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Archive for the ‘Attorney-General’ Category

Lusk, Farrar, Slater, Williams to run anti MMP campaign

Posted by on May 29th, 2011

A few weeks ago I ran a series of posts which outlined the role the shadowy Simon Lusk in National Party selections, the Brash Act leadership coup and indicated that he was chasing the lucrative anti MMP campaign.

I don’t think I’ve ever had as many National MPs thanking me – for letting them know how someone they trusted was in fact outsourced by Steven Joyce to do work in the coup to put Brash into Act. Many were not aware that he had a role in several selection campaigns some of which was sub contracted to Whaleoil.Many however suspected what polls now show, that Brash has significantly higher negatives than Hide and that women who supported Act would abandon the party. Interesting how Joyce has moved – with this, the Mediaworks scandal and the mess he has made by indemnifying Telecom for UFB losses – from hero to close to zero.

The Sunday Star Times today has part of the story:-

Those behind a campaign to shoot down MMP have killed before.

The right is getting ready to fire both barrels at MMP. A group of activists with links to National and Act are busy preparing a campaign against the electoral system. They are hardened politicos and some happen to share an interest in hunting, shooting and fishing. But it’s not clear if they’ll kill off MMP.
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MMP and the focus on Lusk

Posted by on May 13th, 2011

I’ve done some slightly cryptic posts over the last week or so following a flow of information from three sources about the role of Simon Lusk, inter alia, in the Brash coup.

Much of that is now a matter of record. The coup was financed by John Banks. Lusk became a consultant following a Joyce recommendation. Franks law firm also provided services. The fee was $30k.

The objective was to reinvigorate Act. No one told Joyce Brash’s negatives are higher than Hides.

It was run while Key was offshore. English was not informed by Joyce.

Lusk has been contracted to help run selection campaigns as well as electorate campaigns. Neither his role nor that of Cameron Slater have been transparent.

The prize now is the anti MMP campaign for which resources are now being organised. $100k +.

Lusk is an expert in political “black arts”. He even does reviews on the topic.

My posts have been designed to get Simon Lusk out of the shadows to ensure we know who is running things, if in fact he gets the contract.


There is not necessarily anything wrong with using offshore company registration

Posted by on May 11th, 2011

Lusk

secwatch


In defence of democracy

Posted by on December 9th, 2010

Last night Parliament took away the right to vote from a group of New Zealanders. They are a group of people you might not have much time for, those serving prison sentences of three years or less. Some of them will have done some awful things, some of them will have done a large number of minor things, some of them might well be innocent. All of them will return to our communities one day.

I can understand that there will be many people who will say, ‘good job’, and many who did not realise that there were any prisoners who could vote. But I believe that Parliament taking away their right to vote (actually their right to be on the electoral roll) on the basis of a poorly thought out private members bill, passed by a narrow margain is in my view one of the most shameful things I have witnessed in this Parliament.

There is not much that is more fundamental in a democracy than the right to vote, and it was whisked away last night with barely a justification from the government. A government who that very day had announced a constitutional review that had at its heart the need to only make changes to electoral law if there is a good reason and if there is a consensus.

To me accepting the right to vote for people who challenge our values is one of the greatest tests of being truly committed to democracy. Eliminating that right for some people we consider not worthy, as glibly as was done by the government, is to me an assault on democratic values. As the Bill of Rights Act assessment on this bill notes overriding that right to vote (which itself is part of the Act) requires a high test to be passed. That has not happened here.

Beyond that, the Bill is a cruel hoax on the victims of crime and their families. Not one piece of evidence was provided to show that passing this Bill would stop crimes, or reduce re-offending. It will not make New Zealand a safer place. It will not help rehabilitation or re-integration into society. It creates massive inconsistencies (e.g. people convicted of the same crime, one on home detention, the other in prison will have different rights) and it nearly, accidentally, gave the right to vote to the most serious offenders through a drafting error, until Prof Andrew Geddis, pointed out the mistake.

I try not to lose my temper, in Parliament or in life. But last night I was close to it. (My speech is here) Parliament took away a fundamental right from a group of New Zealanders with barely a word in justification, without a word from the Justice Minister or the Attorney General in the debate. The majority was provided by the ACT Party who gave us a 48 second contribution. Democracy, and those who have fought for it here and overseas, deserve better than that.


