NSW Senator Bill Heffernan rang Crikey last Friday to object to this comment by Mark Latham in Thursday’s Crikey email edition: “What has happened to this country when a Senator can try to fit up a High Court judge as a kiddie-fiddler and then a few years later, the Senator is rehabilitated as the Prime Minister’s confidant and political hitman? It’s a sick, sick world down there in Canberra.”

Senator Heffernan says Latham misrepresented a speech he gave in the Senate on 12 March 2002. Heffernan says at no point in his Senate speech did he allege Kirby was a “kiddie-fiddler.”

Here’s a relevant extract of Heffernan’s comments (on Kirby) from Hansard:

I refer to a judge who has put himself at grave risk of blackmail, entrapment, compromise and hypocrisy. This judge has come to the attention of senior police and the Child Protection Enforcement Agency in New South Wales. His activities and police concerns have been reported by policing authorities to senior judicial officers in both state and federal contexts. I regret to inform the Senate that, over a period of years, I have personally interviewed at great length, and obtained statutory declarations from, former rentboys from Sydney and Wollongong who worked the Wall at Darlinghurst as young male prostitutes, some of whom were taken to an address in Darley Street – an address known to the police, adjacent to the Wall – by this judge on various occasions in a fee for-service arrangement. I am informed New South Wales police can confirm these activities.

And here’s an extract from the Wikipedia entry on Heffernan dealing with how his comments were received:

On March 12 of that year, speaking under parliamentary privilege, Heffernan publicly accused Kirby of trawling for “rent boys.” Although Heffernan did not explicitly claim that these “rent boys” were under the age of consent, the speech – which repeatedly describes an alleged companion of Kirby’s as “young,” and intersperses condemnation of Kirby with references to protection of “children” – was widely interpreted as an implied accusation of paedophilia.

It’s clear from the Hansard that Heffernan never claimed Kirby was a “kiddie-fiddler” – indeed, although Justice Kirby is unambiguously identified, he isn’t explicitly named as the judge to whom these comments refer. But the references to child protection agencies and “young” rent boys appear to be calculated to create the exact (mis)impression that Senator Heffernan is now so eager to correct.

Peter Fray

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