Sadly the latest case to hit the limelight, that of Mr Billy Gordon, the newly elected Member for Cook in the Queensland Parliament, seems to have done so for reasons of political expedience, rather than for genuine interest in and concern for the issue of Domestic and Family Violence.
Saturday 7 September 2013
On Saturday 7 September 2013 at the Federal Election in the seat of Leichhardt, Liberal National Party (“LNP”) candidate Warren Entsch received 55.7% of the final vote and Australian Labor Party (“ALP”) candidate Billy Gordon received 44.3% of the final vote. Mr Warren Entsch was the re-elected Member for Leichhardt in the Federal Parliament with a 1.1% swing to the LNP.
Saturday 31 January 2015
On Saturday 31 January 2015 at the State election in the seat of Cook, Australian Labor Party (“ALP”) candidate Billy Gordon received 56.8% of the final vote and Liberal National Party (“LNP”) candidate David Kempton received 43.2% of the final vote. Mr Gordon was the newly elected Member for Cook in the Queensland Parliament with a 10.2% swing to the Australian Labor Party.
Also on Saturday 31 January 2015 at the State election in the seat of Cairns, ALP candidate Rob Pyne received 58.5% of the final vote and LNP candidate Gavin King received 41.5% of the final vote. Mr Pyne was the newly elected Member for Cairns in the Queensland Parliament with a 17.3% swing to the Australian Labor Party.
Early February 2015
In early February 2015 the former partner of Mr Gordon is said to have contacted the aforementioned Mr Warren Entsch and asked for help in recouping child support from Mr Gordon.
Friday 6 March 2015
The aforementioned Gavin King said he had been in discussions with the ex-partner of Mr Gordon in the three (3) weeks before the publication of the allegations on or about Friday 27 March 2015, i.e. roughly Friday 6 March 2015. Initially the main emphasis from Mr King of those allegations was on the alleged Domestic Violence.
Friday 13 March 2015
Mr Entsch contended that on Friday 13 March 2015 he received an email from the former partner of Mr Gordon which detailed her allegations. He further contended he did not consider the matter was something which required his immediate involvement.
Wednesday 18 March 2015
On Wednesday 18 March 2015 the Office of the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk received a letter from the partner of Mr Billy Gordon “outlining a number of allegations against Mr Billy Gordon, the newly elected Member for Cook in the Queensland Parliament”.
Mr Evan Moorhead, State Secretary of the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party advised the partner of Mr Billy Gordon to make a complaint about the alleged conduct to the Queensland Police Service.
It seems no Application under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 for a Domestic Violence Protection Order, either temporary or permanent, was or had been made at that stage.
Wednesday 25 March 2015
An email dated Wednesday 25 March 2015 was sent from Tarnya Smith MP to the spouse or partner of Billy Gordon in relation to her complaint of domestic abuse and failure to pay child support by Mr Gordon. The recommendation in that e-mail was for the partner of Mr Gordon to contact the police and make a complaint.
- A solicitor could also have made an Application for a Domestic Violence Protection Order in respect of the former partner of Mr Billy Gordon.
- Why did the former partner of Mr Billy Gordon not approach a solicitor or go to the police herself?
- The strong inference is that the allegations of domestic violence were not the most pressing issue for the former partner of Mr Gordon, but rather the unpaid child support was her main concern.
Friday 27 March 2015
By letter dated Friday 27 March 2015 from the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to Ian Stewart, Commissioner of Police, the matter was referred to the Queensland Police Service:
- “For its consideration and investigation of the allegations as appropriate”; and
- “To investigate these matters to ascertain whether there is any evidence of the commission of criminal offences”.
Saturday 28 March 2015 2:24 pm
On Saturday 28 March 2015 at 2:24 pm Billy Gordon published a Statement on Facebook. Relevantly that statement revealed the following criminal history.
It is worth noting that Mr Gordon was born in 1973 and in Queensland criminal justice, a child is “a person who has not turned 17 years” (Section 4 of the Youth Justice Act 1992 Schedule 4 Dictionary).
