SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Supreme Court Shenanigans

I hadn't been to the Victorian Supreme Court before and the building itself was just as imposing as I had imagined.

Victorian grandeur

Once inside photography was prohibited, so you'll have to be content with a word picture.
In the foyer all belongings are put through an xray machine, while visitors themselves walk through a security check, exactly as happens at airports. Once cleared, and after a brief wait, we entered Court 15 where Justice Croft was presiding over the case of Tony Murphy versus Linking Melbourne Authority (LMA) and the Victorian Government. I was surprised because the plaintiff, in his suit and stylish tie looked as formally dressed as the single judge, who was neither gowned nor wigged.

Impeccably-dressed plaintiff, aka tunnel picketer, Tony Murphy

The arcane language of the barristers: 'If Your Honour pleases', 'If I may respectfully enquire', was, however, worthy of the most stereotypical court rooms.
The proceedings unfolded slowly, with the Judge emphasising several times that this case is of 'significant importance'. He is clearly not going to be rushed into a decision.  
Terms like 'strike out application' and 'injunctions' were exchanged between Ron Merkel, Tony's QC, Alan Myers, QC for the LMA and the boyish-looking Barrister Hertzel representing the Victorian Government.
Some of these terms did not mean much to the lay audience, but we certainly understood when the QC for the LMA raised the issue of costs. I'm sure it was not lost on the Judge that down one end of the table the legal representation was costing squillions of dollars, much of which will be picked up by the taxpayers, while down the other end of the table the lawyers were working for nothing.
After a great deal of discussion about further dates the session ended after a mere hour or so. It was very hard for me to make much sense of it, to assess if it had gone well or badly, so I welcomed the prospect of the lengthy post-Court debriefing outside in the icy wind.

Labor's perspective

The consensus was that this morning's session, merely round 2 of a potentially lengthy bout, represented a win for us. Justice Croft appeared unimpressed that the Government, in contrast to the LMA, has still not produced the documentation required.
Something I hadn't realised is that the bar is high for the Victorian government, in that the onus is on them to prove they are not engaging in trade or commerce. If the Court were to decide that they are so engaged, and not entitled to the 'public interest immunity', they are claiming, they could be in difficulties. We can but hope.

Sharing ideas

One thing we concluded is that if Tony were to lose, his QC would appeal on his behalf. If, on the other hand, the Government lost, they too would certainly appeal. Either way, a case mired in the courts would have to make the East-West Link a most unattractive prospect for potential bidders. Which can only work in our favour.
The next court date is 22 July, so if you can make it, come and demonstrate your support for Tony and his legal team. As Justice Croft intimated this case couldn't be more important. If our government is found liable under commercial law for false declarations, it would set an extraordinary and historical precedent. And if it proves difficult to follow everything that is happening in Court, you only have to wait for the post-session de-briefing for all to be revealed.

Heads together afterwards