If I were Matthew Guy, the Victorian Liberal planning spokesman, I would be looking in my own backyard before slinging arrows at the Bracks Government for engaging ALP candidate and barrister Mark Dreyfus to appear for it in the inquiry into a proposed toxic-waste dump at Mildura.
And if I were the Herald Sun, I might dig through the archives to find examples of Liberal Party members who have been handed briefs by their own party over the years before I went into print with an editorial, like this morning’s, castigating the Bracks Government over jobs for mates.
Actually, Guy and the Herald Sun need look no further than at the shadow police minister Andrew McIntosh when it comes to parallels with Dreyfus.
McIntosh was elected to the Victorian Parliament in 1999, taking former attorney-general Jan Wade’s blue-ribbon seat of Kew. He has been a member of the Liberal Party since 1982, and in the 1990s was on a number of party committees, according to his website. And, again according to the bio on his website, “he was briefed as Senior Counsel for the Victorian Government to appear in a large Native Title Claim made over Crown land in Western Victoria”.
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Native title claims have only been around since 1993, when the Kennett government was in office in Victoria, and one can assume that McIntosh took this brief before he entered Parliament in 1999, when the Kennett government was defeated. In short, this appears to be a case where an active Liberal Party member was handed a brief by a Liberal government.
And if one dusts of Victorian Law Reports of the 1980s one will find that former Kennett government minister Mark Birrell, who was an opposition MP at that time, took some Freedom of Information cases to the Supreme Court. Guess who acted for Birrell in that 1987 case – one Richard Alston, and his sidekick was Victor Perton – both of whom who became Liberal MPs.
You see the point is – they all do it! And in every other state of Australia one can find numerous examples of party members who happen to be lawyers being handed government work. That doesn’t make it right, but the Herald Sun and Guy are being just a tad selective in beating up on Dreyfus.