Follow the money – and find Wong

Posted by on November 24th, 2010

Not unusual for John Key and Pansy Wong to eat with large groups of  Chinese people in Bellamys.

Pansy collected these and many other cheques which were assumed to going to the National Party – we thought they were being laundered through the Waitemata or other National Party controlled trusts.

But now we know that in fact the money has been paid into an account controlled by Pansy and Sammy Wong.

No wonder Key doesn’t want her to resign – he wants to collect the money variously decribed as hundreds of thousands and well over a million.


Bully state – let’s change this law too

Posted by on October 28th, 2010

While everyone’s been obsessed with the Hobbit there’s another battle looming that could have the same end result – the government rushing off to change labour laws to prevent workers accessing rights.

Today, the Service & Food Workers Union is in the Court of Appeal defending the right of disability support workers to be paid the lawful minimum wage during periods they are required to remain on the employers premises on-call to the 4 -5 intellectually disabled residents they are supporting (known as a sleepover).

Last December, the Employment Court confirmed its decision that being required to stay on the employer’s premises during the night to support people with intellectual disabilities was “work” and should attract the minimum wage. The court described the responsibilities during sleepovers as ‘weighty’ and ‘critical to the business of the employer.’ 

IHC, the National Residential Intellectual Disability Providers, Business New Zealand and the Department of Labour put forward the argument that if the requirement to pay $12.50 an hour was averaged over a pay period employers could offset higher paid periods for those where rates below the minimum hourly rate were paid, but the Court disagreed. 

Now the government’s joined the appeal, with AG Christopher Finlayson appearing alongside the employer (IHC).  They will argue that it is possible to average the minimum wage across a pay period and thus it is possible to earn just $3.00 an hour for some hours worked.

The AG will be arguing that the Court’s decision to have these workers paid properly for sleepovers will be a catastrophe for the NZ economy because it will destroy the system of salaries, commission and piece work.

But just in case they lose, the government is currently working on an amendment to the Minimum Wage Act to overturn the Court judgement and allow “averaging” and legal rates of pay as low as $1.00 an hour.

What’s really behind it is that the government will have to stump up with a whole lot of extra cash for Disability Providers if the Court judgement stands. 

No problem bailing out SCF with $1.6 billion, but a big problem paying these workers properly.

So, easy.  Let’s change the law. After all, they’ve done it for the Hobbit, so why not?


Hobbits and Goblins

Posted by on October 1st, 2010

Much of the media commentary in the past few days around the Hobbit stoush has been has been about the cheek of an Australian Union (the MEAA) daring to take on our very own Lord (Sir Peter Jackson) over the pay and conditions of NZ performers on the Hobbit set.

We’ve even seen the extraordinary situation where a Minister of the Crown and Attorney General has (mis)used his position to seek and publish advice from Crown Law to take sides in what is essentially an industrial dispute.

But underlying this is a much deeper issue. New Zealand’s competition laws impose huge restrictions on the rights of contract workers to collectively organise and bargain – no matter how dependent and how vulnerable.

I’m not qualified to comment on whether NZ performers in the Hobbit are being fairly paid or not. Nor do I pretend to understand the complexities of “residuals”” and other industry norms. But what I understand very well is the problem we have in New Zealand of dependent and independent contracting, and how this is often used to deny more vulnerable workers basic fairness.

I did a lot of work on this issue a couple of years ago when my members’ bill, Minimum Wage & Remuneration Bill was being debated through parliament (and was eventually defeated under the National/Act government).

At the time, NZ Actors Equity supported the bill saying :

“We have many NZ productions which we are all justly proud of, but rates of pay in some productions are nothing to be proud of. The poor pay & conditions of many performers is not commonly known, who, because they are classed as dependent or independent contractors, are expected to work for a whole lot less than workers who are employees.”

NZ law dictates that a worker who is not defined as an “employee” has no rights – even if they are vulnerable, dependent and poorly paid.

So, who can be surprised if from time to time, a group of workers, even if they happen to be performers and supposedly above needing to earn a decent living, use what leverage they can gather to get their boss to talk to them.