“This contact has included being charged and convicted with:
- Breaking entering and stealing in 1987 in Innisfail [Age 13]
- Breaking and entering with intent, attempted breaking and entering and stealing in 1990 in Atherton [Age 16]
- Breach of probation in 1992 in Atherton [Age 18/19]
- Public nuisance in 1996 in Normanton [Age 22/23] and
- Breach of bail conditions in 1999 (stemming from not attending a court summons from the 1996 incident). [Age 25/26]
In addition I have twice had my driver’s licence suspended for unlicensed driving (2004 [Age 30/31] and 2008 [Age 34/35]).
Finally, in 2008 I was served with an Apprehended Violence Order as a result of a complaint by my mother. [Age 34/35]
My mother at the time was concerned that I was going to return to a relationship with an ex-partner (we were at said ex-partner’s residence) and I asked her to leave in a manner that she found threatening. My mother has confirmed to me that there were no allegations of physical violence made with respect to this incident.
This AVO was never heard in court, and does not form part of my criminal record however I provide its details now for completeness.”
Sunday 29 March 2015
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk expelled MP for Cook, Billy Gordon, from the ALP and advised him to resign his seat in Parliament.
Many issues arise for consideration in this matter. Here are some of them.
1 Failure To Disclose Relevant Information
It is hard to understand why Mr Billy Gordon did not reveal his criminal history at the time he sought preselection for the ALP. Given the nature of politics, it is something he should have expected to be revealed in respect of him, if he was not prepared to reveal it himself. Failure to reveal his criminal history puts in question his honesty and his integrity.
Having said that the letter dated Tuesday 31 March 2015 from the Clerk of The Parliament to the Speaker, the Honourable Peter Wellington MP sets out the position clearly in terms of the legal obligation upon Mr Gordon to reveal his criminal history.
“In short, there appears, based on the limited information available, to have been no lawful obligation on Mr Gordon to disclose any of the matters relating to his criminal history.”
2 Failure On The Part of The ALP To Do Due Diligence On Their Candidate
There has been some discussion on social media about doing criminal history checks with the police for all candidates for political office. That raises some privacy issues, if the candidate does not consent. However if the candidate is obliged to consent to a criminal history check or not progress in the pre-selection process, that may resolve the difficulty.
Without the ability to do relevant external or third party checks, the pre-selection process seems to rely upon the honesty and integrity of the candidate.
In this particular case two (2) separate requests were apparently made of the Australian Federal Police to check the criminal history of Mr Gordon and on each occasion they revealed no relevant criminal history. That being the case the ALP had no better information to continue with its due diligence on its candidate, Mr Gordon, and no opportunity to consider whether the subject criminal history is something which is entitled to be revealed to the public.
3 Mr Billy Gordon Is Now a Member of Parliament
There having been no challenge to the lawfulness of his election, Mr Billy Gordon is now a Member of Parliament and is entitled to all the rights and privileges that go with it.
Once again referring to the letter dated Tuesday 31 March 2015 from the Clerk of The Parliament to the Speaker, the Honourable Peter Wellington MP:
“... a person is not qualified to be a member if they have been convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for a period o f one year, no less than two years prior to being a candidate.
“This ground of qualification does not appear to be an issue in the context of Mr Gordon. There is no suggestion that within 2 years before the day of nomination, Mr Gordon has been convicted of an offence against the law of Queensland, another State or the Commonwealth and sentenced to more than 1 year’s imprisonment.”
“In short, a member is only disqualified if they are convicted of an offence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of one year or more or convicted of certain enumerated offences (corruption, electoral corruption, treason etc.).
“As outlined earlier the material provided to you makes allegations against Mr Gordon (assault and deprivation of liberty) in respect of which if he was convicted, he may be sentenced to a period of imprisonment exceeding one year. If this was the case he would be disqualified under the provisions of the POQ Act. However, Mr Gordon is entitled to the presumption of innocence and until such time as he is convicted and sentenced of any offence that satisfies s.72, he is not disqualified from being a member.”
4 Mr Billy Gordon Has The Rights of All Accused in Queensland
Mr Billy Gordon is entitled to the presumption of innocence and a fair trial according to law in respect of any criminal offences he may have allegedly committed.
If an application under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 for a Domestic Violence Protection Order was made in respect of him, under s51 Mr Gordon may be entitled to consent to an order being made in respect of him without admitting to any of the allegations the subject of the application.
