1992_07_june_leader26

Public officials often incur legal costs in the course of their public duty. When that happens the public must pay. It is in the public interest that public officials not expose their own pockets to defend actions taken against them over the execution of their duty. Otherwise, good people will be reluctant to take public positions. This is not cant. The threat of being sued in these days of astronomic legal fees can damp the most public-spirited of people.

That said, there is a limit. Public provision of legal costs should be a shield, not a sword. Two illustrations were revealed this week. One of the first announcements by the new NSW Premier, John Fahey, was that the Government would pay the legal costs of Nick Greiner and Tim Moore to challenge the findings of the Independent Commission Against Corruption. The other was the decision by the board of the Civil Aviation Authority to help with legal costs of two senior managers who had allegedly been defamed.

The latter is clearly bad in principle. Public administration would not be affected one iota if they did not sue. The public purse should not provide for first-instance plaintiffs. However, if they were being sued, if they were defendants, it would be different. The public purse (within reason) should be opened to them to defend a defamation action arising out of their public duty.
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1992_07_june_greiner

There was a tide in the affairs of NSW that if taken at the flood in 1988, would have led on to fortune, but for Nick Greiner now is bound in shallows and miseries, for Ian Temby has said there is something rotten in the state of NSW.

At least Mr Greiner stood upon the order of his going rather than going at once, last Friday. That gave time for much reflection upon whether he had suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in being denied his day in court, or whether things without remedy should be without regard. What’s done is done.

Nicholas Frank Greiner was certainly not born great. He was born in Budapest in Hungary on April 27, 1947. He came to Australia with his parents shortly before his fourth birthday. He achieved his Bachelor of Economics from Sydney University and then a Master of Business Administration from Harvard. And had the Premiership thrust upon him by the people of NSW on March 19, 1988.
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Caligula, the rule of law and Australia

The Roman Emperor Caligula (born 12AD, murdered 41AD) has had some bad press in the past, say, 1900 years.

And I am about to give him some more, not for all his personal torture, rape, murder and incest, but for his more general undermining of the rule of law.

It is an opportune time for doing so because in Australia in the past couple of weeks we have seen the rule of law gradually triumph over rule by persona, despite the cries of banana republic, political bankruptcy and economic doom and gloom.
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Did smokers consent to the risk? Is Big Tobacco liable?

Published June 1992
When Rose Cipollone began smoking 44 years ago, there were no health warning on cigarette packets. Rose is now dead. She died of lung cancer caused by smoking in 1984.

Her family sued and a jury awarded her family $400,000. Last week the US Supreme Court upheld the award.

The ruling caused some wild speculation about the legal liability of tobacco companies for the thousands of deaths caused by tobacco each year in Australia. Anti-smoking groups imagined an orderly queue of bereaved families at the courtroom door seeking damages for the death of loved ones who foolishly smoked their lives away.
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1992_07_june_bond

Former millionaire Alan Bond is using his time in jail to learn computer word-processing and to help others in jail “”to understand their full potential”.

Mr Bond revealed this is a reply to a Canberra businessman, Gil Miller, thanking him for his support.

Mr Bond said that during his visit to Royal Perth Hospital it was confirmed that he would need to have a heart valve replaced in the next 12 months.

Mr Miller, who runs the Fisher takeaway shop, wrote to Mr Bond in Woorloo jail in Western Australia. Mr Miller wrote “”as a self-employed person” giving Mr Bond his support saying, “”despite the hardship, there is something comforting about the knowledge that you are not dependant on another to hand you a pay cheque at the end of the day.”
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