Peter Dutton

Menzies doesn’t do the readings The Menzies Research Centre, one of those partisan finishing schools for ambitious party apparatchiks dreaming of Canberra, was humbled at a parliamentary inquiry into class action litigation yesterday. The centre’s chief of staff James Mathias opened its submission to the inquiry with this “quote” from Federal Court Justice Michael Lee:

… the phrase ‘access to justice’ is often misused by litigation funders to justify what, at bottom, is a commercial endeavour to make money out of the conduct of litigation.

But Lee never actually said those words, which were taken from an article in legal publication Lawyerly. Under questioning from Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill, Mathias admitted he’d never read the judgment. 

“Judgments are long, hundreds of pages,” Mathias said.

O’Neill informed him this one was just 37 pages. The Menzies submission also claimed the average amount paid to plaintiffs in funded class actions fell to 39% in 2019. That figure was reported as an “exclusive” by The Australian’s legal affairs editor Chris Merritt last month.

Turns out it too was off the mark — Mathias claimed it came from law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, but no other submissions, including Freehills’, used that figure. A representative from litigation funder Omni Bridgeway later told the inquiry the figure was misrepresented.

Holt St watch There’s been a bit of churn going on at The Australian. Yesterday, national security editor Paul Maley announced his departure after 13 years at the paper. A month ago, media editor Leo Shanhan left. Other veterans — racing writer Brendan McCormick, sports reporter Andrew Faulkner, photographers Lyndon Mechielsen and Gary Ramage (the latter News Corp’s chief photographer with multiple Walkleys) and production journalist Graeme Pringle, are all gone through a mix of retirement, redundancy and new opportunities.

The latest exodus follows last month’s announcement of redundancies at News Corp. It also comes after a string of high-profile departures last year.

Meanwhile The Daily Telegraph’s political editor (and Tucker Carlson favourite) Sharri Markson returns to lead investigations. Perhaps we’ll see more hard-nosed, undercover exposures of pesky media students.

Palace letters leaves archives broke Today’s release of the Palace Letters, set to spark a wave of Whitlam nostalgia, has come at a cost. Historian and Whitlam biographer Jenny Hocking has been trying to get the National Archives to release the letters for over a decade, including a legal fight beginning in 2016.

The case, which went all the way to the High Court, has seen costs awarded against the National Archives to the tune of around $2 million. Meanwhile, the archives are reportedly at “breaking point” thanks to budget cuts of 10% a year since 2015.

Where the hell is Dutts? Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, recently voted Crikey’s Arsehat Of The Decade, has dropped off the map. Dutton doesn’t seem to have done any media since July 3, almost two weeks ago. He’s narrowly avoided a potential contempt of court charge.

Now, some pundits are writing his political epitaph ahead of a post-Cormann reshuffle. According to Ten’s renowned electoral soothsayer Peter van Onselen, Scott Morrison wants to put Dutts out to pasture in defence, apparently a political graveyard. The Oz’s Dennis Shananhan says moving Dutton there would be “a very good improvement”. 

Pell on Earth Prisons “may be hell on earth”, but not if you’re a cardinal awaiting appeal on conviction, apparently. So writes George Pell in a first-person piece for American religious journal First Things, republished in The Australian.

Pell says he was kept in “the Toorak end” of Barwon Prison — named for its lack of “bangers and shouters”. He also claims that, unlike many in his position, he had some defenders among the inmate population.

It’s time to book your next dose of Crikey.

Through the week, news comes at you fast. Every day there’s a new disaster, depressing numbers or a scandal to doom-scroll to. It’s exhausting, and not good for your health.

Book your next dose of Crikey to get on top of it all. Subscribe now and get your first 12 weeks for $12. And you’ll help us too, because every dollar we get helps us dig even deeper.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.