5 Removing Billy Gordon From Office Would Need To Be In Accordance with The Law
It seems much of the discussion about this matter has really been about political expedience. The LNP seem to want to remove Mr Gordon from office because it believes so doing will enhance its chances of seizing political power in Queensland. Much of the media discussion has been about trying to shape how the political agenda will play out. The domestic violence case which is at the heart of this matter has been relegated to minor importance to facilitate this political posturing.
Despite what goes on in the minds of political expedients, the Rule of Law applies to Mr Gordon in this matter and he is entitled to all of the rights available to him under it. Any attempt to improperly or unlawfully remove him from office would more than likely enliven rights in him to challenge that removal in the Courts.
If the Billy Gordon case finds its way to the Supreme Court, the controversy raised by Justice Wilson about the Chief Justice and the Court of Disputed Returns comes very much into focus and the integrity of the Court will be relied upon to achieve the correct result according to law.
6 Disclosure of All Members of Parliament with a Criminal and / or Domestic Violence History Is Now a Live Issue
The pursuit for political expedience of a matter containing domestic and family violence allegations has lead us to an unfortunate position. That is the disclosure of all Members of Parliament with a criminal and / or domestic violence history is now a live issue.
Despite the enthusiasm for it by many people, my position remains the same: Do not sideline the Rule of Law for political expedience.
I made some observations on Twitter:
- Ask moralising Springborg if he is prepared to get Verity Barton to confess to her specific offences & accept the consequences?
- It suits the present political wishes of Springborg to do away with the presumption of innocence etc
- That has adverse consequences
The leader of the Opposition is now in an awkward position. His quest for political expedience would have him sacrifice the rights of his colleagues and party members in order for him to maintain a consistent position. It is not for him to sacrifice their rights.
The rights those who seek political expedience seem to want to sacrifice in respect of Mr Gordon are rights they may wish to enjoy themselves in the future.
7 The Vote of Mr Gordon In The Parliament
The letter dated Tuesday 31 March 2015 from the Clerk of The Parliament to the Speaker, the Honourable Peter Wellington MP is again instructive:
“Neither the Speaker, party leader, nor the House itself can generally disallow Mr Gordon’s vote on any matter. The only legitimate grounds to disallow Mr Gordon’s vote is in the exceedingly rare circumstance of a vote on a matter in which a member has a direct pecuniary interest (SO 259). Impeding or attempting to impede a member or inappropriately influence a member’s vote may constitute a contempt.
“There has been considerable talk in recent days about whether parties should rely on Mr Gordon’s vote. Under current Standing Orders (see Chapter 19), any member in the Assembly when a vote takes place on a question, must vote with either the Ayes or the Noes. They cannot abstain on the floor of the Assembly. Members vote from their seat and the votes of cross bench members (which Mr Gordon now is) are not apparent to anyone until such time as the Clerk verbally advises the vote of those cross bench members to the Assembly. The votes of cross-bench members are recorded after the votes of the government and the opposition.
“In other words, it is not up to the discretion o f a party leader as to whether they are going to use Mr Gordon’s vote - Mr Gordon has a right to vote. Furthermore, party leaders would not necessarily know what the vote of Mr Gordon was until towards the conclusion of the division after party votes have already been recorded.”
The former partner of Mr Billy Gordon is entitled to better treatment than having her case utilised because someone thought it may facilitate some political expedience for them. Sacrificing the rights of Mr Gordon for that same political expedience is also unhelpful, unproductive and unwise.
To the extent that her case is really about the payment of outstanding child support, the former partner of Mr Billy Gordon is more likely to receive that child support if Mr Gordon remains a Member of Parliament. The machinations undertaken by the LNP using her case to have Mr Gordon removed from Parliament, so there can be another election in Cook and the LNP might win that election and then be able to form government, is not an outcome which would provide the former partner of Mr Gordon with much satisfaction.
The much needed culture change in respect of the way Australia views and deals with Domestic and Family Violence is unlikely to occur whilst cases are used for purposes of political expedience. It is time leadership is shown by both politicians and those in the media to give this issue the significance and respect it deserves.