March 14 to March 20 ... Malcolm in the Muddle on when it's okay to break the law ... Harrison's new "superhero" barrister ... Kiefel CJ tells judges to stop waffling ... Federal Court finds blogger Belle Gibson misled followers ... Dutton mistakes himself for a free speech standard bearer ..... Week@TheKnees compiled by Sohini Mahta
NEW Australian Council of Trade Union secretary Sally McManus stirred the pot on her first day on the job (March 15) with her refusal to distance the ACTU from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union on ABC's 7.30.
CFMEU has been accused in over 100 court proceedings of breaking the law or contempt of court.
The ACTU's position is that the Fair Work Act, which restricts industrial action to bargaining periods and the interests in support of which workers can strike, unjustifiably interferes with the right to freedom of association enshrined in international law.
The International Labour Organisation has never finally adjudicated the point, but the Australian Law Reform Commission has said the laws may be inconsistent with ILO conventions.
Asked to respond to McManus' criticism of him on social media that he was "such a nothing" with no central beliefs to define him, PM Malcolm Turnbull condemned McManus for greenlighting breaking the law: "on that basis if people thought taxes were too high they wouldn't have to obey their tax [sic]…"
Comparing breaking unjust laws to win workers' rights with tax avoidance is an iffy thought experiment, not least because Turnbull is loath to pester Australia's wealthiest individuals and corporates to pay their fair share of taxes.
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Prominent barrister and human rights activist Julian Burnside QC appeared on behalf of Amber Harrison for a brief NSW Supreme Court directions hearing in Sydney on Friday (March 17) morning.
He argued the case should be transferred to the Federal Court because the counter-claim by Ms Harrison raises "substantial issues" under the Fair Work Act.
Justice John Sackar said he was inclined to agree to the transfer because the NSW Supreme Court doesn't have the jurisdiction to deal with Fair Work matters.
Placing the high-profile litigation before the Federal Court opens the door for Ms Harrison to claim she was a victim of an adverse action. The Financial Review had details this morning (March 20) of Amber's adverse action claim filed in the Federal Court.
Sackar is still deciding whether to release Harrison's cross-claim to journalists covering the case, but the Australian Financial Review reported that Harrison's lawyers plan to claim Seven failed to provide a safe working environment for her.
Counsel for Seven, David Thomas, told Sackar his client wanted the Fair Work matter struck out of the counter-claim.
Sackar didn't see the point of striking out part of Harrison's claim if the case was going to be decided by his federal counterparts. "The other place should deal with all other issues," he said.
Harrison appeared to view her (fourth) new lawyer as a game changer.
"Access to justice shouldn't just be for the privileged, powerful and cashed up," she tweeted shortly before her case was heard on Friday. The same day, she called Burnside a superhero.
Access to justice shouldn't just be for the privileged, powerful and cashed up.Individuals should stand a chance in our justice system— Amber Harrison (@_Amber_Harrison) March 16, 2017
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High Court chief justice Susan Kiefel eschewed "vanity judgments" in a speech entitled Judicial method in the 21st century at the Supreme Court of Queensland on Thursday (16 March) night.
Kiefel CJ championed succinct, unified judgments which carry greater authority, inspire confidence and reduce delays for litigants.
"It is better to resist the temptation to quote extensively from literature," Kiefel CJ added.
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In a civil case brought by Consumer Affairs Victoria, the Federal Court found fallen wellness blogger Belle Gibson contravened consumer law by misleading the public by building a social media empire off the back of claims she cured her terminal cancers using only natural remedies.
Gibson failed to honour her promises to donate the proceeds of sales from The Whole Pantry – a website, mobile phone app and recipe book published by Penguin – to charities, including the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and the Bumi Sehat Foundation.
But CAV didn't manage to persuade Justice Debra Mortimer that Gibson was acting unconscionably. Though Justice Mortimer said Ms Gibson's statements about having cancer "were obviously false", she raised the possibility that Gibson remained under some "delusion" that she had cancer after releasing her book.
Gibson's penalty will be handed down at a date yet to be determined. She could be personally liable for up to $220,000 and her company Inkerman Road Nominees, now in liquidation, could be fined $1.1 million.
Ms Gibson was not in court for the ruling and hadn’t attending previous hearings.
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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton used his address to the LNP's state council meeting in Cairns on Saturday (March 18) to accuse chief execs, including Alan Joyce of Qantas, of using shareholders' money to drive personal agendas:
"I'd prefer publicly listed companies stick to their knitting and that is delivering the services for their customers and providing a return for their shareholders."
The message seems to be that corporate leaders can't run their businesses and express views on marriage equality at the same time.
Twenty corporate bosses wrote to the PM last week calling on parliament to pass laws in support of gay marriage.
Dutton said many of Australia's largest corporations were being bullied into supporting social policies out of fear of a boycott of their services or products led by social media activists.
"This is a battle for common sense and for freedom of speech, make no mistake about it." Dutton said, in the same breath as he attempted to silence the business leaders who disagreed with him.
A Qantas statement said the company would continue to express support for same-sex marriage and "other things we believe in".
Dutton is a former Queensland drug squad detective with at least six investment properties on his parliamentary register.