Credit where it’s due

Posted by on September 3rd, 2010

I have to acknowledge that the government did a good thing in formally recognising (today) September 3 as Merchant Navy Day. I’m presuming there were discussions during Labour’s tenure in office, but it was the NACTs who got the remembrance day over the line.

I’ve been to a few Merchant Navy commemorations, and seen the huge memorial in Sydney Harbour. Merchant Seamen played a critical role during wartime, transporting troops, food, military equipment and vital cargo around the world, under the constant threat of enemy raids.  But their remembrance days have been quiet affairs, compared to Anzac Day.

These seamen put their lives on the line and faced enormous risk. Their work was so essential to the war effort that the Merchant Navy became known as the fourth service, alongside the army, navy and airforce.

At least 130 New Zealand merchant seaman lost their lives during the Second World War and around 140 were taken prisoner.  Internationally, around 80,000 merchant seamen lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic, which lasted 2074 from 3 September 1939 to 7 May 1945, when Germany finally capitulated.

These are untold stories that must be told to our children and grandchildren. Even if it means I have to say something nice about the NACTs, these sailors need to be remembered.


Book burning and now Key uses harpoon on whaleoil

Posted by on July 16th, 2010

John Key was encouraged by Anne Tolley’s success at suppressing a research report on national standards.

Now he has apparently gone another step – pulled Cameron Slater’s media accreditation for the National Party conference this weekend.

I don’t like much of Cameron Slater’s work. The arachnephobic blowhole is sometimes a good case for the reintroduction of criminal libel.

But banning him for telling the truth about Key’s mate the party president and caucus attempts to engineer his re-election is not the good old liberal national party of Ralph Hanan and John Marshall and won’t be that way when Simon Power is the leader.

Update – now The Nation is being pressured to stop Slater appearing.

And btw what has happened to Kiwiblog’s defence of Whaleoil. Interesting values that lets the penguin blog on lunch but not stand up for his mate when the boss puts the boot in.

Update II  Slater has now confirmed see below:-

Boy have I upset some peo­ple. per­haps I have hit too close to the bone.

Today has been full of hurly-burly, lies and bullshit.

I applied to go to National’s con­fer­ence as Media. I used the same accred­i­ta­tion that has seen me reg­is­tered as media for two Daivd Tua fights and a num­ber of other func­tions. It was rejected, I then reg­is­tered as an observer mem­ber, which I am enti­tled to do.

When I was asked to go on The Nation again this week­end I called the new Gen­eral Man­ager to enquire as to the broad­band facil­i­ties that were avail­able for the media. I was then told that I wasn’t media and there­fore any facil­i­ties that were pro­vided to the media were off-limits for me. I told him that I was appear­ing on The Nation, blog­ging from the con­fer­ence and they could be help­ful or not, and pointed out that not wasn’t going to be a good look for any­one, but I didn’t care about my look so it was up to him. The ban was re-iterated to me.

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Finlayson focuses on Lockie’s kilt

Posted by on July 1st, 2010

Chris Finlayson has now made five corrections to his declarations to the Registrar of  Pecuniary Interests. After he was caught making five false declarations. He has decided to share  corrections other members have made. But he fails to point out that in each case these were careless omissions not deliberate decisions to mislead the Registrar and the public.

The NBR reports thus:-

After making a second amendment to his own pecuniary interest declarations, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson’s office has drawn media attention to the slips of others over the last five years.

All up, a total 14 MPs can be named and shamed – with some omissions more exotic than others.

In the year ended January 31, 2010, Speaker Lockwood Smith was honoured with a kilt from a visiting Scottish parliamentarian and a crystal vase from Japan, both of which he failed to declare.

Trade Minister Tim Groser failed to declare his directorship of the trade promotion group Indian Overseas Group in 2008, and Environment Minister Nick Smith omitted to mention legal fee contributions.

In the same year, National whip Chris Tremain omitted interests in investment companies Sunset Investment Partnership and the Provincial Club, while Labour MP Damien O’Connor left out two community health trusts seeking government funding.

Labour’s Chris Carter was stung again for overseas travel costs, as were Maori Party MPs Te Ururoa Flavell, Tariana Turia and Hone Harawira, including an appearance on a Malaysian current affairs show.

