who goes under the nom de guerre “Jack Price”. Waters has been described as having “known gangland associates [and] an incident packed career”.

Another ex-copper, Peter Lalor, was fingered by Price as tipping him off as to the deceased’s residential address, and it was claimed Waters knew about this.

The Big Chip gave Waters a platform to pronounce that he didn’t think Price was guilty at all.

The Big Chip wrote:

“Although it would appear implausible for anyone to plead guilty to a murder they didn’t commit, there are circumstances that support Mr Waters’s theory.”

The plausible circumstance advanced was that for the guilty plea Justice Simon Whelan did not add a single day behind bars to the non-parole term Price was already serving.

So the judge was in on the plot too, as well as the DPP and the entire criminal justice establishment – all according to Docket Waters and gleefully lapped-up by The Australian.

Seasoned observers of the Laura Norda milieu in Melbourne remain utterly stunned.

It might have been handy if The Oz had provided readers with a bit more background about Docket before giving him a leg-up. Tony Fitzgerald has described reptiles in the media who are so accommodating as “handmaidens”.

Former Australian reporter Andrew Dodd recently wrote about the world in which Murdoch hacks operate:

“I know the culture at The Australian. I worked there for five years. Occasionally, as a reporter you get leant-on to chase things. You can be pushed into prodding a certain side in a certain way in line with the paper’s campaign of the day. I know how uncomfortable this is, particularly when the paper is not a disinterested player.”

Further background: