Politics

The Ashbygate hedge and Bob's DPP

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On Friday in Senate Committee hearings, the DPP were grilled about why they're pursuing Peter Slipper for just $900, when other MPs are excused for much, much, more. Ross Jones reports.

Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl a cracked and broken path.
~ King Crimson, Epitaph

BromwichPratt
Senator Louise Pratt and Robert Bromwich SC

AND I imagine Labour senator Louise Pratt is feeling pretty much the same after attempting to grill Robert Bromwich SC, Director of Public Prosecutions, in an Estimates Committee hearing on Friday, 31 May 2013, regarding the apparent trashing of the Minchin Protocol at the piñata that is Peter Slipper.

This was Kurt Vonnegut writ large.

Reasonably, Senator Pratt opened her question of the AFP head honcho with:

“My question is about is about the prosecution of Mr Peter Slipper. The offence that he is charged with concerns a sum of money that would usually be acquitted internally in the Department of Finance, according to the Minchin Protocol.”

In response, Bob hedged:

The Minchin protocol, as I understand it, is a protocol within the Department of Finance. This matter came to my office from the Australian Federal Police and we assessed the brief that came from the Australian Federal Police in the way that we assess every other brief of evidence that comes to the office.”

So, are we clear?

The matter came straight from the AFP. No Department of Finance whatsoever. Nothing at all to do, for instance, with the deputy Department of Finance (and Deregulation) Jan Mason. Nothing whatsoever, you can be sure, to do with Finance Department assistant secretary Greg Miles.

Not at all, but what about precedent?

Sophie Mirabella was saved by the Minchin Protocol.
Sophie Mirabella was saved by the Minchin Protocol.

Senator Pratt:

“When Sophie Mirabella's staffer had a $906 cab charge, that was dealt with under the Minchin protocol. Is that because it was not referred to you by the AFP?”

Good question, eh?

Quite right, Sophie wasn’t referred to the AFP. Nor was the balaclava-clad, Alsatian-wielding, demagogue Peter Reith ... remember him? He was the minister who spent $50 grand of the public purse on his kid’s phone habit.

"The prosecution policy has those two central features. We have not yet reached and I hope we never reach the point of making decisions to prosecute on the basis of resources alone, given that the two thresholds that have to be passed is sufficiency of evidence and public interest in prosecuting. Both of those matters were seriously and carefully considered in relation to this matter."

Resources, resmources, says Bob.

Pratt pushes on:

“So I can I ask how many barristers from the DPP are working on this matter?”

According to Bob, none. Just a few humble solicitors — kindly grey-haired guys, helping out on subsistence wages.

Outside contract barristers?

No.

Private consultants and expert witnesses?

Well, according to Bob:

“I would have to go back and check. I think there is one expert witness. There may be more than one but I recall one. 'Expert witness' is a term that has a fluidity about it, because there are people who have a form of expertise which is not the same, for example, as a scientist or something like that.”
More than one (fluid) “expert”?
PeterSlipperSpeaker
Former Speaker Peter Slipper

We know about the geospatial expert and we know the trick here is to track the cab’s GPS via the various responder towers.

So, what other experts could you want?

I guess cab drivers know what they’re going, but “expert” is not a term to be bandied around easily.

Won’t it be fun to see how 39 witnesses can be lined up to testify about how guy got a cab?

The carnival rolls on.

(Read the extract from Hansard relating to the Committee hearing here.)

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