A well-known Irish joke tells of about a tourist in Ireland who asks one of the locals for directions to Dublin. The Irishman replies: ‘Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’. I don’t think it is as anti-Irish as seems at first blush. There is wisdom in it. If you want to go somewhere it is a good idea to start from a place where your goal is achievable. [click to continue…]


Monarchy faces litany of dour old men

by Crispin Hull on September 26, 2015

THE record-breaking reign of Queen Elizabeth and her apparent determination to see it through to the end, presents a dreary future thereafter for the monarchy.

What if the Queen lives to the same age as her mother – 101? [click to continue…]

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Wrongful-prosecution law needs fixing

by Crispin Hull on September 19, 2015

DAVID Eastman’s quest for compensation will highlight major deficiencies in other Australian jurisdictions’ law and some lesser difficulties in ACT law.

Eastman served 19 years’ jail after being convicted of murdering Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester.

The conviction was quashed in August last year. The prosecution intends to try Eastman again. Eastman is on bail and has launched an action to stay the prosecution on the ground he cannot get a fair trial after such a long time.

The common law tort of malicious prosecution is available in all jurisdictions, but it is a very hard one to prove.

The High Court held in 2013 that a plaintiff would have to prove the prosecutor acted with malice and without reasonable cause.

This would be a reason for someone in the ACT to sue under the ACT Human Rights Act, which provides less onerous conditions.

It would not require that Eastman prove that the prosecutor acted with malice and without reasonable grounds.

It requires only that the conviction was quashed or set aside “on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that there has been a miscarriage of justice”.

On the face of it, that applies in Eastman’s case. The newly discovered facts were the serious questions about the conduct of the weapons expert which were not disclosed to the defence.

That would probably not be enough to satisfy the test for malicious prosecution because the prosecutor could argue that he thought that a conviction might be obtained even without the weapons evidence.

So the Human Rights Act path is a better way for Eastman to go.

Other jurisdictions do not have equivalent law and the wrongfully convicted essentially have to rely on ex-gratia payments from the state because proving a malicious prosecution is so difficult.

Other jurisdictions should follow the ACT because compensation for wrongful conviction should be a human right. It is recognised as one by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Indeed, the ACT law is pretty much a cut and paste from the covenant.

And therein lies a difficulty. The ACT’s Human Rights Act restates the ICCPR which in turn has one similar requirement as the common-law tort of malicious prosecution.

In the common law it has been expressed by the 2013 High Court decision as that “the prosecution terminated favourably to the plaintiff”.

The Human Rights Act requires (among other things) that the person has been “convicted by a final decision of a criminal offence”

Given the murder charge has not been withdrawn, it is fairly clear that Eastman could not show that the “prosecution terminated”. It may also be the case that he cannot show he has been “convicted by a final decision of a criminal offence”.

It may mean that Eastman will have to wait until the prosecution drops the charges or is acquitted before the Human Rights action can begin.

Even if the charges are dropped or there is an acquittal, the Human Rights Act is fairly vague about how compensation is to be calculated. It says “according to law”. Presumably that would mean applying the common-law principle of trying as far as possible to put the plaintiff in the same position as if the wrong had not been committed.

The Act also does not say who assesses the damages (presumably the Supreme Court), whether reasons have to be given, or whether the decision can be appealed.

All in all, it is quite an unsatisfactory situation, especially outside the ACT.

Further, there is the question of whether the Human Rights Act provisions would apply to people who are extradited from the ACT. If so, it would be another reason so get some Australia-wide legislative reform on wrongful prosecution.


Former barrister Malcolm Turnbull almost invariably constructs a plausible argument, and very often constructs a convincing one.

It didn’t take much to make a convincing argument to justify his move against Tony Abbott – the lack of a solid economic narrative.

Guilty as charged. The failure stems from Abbott’s character as a fundamentally ideological being. He has never been hugely interested in economics and finance. For him, economics, budgets, tax and industry policy are merely tools with which to pursue ideological objectives — not the practical tools to give people more prosperous lives.

