The confession is a constituent part of the criminal law. In some cases a confession is sufficient evidence to secure a conviction without any other significant evidence. Much jurisprudence is based on the importance of the confession. In a relatively recent case the admissibility of the alleged confession was contested. The Crown said the voluntary confessions of Brett Peter Cowan should be admissible against him and they support his conviction for murder. Mr Cowan agreed the confessions were voluntary, but were made in circumstances where they should not be admissible against him at his trial. The Queensland Court of Appeal found that the subject confessions were admissible against Mr Cowan and his conviction for murder should stand.
As is almost always the case, media reporting of and commentary on the Cowan matter was happy to acknowledge the existence, validity and relevance of the subject confessions. It was a criminal law matter and the confessions were a proper part of the prosecution case.
In stark contrast to that approach is the behaviour now adopted in our political arena, both by the politicians and the reporters and commentators on the political activities (or most of them), be they in the established media or the new media. The lust to control or at least dominate the 20 second sound bite and the news cycle has drastically changed the dynamic. The political answer and the spin is all important. Legal questions that arise in the political arena are now routinely answered with a political answer, not a legal answer, because it suits the political agenda of the person purporting to answer the question. Immediacy trumps authenticity in this new dynamic. Give your answer and spin it with the authenticity the self-importance you are trying to create provides and you will be seen as an authority is the approach. Many times that “political” advice is the wrong answer to the legal question, but that is irrelevant to the self-promoters. It is more important that they be seen to be important and influential, rather than them being correct. They want to continue with their argument and/or agenda and do not want to be delayed or derailed by the inconvenience of the rigours of the law. Those who try to criticise this Cult of Personality approach to answering questions and provide the correct legal answer are criticised and told they cannot be correct. Again the political answer is sought to usurp the legal answer.
In this new dynamic, where support for a position is thought necessary, “experts” consulted are invariably of the “friendly” variety, as they will not challenge the narrative sought to be advanced. This “expert” support for the narrative appears to lend authenticity to the author and improves their profile and status.
The lack of critical analysis in this new dynamic is a fatal flaw and our education, debate and community are poorer for it.
The Stolen Diary
It is incontrovertible that when he was Speaker of the House of Representatives the diary of Peter Slipper was stolen. During litigation commenced by James Ashby against Peter Slipper Ashby confessed to stealing the diary and Mal Brough confessed to receiving that stolen diary. Mal Brough has made several voluntary confessions in that regard.
On Wednesday 12 December 2012 Rares J gave judgment in the relevant Ashby -v- Slipper litigation. His Honour granted the application of Mr Slipper and dismissed the proceedings on the grounds that they were an abuse of process of the Court. In so doing His Honour made several very damning findings against Mal Brough.
The Cult of Personality
The response from the media to that judgment is instructive. Many in the media find the rigours of adhering to correct legal protocol inconvenient and bothersome. It is much easier to provide a political response, rather than a legal response, particularly as the political response rarely is subject to an appeal Court and has no adverse consequences if it is wrong. Also, as I indicated earlier, many media people (both old media and new) want to be seen as players influencing what is going on and to enjoy an elevated status as a result of possessing that influence.
The reality is that the theft of the diary of the Speaker has not been pursued in any effective way by either the Federal or State police. The confessions of both Ashby and Brough have been ignored, notwithstanding that they would be admissible against them in court and would likely lead to a conviction against each of Ashby and Brough, in the same way as occurred with Mr Cowan.
The False Dichotomy
With our new dynamic infected by the Cult of Personality the political games that the politicians and the media who report on them play have usurped proper legal process and given us two very different arenas in our society. The legal world where the criminal law applies and is subject to all the established checks and balances and the political world, where the law is applied arbitrarily to suit the agenda of those seeking to advance the narrative.
Ultimately the dichotomy is false, if the behaviour in the political world can be subjected to a properly constituted and empowered Court. That reality would be very uncomfortable and inconvenient to those now happily pursuing the Cult of Personality in the world of political games.
As a nation, when we do not properly investigate and prosecute the theft of the diary of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, particularly when a confession to that crime is on the public record, we have lost our integrity. No amount of political spin and news cycle manoeuvring will change the fact that this matter has not been pursued and those people supposedly in responsible positions in our community do not see it as a matter worth pursuing. The parliament has been corrupted and for political expedience. Failure to investigate that corruption reinforces the loss of integrity. It is a matter which goes beyond partisan politics and is far more important than the selfish vanity of the Cult of Personality.
Rewarding Mal Brough with a position in the Federal Cabinet after he has voluntarily confessed on several occasions to receiving the stolen diary of the Speaker shows our system has completely broken and is utterly bereft of integrity. It shames everyone involved and everyone who condones it.
Legal questions deserve legal answers. Political expedience is no longer an adequate or sufficient answer. In the long run it is not even an expedient answer because a wrong answer is a wrong answer. It is time to banish the Cult of Personality from our political dynamic and restore integrity.