Failure to declare KiwiSaver superannuation interests hit MPs from across the political spectrum.

Even Prime Minister John Key is not exempt. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, Mr Key failed to declare interests in gold mining company Jackson Minerals, as brought to light on the Q+A TV programme in February.


I/s on Finlayson

Posted by on June 30th, 2010

No Right Turn Gets it :-

So, National has responded to Chris Finlayson’s contemptuous refusal to fully disclose his pecuniary interests by calling for the rules to be reviewed to allow more opportunities for MPs to hide their interests. In other words, change the rules to make it legal. Why am I not surprised? National’s pretext is that the rules are “confusing”. I think not. Here for example is the clause Finlayson fell afoul of:

1) Every return of pecuniary interests must contain the following information as at the effective date of the return: (a) the name of each company of which the member is a director or holds or controls more than 5 percent of the voting rights and a description of the main business activities of each of those companies, and…

The agenda here is clearly more secrecy around MP’s business interests. And that runs directly counter to clean government and open democracy. These rules are the first line of defence against corruption. The fact that MPs must declare their interests helps prevent them from attempting to enrich themselves while in office. If anything, the rules need to be strengthened (by e.g. busting trusts and forcing MPs to declare everything), not weakened. But National has always opposed this sort of transparency, and they are taking the opportunity to roll it back. And we will all be the losers if we allow them to get away with it.

As I noted earlier, only a lawyer with a desire to hide things could convince themselves to ignore the plain reading of the words for a perverse, self-serving interpretation that it allowed some directorships to not be declared. And only a lawyer with a desire to hide things would think that the appropriate way of resolving such “confusion” was to pay another lawyer to say what you wanted them to say give an “independent” opinion, rather than ask the registrar directly.


Finlayson scuttling like trapped rat

Posted by on June 30th, 2010

What has the world come to.

The Attorney General of New Zealand has lost his nerve.

Too scared to come to the house past the media scum. scrum.  (apologies to the noble journalists)

Now comes through the basement.


Common Sense from the High Court on Adoption – Now it’s Parliament’s Turn

Posted by on June 29th, 2010

Last week, a full court of the High Court (this means 2 judges – commonly the way that test cases are heard and decided) significantly widened the pool of adults who can legally volunteer to adopt children in New Zealand.

The last time Parliament considered the issue was back in 1955 when it passed the current Adoption Act. Not surprisingly, given the values of the time, Parliament restricted eligibility to adopt to married couples by the use of the word “spouse” in the Act. When the civil unions and relationship property acts were passed, the definitions in the Adoption Act were left unchanged.

The test case came before Justices John Wild and Simon France, both highly regarded members of the Court. What they had to decide was whether the term ‘spouse’ as used in the Adoption Act 1955 should be interpreted today as including unmarried people living together. It was argued that it should, largely because the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, as enacted in 1990, contains a prohibition of discrimination on the ground of martial status. The Bill requires an outcome consistent with its provisions wherever possible.

The Court found that, to give effect to the ban on marital status discrimination, it had to interpret the word “spouse” as including people in de-facto relationships. The parties to the case had agreed that the interpretation they were seeking extended only to test whether heterosexual relationships were included in the ruling, and the Court records this limitation in its reasons for judgment.

However, logically, the ruling extends eligibility to be considered for adoption to anyone in a marriage, civil union or (straight or gay) de-facto relationship. This is so for two reasons – the definition of “marital status” and the fact that “sexual orientation” is also a ground of prohibited discrimination in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

The number of adoptions that actually occur each year in New Zealand is small -guardianship and other legal forms allowing for the care of children without legally extinguishing the birth relationship are more usual these days. But the decision is important. Children who are in need of adoptive parents should have the right to have those parents selected from the widest pool of appropriately-qualified people possible. Unless amended, the current Act, as now interpreted by the High Court, restricts them to people in a relationship. At some point soon Parliament should widen the pool further. Who can seriously argue today that single, or divorced, or widowed people can’t make great parents? And as you would imagine, there are other anomalies in legislation that is now 65 years old that need fixing up.

Right now, though, it’s good to read a sensible decision from our Hight Court that shows the Bill of Rights to be a valuable tool in keeping the law up to date.


