Insights from Quadrant

Timing is everything

Last night, 4Corners turned in one of those investigations that make you think the ABC — a tiny part of it at any rate — might actually be worth a small slice of the billion-plus dollars the all-media behemoth consumes every year. The topic was the Lawyer X scandal which saw Victoria Police make an informant of gangland lawyer Nicola Gobbo and has since prompted an ongoing royal commission. Viewers who expected VicPol’s past and present brass to emerge in a less than favourable light were not disappointed. Amongst the sharpest critics was the state’s former chief prosecutor Gavin Silbert QC, whose mildest observation was that

documents have been dribbled forth to the Commission, always late and not with adequate time for those effected to cross examine on them. There’s obviously been a concerted attempt [by VicPol] to stymie the Commission as much as been possible.

and this

The upper hierarchy of Victoria police has to take complete responsibility. I mean the buck stops at the top clearly, and it went as high as the Chief Commissioner and some Assistant Commissioners.

Those who knew and sanctioned what was happening were guilty of terrible breaches of duty and extraordinarily unethical behaviour.

and this too, about Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton

… I don’t know how he’s lasted so long. Public perceptions of the police force have been very damaged by this, and as the High Court has said, it goes to the fundamental foundations of the whole of the criminal justice system. How that’s repaired, I don’t know.

But one would have thought anyone in the hierarchy who sanctioned this should have gone.

The 4Corners crew must be just a little miffed that their magisterial overview of such a foul, reeking, unethical mess did not prompt maximum morning-after follow-ups. What they could not have known was that VicPol just happened to have something up its sleeve that would redirect headline writers’ attention.

After years of carjackings, home invasions, riots and stores being blitzed by mobs of hit-and-run thieves and complaints that the constabulary has not been doing enough to arrest teenage gangs, many “of African appearance”, VicPol went raiding all over town in the hours after 4Corners aired, an operation that has so far seen the arrests of 57 alleged miscreants.

Suddenly, a former chief prosecutor’s wonderment that the Chief Commissioner at the centre of the scandal remains on the beat was pushed way, way down the news organisations’ lists of top stories.

Sheer coincidence, no doubt.

— roger franklin

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