IA, Brian Martin QC and Kevin Rudd: Appointments and disappointments

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Malcolm Turnbull's appointment of Brian Ross Martin QC to his NT Royal Commission and decision to not recommend Kevin Rudd for the UN Secretary-General role were both disappointing, says managing editor Dave Donovan.

THERE WAS some big news for Independent Australia supporters and members this week, with IA being admitted into the Australian Press Council.

This means more credibility for IA. It means no-one can call us a blog anymore. It means a lot more than that as well.

But there were other more important appointments happening this week we also need to consider. Well, one appointment and one non-appointment. Both disappointing.

Firstly, there was the appointment of Brian Ross Martin QC to be a Commissioner in Turnbull's hastily cobbled together inquiry — all assembled in a rush after ABC Four Corners this week shocked the nation about the horrific circumstances of youth detention in the Northern Territory.

Brandis and Turnbull hired Martin. Despite him being NT chief justice from 2004 to 2010 in the small pond that is the Deep North's dysfunctional criminal justice system, and still being an "additional judge" in that system. Despite him accepting an appointment in the last three months to develop an anti-corruption commission by the NT Attorney-General John Elferink, the disgraced former Corrections Minister upon whom Martin will have to soon deliberate about as Royal Commissioner. Despite these clear conflicts of interest, Malcolm Turnbull and Federal Attorney George Brandis still saw fit to appoint him to run their "quick and dirty" Royal Commission. 

But disturbing as that is, that is not the most disturbing element. The most disturbing thing is that same judge, Martin, is infamous in the Northern Territory Indigenous community for at least one of his judgements. A judgement that brands him deeply as a very active contributor towards the very racist problem he has now been set to rule upon.

This is how Indigenous affairs editor Natalie Cromb described on IA yesterday (29/7/16) this appaling (mis-)judgement:

... in 2010 Brian Martin presided over the infamous trial of five white youths, who committed a vicious hate murder of an Aboriginal man in Alice Springs. In the middle of the night, after joyriding around the Todd River as Indigenous people lay sleeping, recklessly endagering scores of people, they then brutally bashed and kicked one man, Kwemetyaye Ryder, into unconsciousness as he lay on the ground — the killing blow coming from a broken bottle over the back of the head.

Despite the horrific nature of the crime, Northern Territory Supreme Court Justice Brian Martin QC described the youth as “.... of otherwise good character.”

The murderous youths had their charge downgraded to manslaughter and the judge considered the crime at the "lower end" of the scale of manslaughter, handing down sentences of between one and four years. A man was remorselessly murdered, but because he was Aboriginal, his life was worth just 12 months.

All because, in this country, you can be racist, and hateful, and murderously violent, but still be considered of “good character” — so long as your victims are black, of course!

Appointing Brian Martin QC is Malcolm Turnbull’s way of sticking the knife in to Aboriginal Australia. He is perturbed at needing to deal with a national scandal and inconvenienced by the need for a royal commission, but he wants to make sure that we all know how he feels about an impartial and thorough investigation. The Commission hasn't even started, but the fix is already in.

The appointment of Brian Martin QC has ensured the Royal Commission will achieve nothing. It has been nobbled before it has even begun.

And then there was the non-appointment. The other great disappointment.

The great irony, in fact. Because despite Turnbull appointing the worse possible candidate for his urgent and important appointment into Northern Territory youth injustice, he blocked an excellent appointment to the United Nations that would have little effect either way upon Australians.

With former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd putting his hand up to become United Nations Secretary-General, Australia had its first ever chance to head this organisation. But sadly, because of the hyper-partisan nature of the Coalition Government, which couldn't tolerate a Labor figure attaining a high position, Rudd was scuttled. This, despite letters released by Kevin Rudd to Fairfax yesterday allegedly showing Turnbull earlier encouraging Rudd to pursue the position and telling Rudd he and Julie Bishop were "as one" in support for his candidature. Did Turnbull lie? It seems so.

In fact, it split the Cabinet, with many of the more sensible figures in the Government, such as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, thinking it would, of course, be advantageous to Australia for an Australian to head the world's most important multilateral organisation. But the rightwing nutjob fraternity headed by Peter Dutton held sway and Rudd was dudded.

Turnbull came out and gave the world's most awkward press conference, where he said he claimed he had exercised his discretion to deny Rudd the endorsement of the Government for the UN position. When questioned why he had decided that way, he said Rudd was "not well-suited" for the position of UN Secretary-General.

That's right, the man who needs a leave pass from the rightwing of his own party to take a toilet break, who made alleged racist Brian Martin QC the Northern Territory Youth Detention Royal Commissioner, says the man who saved Australia from the GFC is not qualified to head a foreign organisation, despite having supported his bid in the past.

When pressed on the reasoning behind his decision, Turnbull refused to say. He said he did want to add insult to injury — to not add to Kevin Rudd's disappointment.

Not wanting to add to Rudd's disappointment seems like an odd reason, since disappointment is more or less all any of us expect from Malcolm Turnbull these days.

You can follow Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz.

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