From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Benched as, bro. The Prime Minister and Attorney-General announced this morning Australia would get its first female Chief Justice of the High Court, with Justice Susan Kiefel taking over from Justice Robert French. Kiefel’s rise to the top legal job in the country has been documented — she left school at 15 and studied law part time as she worked as a legal secretary. Kiefel’s promotion means that another place opens up on the bench, which will be taken by Justice James Edelman. At just 42, Edelman is not quite the youngest High Court judge (that would be Doc Evatt, who was 36), but he has had a meteoric rise so far. Edelman was sworn in to the Federal Court last year, and this speech by Law Council of Australia president Duncan McConnel details Edelman’s success in three separate criminal law appeals to the High Court. It also included this anecdote about just how dedicated the new justice is to his job:


Punter’s next gig coming soon. It’s already been rumoured that former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting will be appointed chair of the board of selectors, but a caller to 6PR in Perth says the announcement could come as soon as this week. After Rod Marsh stood down following Australia’s disastrous opening of the summer series, Trevor Hohns was named interim chairman, with Greg Chappell also joining the panel on a temporary basis. Ponting’s calendar is newly freed up after he stood aside as coach of the Indian Premier League team, the Mumbai Indians and he has said he would consider taking on a coaching or selection role with the Australian side.

Get off our lawn. In both security and architectural news this morning, it’s been reported that the lawns across the roof of Parliament House will soon be closed to the public, as part of a bid to reduce the building’s vulnerability to a possible terrorist attack. The restriction would be against the architectural intention for the lawns, which were designed by Romaldo Giurgola to show that democracy rose out of the ground — and so that people could walk over the top of their elected representatives. The restrictions on access to the lawns would also mean that pranks like the poisoned grass reading “Vote One HEMP” from earlier this year would also be rubbed out.

Check your privilege. The documents seized by the Australian Federal Police in their extraordinary raid in the basement of Parliament House in August should be considered to be protected by parliamentary privilege, according to a parliamentary committee.

The third raid in late August was on the servers in Parliament House to secure emails related to leaks from NBN Co to Labor and ultimately the media that embarrassed the company about the state of the rollout of the NBN. Labor MP Jason Clare, then shadow communications minister, claimed the documents were protected under parliamentary privilege.

The House parliamentary privileges committee said yesterday that — go figure — any documents about the NBN held by a staffer for the shadow communications minister were likely to fall within the shadow minister’s parliamentary duties and would be covered by parliamentary privilege.

Interestingly the committee also noted that the AFP guidelines around claiming of parliamentary privilege were a “successful safeguard” in this instance. This can be seen in emails the committee referred to, which were released under FOI law earlier this month when privilege was claimed.


While privilege was fully respected in the Parliament House raid, it remains to be seen if it was in the first two raids. Labor was critical of the first raids, during which an NBN Co staffer was taking photos of the documents seized and sending them back to the company while privilege was being claimed.

If Parliament accepts the recommendation of the committee, the AFP will be unable to use the documents as part of its investigation into the source of the NBN leaks. This is separate to a claim for parliamentary privilege made by former senator Stephen Conroy just before he retired. That claim will be determined by the Senate privileges committee.

The raid led to new rules in Parliament banning media from taking photos in the basement.

Senate starts chip deficit. The Senate sat until almost 1am today as it debated the ABCC legislation, and as this tweet from Annabel Crabb shows, MPs, staffers and the media got the munchies big time, clearing this vending machine out of carbs. Fingers crossed it gets replenished soon, as the government looks to push through the bill by the end of the week.


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