Andrew Bolt has fired a warning shot ahead of the looming judgment in his racial discrimination case, using his regular column in this morning’s Herald Sun to launch an attack against “left-wing” judges.

With a decision set to be handed down soon, a taste of the broadside to come was buried deep in Bolt’s regular Hun column under the cover of a strike against Felicity Hampel SC following Hampel’s appearance on Monday night’s Q&A.

Bolt previously aired his views on Hampel back in 2007, which were repeated verbatim this morning. But reading between the lines, the real target appears to be the judge that presided over Bolt’s case, respected former St Kilda AFL half-forward flanker Mordecai “Mordy” Bromberg.

Crikey understands Bolt and his allies at The Australian‘s Nationwide News edifice are preparing to go to war against Bromberg in the event of a negative outcome, a war that will also include the nine fair-skinned Aborigines that brought the case and the former federal MP that introduced the changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

In the morning’s opening stanza Bolt veers perilously close to scandalising the court by suggesting Hampel’s judgments were informed not by the law but by her apparent political biases:

“Now, you may argue that a judge just follows the law and never her personal inclinations or ideological beliefs.

“In a perfect world, that might even be true.

“You may also console yourself with the thought that there is a long tradition that once someone becomes a judge, that person tries particularly hard not just to be politically neutral, but to seem so, too.

“Not so Hampel, though. Not on Q&A, where she appeared very fashionably dressed and very fashionably earnest.”

But it’s the coy final paragraphs that are most indicative — not of Bolt’s views on Hampel — but his views on his own case, which he has been specifically told not to discuss while it is still sub-judice. Says Bolt:

“Then there’s this. Now that Hampel has joined in the political debate and I have objected to her views, would I be right to worry should I ever come before a Leftist judge just like her?

“I mean, a judge who shares all her unexamined political assumptions — or remembers with resentment this article by a nasty conservative?”

Crikey has previously reported that Bromberg unsuccessfully ran for ALP preselection for the federal seat of Burke (later Gorton) in 2001 for the Independents Faction against the Ferguson Left’s Brendan O’Connor after veteran MP Neil O’Keefe threw in the towel. Bromberg came second in the six-strong ballot, which also included another lawyer and a member of the pork lobby.

In some conservative quarters the floodgates have already opened. A recent Quadrant article by Michael Connor noted the Bromberg preselection bid, but added that because the case was still before the court he couldn’t draw any obvious conclusions. And The Australian has already run a series of stories bagging applicant Larissa Behrendt over her Twitter use and family background.

News would appear to be in a win-win situation with regard to the case. If Bromberg rules in Bolt’s favour it will be celebrated as a triumph for freedom of speech. On the other hand, a loss would almost certainly lead to a full-scale News-backed assault on the Racial Discrimination Act, the judiciary and the subsequent relationship between the person that introduced the 1995 changes to the legislation that snared him — former Attorney General Michael Lavarch — and Behrendt.

Sources close to the case say that the blitz might be launched not by the Herald Sun, whose publisher the Herald and Weekly Times would be expected to appeal to the High Court, but by Sydney-based allies Nationwide News and The Australian.

Fears of the front-page treatment to come emerged as the trial entered its final minutes, with Bolt’s legal team making a submission, since withdrawn, to publish the totality of the “proceedings, argument and evidence” in the case. But any cynical attempt to dispute Bromberg’s reasoning after-the-fact could provoke serious charges.

The offence of “scandalising the court” shot to prominence in the case of Builders and Labourers Federation warrior Norm Gallagher, who was jailed in 1982 for suggesting his union’s muscle had influenced the Federal Court in his prior contempt case.

Bromberg’s judgement in the Bolt case is due to be handed down within days.

*As this matter is still before court, Crikey is not allowing comments on this article. If you wish to respond email [email protected].

Peter Fray

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