Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Racist escapes conviction over 'disgusting' fake leaflets incident

Liberal Party member ... Jackie Kelly's husband, Gary Clark, has pleaded not guilty.

A Sydney magistrate has told a man who escaped conviction over the distribution of fake leaflets during last year's federal election campaign there was national disgust over the incident.

The leaflets, attributed to a non-existent Islamic group, were distributed in the Western Sydney seat of Lindsay days before the election.

They alleged the ALP wanted the Bali bombers forgiven and urged Muslims to vote Labor.

Two of five men charged over the incident have pleaded guilty, but 37-year-old Troy Craig had no conviction recorded.

Magistrate Pat O'Shane said although there was national disgust over the incident and he should feel ashamed, it was at the lower end of the scale of offences.

The estranged husband of Liberal candidate Karen Chijoff, Greg Chijoff, did plead guilty. His case has been adjourned until next month.

Quote: What about some community service? Washing Muslims feet!

Updated: 30 April 2008

Kelly seemed involved, court told
THE former federal Liberal MP Jackie Kelly appeared "at the face of it to be involved" in the fake leaflet affair in her western Sydney seat at the last election, a court has heard.

A volunteer who was asked to distribute the leaflets - and who faced court yesterday with four others, including the husbands of Ms Kelly, the retiring MP, and the Liberal candidate contesting the seat - might have been entitled to think it had been approved, because he had been asked to meet at Ms Kelly's home, his barrister said yesterday.

The party machine also owed its volunteers a "duty of care" not to ask them to engage in unethical and criminal behaviour, the barrister and former NSW Liberal Party vice-president, Alex Howen, told the Downing Centre Local Court.

Five men were accused of allegedly breaching federal election legislation by distributing a brochure that did not bear the names, address and authorisation of their political masters. The brochure, distributed by the Liberal Party volunteers, was claimed to have been published by the fake "Islamic Australia Federation", and bore the ALP insignia.

But the magistrate, Pat O'Shane, said the stupid and offensive action was "an ugly chapter" and the community had shown its view of it already. The Liberal Party lost the seat of Lindsay, which Ms Kelly had held with a margin of almost 10 per cent.

The court heard about 15 brochures were distributed in the St Marys area on November 20 before witnesses saw the men.

Those being prosecuted include Ms Kelly's husband, Gary James Clark, who pleaded not guilty, and the now estranged husband of the election candidate Karen Chijoff, who sought to replace Ms Kelly as the local member. Greg Alex Chijoff pleaded guilty yesterday, but disputed some of the facts.

Another senior Liberal party official, Jeffrey Michael Egan, who left the party after the scandal, also pleaded not guilty. Robert Mathew Holstein, who failed to appear in court, did not enter a plea.

Mr Howen said his client, Troy Matthew Craig, had not been a party member for about seven years, but had volunteered because he was a friend of Ms Chijoff's.

Mr Howen said Craig was asked to come to Ms Kelly's and Clark's home, where he saw the brochure for the first time.

"He is entitled to think that this was all approved. The federal member appears at the face of it to be involved," he said.

Craig thought it was stupid, crude and "dumb politically and dumb because of its content", Mr Howen said. He also realised it lacked the required authorisation but "simply went along with the distribution".

Craig had been told "the brochure was OK and everything in it is true", Mr Howen told the court.

Clark had pleaded guilty, facing a maximum $1000 fine, but Ms O'Shane discharged the case against him without recording a conviction, after hearing he would lose his job as a valuer if he received a conviction.

"That kind of material arose in a political climate of divisiveness and disharmony which had been generated over several years. It is now well recognised across the country that this was an ugly chapter in our history. The people of this country have moved on … and are trying to build an inclusive civil society and you need to be part of it," she told Craig.

Chijoff's lawyer told the court he disputed the allegations that he distributed the leaflet with the other co-accused in the suburb of St Mary, but instead pleaded guilty to distributing the leaflet by himself in Oxley Park. His case was adjourned until May 7. The cases against the others will return to court later next month.


'Charge Howard with war crimes'
FORMER Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has called for ex-prime minister John Howard and other Western leaders to be charged with war crimes over the conflict in Iraq.

Things can only get better, Howard tells party faithful
What about asking about John Howard's top three failures? War crimes against humanity. Waging illegal and degrading war against innocent citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan. Introducing draconian laws and racism.

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