It is not often you get Labor Party insiders delving into Liberal affairs but our working class insider Rev Cleophus James has provided this interesting little piece on Justice Minister Chris Ellison.

Crikey readers will also recall that following these revelations, we reported that the Justice Minister had announced indignantly at a Liberal Party Council meeting that he would sue us if he could identify our correspondent.

A Labor Party staffer has sent Crikey the Senate Hansard of 25 September 2001 which records an exchange between Labor Senator, Chris Schacht and Senator Ellison. A small excerpt of that exchange is as follows.

Senator Schacht: “Senator Ellson, I have even heard your mentor, ex-Senator Crichton-Browne, who helped put you in this parliament—-.”

Senator Ellison: “He did not.”

Our Labor staffer writes that it is widely known among not only Liberal Senators and Members but also Labor pollies who were around at the time, that Crichton-Browne put both Ellison and [Senator] Campbell into the Senate.

Given the ill-will between Howard and Crichton-Browne, Ellison’s repudiation of his ex-mate and how he got into the Senate is standard fare for an ambitious parliamentarian who wants to be seen to be denying his presently unfashionable past, so as to please his master. Dissembling and ratting are part of the game of politics for those who believe the prize justifies the means.

What is different about Senator Ellison’s blatant denial of the truth is that he did it as a Minister of the Crown in the Senate and as Justice Minister no less. The rules and conventions of Ministers deliberately misleading the Parliament are well known.

The most famous casualty is John Profumo of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies infamy. As a Minister, Profumo misled the House of Commons about his personal life, was found to have done so by a committee of his peers, apologised and then resigned.

Under the rules of the Australian Senate, a Senator who makes deliberately untrue statements to the Chamber may be found to be in contempt of the Senate. It is competent for any Senator to move that the matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Privileges. Given that the Labor Party chairs the Committee, who knows.

Crikey thinks it should do its bit to keep all our pollies honest so we would be interested to hear from Liberals in Western Australia or from anywhere else for that matter who can personally recount the facts about Justice Minister Ellison’s Senate preselection. We know from Chris’s excitability about our earlier references to him that he is a reader of Crikey so perhaps he will put our readers straight.


The feedback is already starting to flow and we welcome it:

Ellison paid my Young Lib membership

As a Uni WA undergraduate in the early 1980s, I well remember Chris Ellison and his mate Mark Trowell QC trawling the tavern for recruits for the UWA young libs. Given that Ellison paid the subs for all of us, at least a dozen of my acquaintances signed up with the sole aim of attending the chicken and champagne breakfasts favoured by the YL fundraisers. It was worth the effort – otherwise how would we have seen premier Sir Charles Court storm out of one bash with his dripping wife Lady Rita after she had been, accidently surely, edged into the swimming pool in her Sunday fines.


Mark Trowell QC responds

Dear Stephen,

Your correspondent reporting the alleged activities of Chris Ellison and myself in the politically turbulent years of the 1980s is either being deliberately untruthful or has just smoked too much weed over the years.

Might I reply.

First, there was never any organisation known as the “UWA young libs”. There was the UWA Liberal Club for university students. There was also a local branch of the Young Liberal Movement.

Secondly, I have no recall of conducting membership drives in the University Tavern. However, it must be admitted that Chris Ellison and myself did spend some time there enjoying the conviviality. It is possible that we would have taken every opportunity to promote our cause, which was a just one. To allege that either of us paid membership fees on behalf of others is scandalous because it is simply untrue.

Finally, the incident allegedly concerning Lady Rita Court taking a pool plunge (either accidentally or deliberately) at a Young Liberal function is just pure fiction.

There is a moral to this tale. If you are going to tell lies, make them as close to the truth as possible. Perhaps that’s why your correspondent wanted to retain his anonymity. He knew the allegations were fictional and didn’t want to put his name to them.

Keep up the fine work on the Crikey website.


Mark Trowell QC