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Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Justinian in Judges, Magistrate Peter Maley, Northern Territory

Appointment of CLP aligned top-end magistrate ... Furious row over appointment at NT estimates committee ... Attorney General questioned about his role in the selection of a friend and benefactor ... Water, water (not everywhere) ... Tales from the Top End with Buffalo Bruce 

THERE have been more penetrating questions about the appointment as a magistrate of CLP Top-End bigwig Peter Maley. 

We've reported on the highly unusual circumstance of Maley's membership of the ruling Country Liberal Party, acting as a director of the CLP's fund raising business Foundation 51, and handing out CLP how-to-vote cards at a by-election - all while serving as an NT magistrate. 

Maley, a former NT MP with a busy law practice, seemed blithely unaware of the Guide to Judicial Conduct promulgated by the Judicial Conference of Australia, as did the NT Chief Minister Adam Giles, who told parliament: 

"A magistrate in the Northern Territory is allowed to have a political opinion. What sort of society are we living in? It is a fantastic society where a magistrate can have a political opinion, where he can be a member of a political party." 

Attorney General John Elferink added that the Guide to Judicial Conduct is just that - a guide. 

In addition, it emerged that while a territory solicitor and a member of the NT parliament, Maley made a $5,000 donation to Elferink's election campaign. 

Elferink, a former copper, had been supervised at Maley's law firm while doing his graduate diploma in legal practice. 

The Elf duly went on to become attorney general and it was he who put forward to cabinet Maley's name for a spot on the bench - but did not participate in the cabinet discussion. 

After the Opposition turned-up the heat in parliament Maley handed in his party ticket and resigned as a director of the slush fund. 

See: Pillars of justice

On May 15, rebel MP Larisa Lee, who in April resigned as a member of the CLP and joined the PUP,  told parliament that Madge Maley had rung her up and tried to induce her to stay with the Libs. She read a letter into the parliamentary record:

"On the one hand I felt that I was being intimidated if I did not follow what he [Maley] regarded as the established directions of the party.

On the other hand, I believe that there was a clear attempt to bribe me with the offer of a future senior government position and a high level of associated resources."

If she did leave the government benches, she was told that she could not be "protected". 

Maley confirmed that he had a conversation with the MP, but that nothing improper had occurred. He invited Ms Lee to make her remarks outside parliament. 

See: Top End turmoil  

Madge Maley: the subject of parliamentary probe

MORE recent developments on the Maley front include a gruelling round during parliamentary estimates where attorney general Elferink and shadow AG Michael Gunner clashed repeatedly. 

Gunner wanted to know the process which saw Maley appointed. 

He also wanted to know if the AG's department had undertaken an audit of cases heard by magistrate Maley to check whether any of the parties or witnesses had been members of or donated to Foundation 51. 

It was this question that got the sparks flying: 

GUNNER: But, my understanding of the reason why you stood aside from the Cabinet deliberations and why it might be an issue the Cabinet submission went up under your name - correct me here – is that it is an offence under NT legislation to take money in return for a judicial appointment.

ELFERINK: Step outside and say that, mate.

GUNNER: This is why you stepped aside from the Cabinet process.

ELFERINK: Madam Chair, that is an outrageous slur. You have just suggested that I took a bribe.

GUNNER: No, no that is not what I said.

ELFERINK: If that is what you are suggesting, step outside.

GUNNER: No, you heard what I just said.

ELFERINK: Say it again. 


GUNNER: For the same reason you stepped aside from the Cabinet process, do you not agree it would also have been appropriate for you to step aside from the Cabinet submission? 


ELFERINK: I called for expressions of interest and he put up his name. I then do not get involved in the final process, where he was appointed or recommended by a committee ... 

GUNNER: Well, it seems incongruous that you stepped aside from the Cabinet process but you are the one who put forward his name to the Cabinet process. 

Later after an adjournment they returned to the $5,000 donation that preceded the appointment of Maley. 

The attorney wanted an apology from Gunner for suggesting that he would take money in exchange for a judicial appointment. 

ELFERINK: You may as well have sat there and said I took a bribe, mate!

Ms WALKER: That is not what he meant.

GUNNER: That is not what happened.

ELFERINK: It is an offence under legislation to take money in return for a judicial appointment, you are gross. How dare you, sir, how dare you.

GUNNER: You are over-reacting, Attorney-General.

MADAM CHAIR: Member for Fannie Bay [Gunner], perhaps if …

ELFERINK: Goodness gracious me! How many bribes have you taken? How much money have you taken? No, better still, you've taken money, have you? Does that offend you?

Ms WALKER: Madam Chair, can I suggest …

GUNNER: You are clearly over-reacting, Attorney-General, and maybe we should take a five minute break for the Attorney-General to recover.

ELFERINK: How dare you!How dare you!How dare you! You are a disgrace to your chair, mate. [snip]

ELFERINK: You are a coward, you are a wretched coward.

GUNNER: No, Attorney-General, you are clearly over-reacting and taking this out of proportion to what occurred.

ELFERINK: You are a coward sir.

Ms WALKER: Can we move on, Madam Chair? 

They should have charged for admission. 

Curiously, Maley's credentials are still displayed on his law firm's website

*   *   *

Part of the Oolloo aquifer area

WATER licenses in the NT are a big deal, so it was a matter of great interest when it emerged that Maley's top-end rural interests have benefited from generous water entitlements. 

Earlier this year two large water licenses were granted to a property known as Blackbull Station and another called Tropical Forestry Services Properties.

Blackbull is owned by interests associated with Maley and the station is being watered by the Oolloo Dolostone Aquifer. 

The water grant is free, but adds considerably to the value of the property. 

Two grants were made to Blackbull Station totalling 8,517 megalitres per year while TFS got 12,155 megalitres.

You can see the water licence grants here  

The granting of the licences went ahead over the objection of the Environment Centre of the NT and the Amateur Fishermen's Association. 

In last month's estimates hearings the Minister for Land Resource Management, Willem Westra van Holthe, was questioned by Labor's shadow minister Lynne Walker. 

WALKER: So, you would have meetings in your Katherine electorate office with other people lobbying you for water extraction licences?

WESTRA van HOLTHE: I have had meetings both in my electorate office and up here in Darwin with people discussing matters around water licences, for sure.

WALKER: Thanks, minister. Have you or any member of your staff or employees of your department had any communications, formal or informal, with Mr Peter Maley or his representatives concerning water extraction licences for Blackbull Station?

WESTRA van HOLTHE: I have had one meeting, I think, with Peter Maley. I do not recall when that meeting was. It was only a few months ago. It was not so much around the water licence but in relation to the proposed forestry activities he and Tropical Forestry Services had planned for that block.

WALKER: Are you able to provide more details or documentation to the committee about this meeting you had with Mr Maley?

WESTRA van HOLTHE: No, I am not able to provide any further details other than my recollection of the broad issue we discussed. As I said, I am not in the habit of disclosing the details of conversations that occur either in my electorate office or in my ministerial offices. 

Willem later said the granting of licences had nothing to do with him. 

Madge Maley meeting with the minister. Madge Maley handing out CLP how-to-vote-cards. Madge Maley serving as a director of the party's fund raising arm. Madge Maley being allocated generous water licences by CLP government.

Step outside.  

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (
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