Declaration of pecuniary interests 101

Posted by on June 27th, 2010

Alll this stuff about Chris Finlayson not declaring his company directorship is interesting and puzzling.

Before being elected to parliament, I was the sole Director of Inzight Communications (my little company based in Dunedin) and I resigned as Director on the morning of 9 November 2008 ( day after election).

But when I filled out the pecuniary interest declaration in January 2009 I sought advice (from the Registrar’s office) and was told I needed to declare my directorship because I was still a Director on  8 November 2008, the day of the election. Which I duly did.

I have stuff-all assets (house, section and a bit of super) but I’ve sought advice from the office of the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests several times. Because I want to get it right. So why does Chris Finlayson allegedly seek advice from his lawyer and not from the Registrar’s Office?

I’m a first term MP. How long has he been in parliament?


Just in case you missed it finlayson is officially a wally

Posted by on June 27th, 2010

Dompost Wally of the Week

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.

Pecuniary interests registrar Dame Margaret Bazley seemed to be in no doubt that he should have declared a company directorship which he failed to include in Parliament’s pecuniary interests register. Isn’t he supposed to be the Government’s top legal brain?


Finlayson digs deeper?

Posted by on June 23rd, 2010

It wasn’t the Watergate burglary that resulted in Nixon’s resignation – it was being caught in a cover-up.

Yesterday I posted on the fact that for four years running, including two while he has been Attorney-General, Chris Finlayson has on the face of papers available made false declarations to the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests.

Finlayson, in a grudging way appears to have accepted that that is true. He appears to be preparing to resign, but not as Attorney General for repeatedly misleading Parliament in his declarations, but as a company director.

But in the same article :-

“He has been a director and shareholder of Te Puhi Trust since 2006 but he said yesterday that the incorporation owned no assets”.

But on the face of the publicly available documentation that is not true. I’m not suggesting that Finlayson has a beneficial interest given his explanation yesterday. But it is very important that he is precise and he has been playing fast and loose with the rules to date.

Terralink makes it clear that Te Puhi Trutee (2) Ltd is the legal owner of  two properties in Underhill Road Tauherenikau. Can’t do link for copyright reasons but not hard to find for a small fee.

And a reminder of what the then Leader of the Opposition said about the role of and standards against which an Attorney General should be measured.

Lawyers are the professionals we depend on in our society to ensure the accuracy of the documents that they sign. They should not sign documents knowing them to be false under any circumstances. For the most senior law official in the land, the Attorney-General, to have done so not once but on several occasions, is a serious matter. Mr Parker was right to tender his resignation. I commend him for that.

If Finlayson repeatedly made false declarations as a lawyer then the Law Society would deal with him. Is there a lower standard for the Attorney General?  That is a matter for Key to decide.


Time for Key to stand Finlayson down

Posted by on June 22nd, 2010

There was some publicity recently about Jonathan Young’s carelessness in relation to his declaration of pecuniary interest.

This week it is all about the hapless Chris Finlayson who is already in serious trouble for the way he kept on changing his description of his relationship with a Supreme Court judge in whose favour he intervened. And especially because he did not inform either the Prime Minister or Cabinet either before he intervened or when he ran into problems.

Now it has emerged that Finlayson helped set up a company in 2006, after he became an MP,  and became a director then and has failed to declare it on any return since that date.

Standing Orders page 128 are very clear.

4 Contents of return relating to member’s position as at effective date of return

(1) Every return of pecuniary interests must contain the following information as at the effective date of the return:

(a) the name of each company of which the member is a director ………..

Stuff reports:-

An Office of the Clerk of the House spokeswoman said the rules were clear. “Members are required to declare the name of each company of which the MP is a director or controls more than 5 per cent of the voting rights. At the very worst, it could be contempt of the house if an MP has knowingly provided false information to the House.”

For most members people don’t get too upset if a genuine error is made once. But the Attorney-General is special. There is a clear precedent. Dr Don Brash (Leader of the Opposition), 21 March 2006 :

Lawyers are the professionals we depend on in our society to ensure the accuracy of the documents that they sign. They should not sign documents knowing them to be false under any circumstances. For the most senior law official in the land, the Attorney-General, to have done so not once but on several occasions, is a serious matter. Mr Parker was right to tender his resignation. I commend him for that.