Maybe it is because Abbott is not especially concerned about material well-being. His austere accommodation in Canberra; his roughing it in northern Australia; and his punishing physical exercise regimes illustrate this.

Turnbull, on the other hand, is more a man of the world who likes material comforts. Look at his house. He has done well in business and sees the need to get economic fundamentals right and to get finance and tax right.

The Abbott Government’s policies so often did not add up economically. The GP co-payment – an ideological punishment for the poor – would have cost the health budget more than it saved in the long run.

The withdrawal of car-industry subsidies was an ideological bash at government intervention which could cost more than it saves.

The pre- and post-election ideological opposition to the government-owned NBN will put Australia behind the rest of the developed world in communications. I suspect Turnbull would have preferred just to tighten its business practices rather than rework the whole model.

Abbott’s determination to kill the mining and carbon taxes (moves which he could have let the Senate block with little effort) have hurt long-term government finances.

Abbott’s opposition to effective measures tackle climate change will inevitably result in trade sanctions by countries which are pulling their weight. His ideological winding back of assistance to renewable energy has cruelled a valuable nascent Australian industry.

In short, time and time again, Abbott’s ideological decision-making resulted in dumb economics.

With any luck, a Turnbull government will be more pragmatic and effective.

Abbott might have been forgiven if his policies on the non-economic side resonated with the Australian people. But, no. His fuddy-duddy social policies and captain’s picks highlighted how out-of-touch he was. Knighthoods, opposition to gay marriage, holding out for Bronwyn Bishop, and so on.

In a way these are just misdemeanours — the icing on the cake of the fundamental felony – allowing ideology to defeat sound economics.

The head-kicking, Opposition Leader won government, but having won it didn’t know how to govern.

And Turnbull? The consultative, compromising, constructive Turnbull in Opposition never looked like taking government in an election. But now he has got it, his style is likely to be such that no-one will ever look back on the Abbott prime ministership as “the good old days”.
This article first appeared in The Canberra Times and other Fairfax Media on 19 September 2015.


To bias towards Christian refugees — why not?

by Crispin Hull on September 12, 2015

THIS is why we should, and should not, have a bias towards Christians in our intake of refugees from Syria. The argument turns in a circle. You have to start by asking why is there a refugee crisis in the Middle East. [click to continue…]

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NZ showing admirable maturity

by Crispin Hull on September 5, 2015

NZ flagFIRST, I have to declare a bias. For a long time I have had a soft spot for New Zealand and New Zealanders. It began in 1989 when as Editor of The Canberra Times I was telephoned by the features and op-ed editor of the Christchurch Press asking me if I knew of anyone on my staff who might be interested in writing a weekly column about Australian politics. [click to continue…]


Remove tax brackets with sliding scale

by Crispin Hull on August 29, 2015

STEPHEN Hawking’s publisher told him that every equation in The Brief History of Time would cost him 10,000 readers. This column would be lucky to muster that many readers, so I will refrain from putting in an equation, and use words instead. The equation is Hull’s Equation for Removing Tax Brackets. [click to continue…]


Australia: stuck with no courage or vision

by Crispin Hull on August 22, 2015

IN 1993, sociologist Hugh Mackay concluded that Australians were anxious about too much change. His 1993 book Reinventing Australia concluded that Australians were frazzled by too much change, especially economic change which had debased job security with casualisation and contracting out. [click to continue…]

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Gay marriage: captain picks an unnecessary path

by Crispin Hull on August 15, 2015

THE tyranny of the minority was on display this week. A little over half of the Coalition has all but bound all their MPs to vote against a private members’ bill to allow same-sex marriage. [click to continue…]


Doomed to partisan Speaker

by Crispin Hull on August 7, 2015

THE Constitution and the relatively small size of the Australian House of Representatives probably condemn us to often having a partisan Speaker. [click to continue…]


Central America — no place for scepticism

by Crispin Hull on August 1, 2015

THE next conference of the Climate Change Sceptics Association should be held on the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico, where my wife and I have been this the past week. [click to continue…]