The inequality of Australian justice was on full display in Melbourne yesterday.

On one side of William Street, in a witness box inside the Supreme Court, a wealthy, handsomely-suited, prosperous-looking 50-year-old businessman was into his third day of refusing to answer questions about, among other things, his illicit share dealings. On the other side of the street, in the dock inside the County Court, a remorseful 21-year-old Aboriginal burglar with a history of drug addiction and 75 previous convictions was being sentenced to four years’ jail after pleading guilty to 25 counts of theft and burglary.

Steve Vizard squirmed but, advised by a legal team that included two of Australia’s most expensive QCs, he managed to avoid giving evidence that could expose him to prosecution for perjury or for trading shares while on the board of Australia’s biggest company, Telstra — offences for which he was tapped over the knuckles by ASIC, fined $390,000 and disqualified from being a company director for ten years.

In the courtroom over the road, Peter Clarke also squirmed. “I’m very, very sorry for the pain I have caused in committing these crimes,” he told the judge — crimes which included aggravated burglary and stealing six laptop computers from the Toorak mansion of Steve Vizard.

As Steve Vizard could affirm, if he was prepared to answer, Australian justice is still the best that money can buy.

Peter Fray

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