Rodney Hide (Leader—ACT), 21 March 2006 :

I say to Helen Clark that her Government now lacks integrity and honesty. I think that filing a false statement, a statutory document, when one is the Attorney-General and a Minister of the Crown is unacceptable. I think this issue does need a full investigation. I say to the House that it is an important job to hold Ministers to account. That is what Parliament does—that is our Westminster parliamentary democracy.

David Parker stood down because there was doubt as to whether he signed a false statement. As it turned out he hadn’t and was reinstated.

Finlayson appears to have signed a false statement every year since March 2006.

He needs to go to the sin bin and not be allowed out until he can prove that each of his declarations have been factual. Given the other problems he has it might be an easy way out for Key.

Company Number 1779853

Company TE PUHI TRUSTEE (2) LIMITED

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Key drops conflict standards

Posted by on May 19th, 2010

Interesting question yesterday from Pete  – Key shot through before it had to be answered and left the Dipton double dipper to defend his old brat pack mate.

The Cabinet Manual is a set of rules designed to keep us open, transparent and free from corruption.

Key appears to want us to trust ministers to do the right thing. Bolger, Shipley and Clark ran much tighter ships.

Appearance of conflict of interest is a problem as well as actual conflict.

Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour-Dunedin North) to the Prime Minister: During Cabinet or Cabinet committee consideration of the policy and legislation concerning Environment Canterbury did his Minister for the Environment declare any conflict of interest regarding his family; if so, what did he declare?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: The Prime Minister is satisfied that Ministers are aware of the guidance in the Cabinet Manual about conflicts of interest and he would expect them to declare an interest in an issue where a conflict actually exists. No Ministers declared a conflict during Cabinet or Cabinet committee consideration of the legislation concerning Environment Canterbury.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Why did he allow Dr Smith to stay in the room when the Government’s approach to Environment Canterbury was being discussed, given that his brother was charged by Environment Canterbury on 21 counts arising from a police-accompanied inspection of his premises last June?

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What caused John to stop smiling and wave one finger at Tuhoe

Posted by on May 12th, 2010

Helen Clark and Michael Cullen were sometimes criticised for taking a bit of time to make big decisions. They sometimes resorted to seeking more advice, getting more reports, asking for further options.

Some people got frustrated with them – but most were ok because they knew that once either of them gave their word they would stick to it.

John Key may learn from the Tuhoe experience that you can’t just say yes to everybody.

Being the nice guy might work for a while but letting some grumpy national party delegates or a focus group turn you into a liar doesn’t do much for your integrity John.


So who is investigating Finlayson

Posted by on May 8th, 2010

Good that there is progress on the Bill Wilson case.  When you sit on the Supreme Court there must be no questions of integrity.

But who is investigating the Attorney General who failed to declare his relationship with Wilson. This is from an old Herald story.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson also counts Wilson as a friend.

Finlayson and Wilson were partners at the same time in law firm Bell Gully until the judge left in 1996 to become a Queen’s Counsel.

In a statement provided to the Herald in December, the Attorney-General said his relationship with the judge was professional.

He has since added that he considers Wilson a friend although he has not been a guest at the judge’s home in the past five years.

Finlayson acted as the public intervener early in court hearings about whether the relationship between the judge and Galbraith could amount to the reasonable perception of possible bias.

As public intervener, a submission is filed, in the public interest.

It is made in the name of the Attorney-General but written by Crown Law and signed by the Solicitor-General, David Collins, QC.

At that early stage Collins wrote that Wilson’s version of disputed facts should be accepted.

He also said that on the facts then available there was no reason why the judge should have withdrawn from the case.

However, the submission was not updated to reflect relevant information Collins and Finlayson were sent in late July or early August – four months before the Supreme Court’s final ruling which determined that there was a reasonable perception of possible bias.

That information, which included that the judge was substantially in debt to the lawyer who had been pressing him for payment, came from respected retired appellate judge Sir Edmund (Ted) Thomas who copied to Collins and Finlayson a letter and notes he sent to the Chief Justice.