11th February, 2016
1. Jonathan Aitken
Jonathan Aitken was a left-leaning British Tory MP (and later cabinet minister) who despised Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. According to Turnbull, he and Aitken were “old friends”1 and Turnbull praised Aitken for his support in the Spycatcher trial of the 1980s. Indeed, throughout the Spycatcher case, Aitken was Turnbull’s only enthusiastic supporter2 among British Conservative MPs.
Aitken’s dodgy dealings with the Saudi royal family and Lebanese businessman Mohammed Said Ayas were exposed by journalists in a 1995 television documentary. He initiated legal action for libel, but was himself caught lying to the court and manipulating witnesses. In 1999 he pled guilty to perjury and perverting the course of justice, and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
Ironically, Turnbull had previously suggested, with great arrogance, that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher might be willing to commit perjury to win the Spycatcher case,19 but it turned out his own mate was the perjurer, not Margaret Thatcher.
2. Rodney Adler
Turnbull had several business dealings with Rodney Adler over the years. In 1987, Turnbull launched an investment bank with two Labor Party figures, former NSW Labor Premier Neville Wran and Nicholas Whitlam. Businessman Larry Adler was one of the founding investors, and his son, Rodney, was made a director.4
In 1998, Turnbull, in his new job at Goldman Sachs, became an adviser to the Adler family and their company, FAI Insurance. Turnbull advised Adler during the HIH takeover of FAI, and was at his side during intense negotiations with HIH’s Ray Williams.3,4,5
Rodney was also a major supporter and donor to Lucy Turnbull’s 1999 campaign to become Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney,6,7 on a ticket with future state Labor MP Frank Sartor. Lyndi Adler, wife of Rodney, told the Sun-Herald that they were happy to be associated with Lucy Turnbull, adding that they were part of a “tight circle of friends” who “dined regularly with the Turnbulls“.7
In 2001 HIH collapsed with losses of $5.3 billion. Rodney Adler was later convicted on four charges of fraud relating to the collapse, and was sentenced to 4.5 years prison.It should also be noted that Adler, like Turnbull, was an environmental activist, and FAI financed the green propaganda film FernGully: The Last Rainforest (US$24 million). The film was premiered on “Earth Day” in 1992, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Adler was present, and gave a speech.8
3. Lionel Murphy
Lionel Murphy was Attorney-General in the Whitlam Labor government, and was subsequently appointed a Justice of the High Court by Whitlam. He was an ardent leftist ideologue who vehemently opposed Christianity, damaged the institution of marriage with his Family Law Act of 1975, opened the flood-gates to pornography, undermined ASIO’s anti-communist activities, and made activist judgements on the bench. He was also a good friend of Malcolm’s mother, Coral Lansbury, and a frequent dinner guest at the Turnbull household.9
In July 1985, Murphy was convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Police tape recordings of Murphy had been leaked to the media in 1983-84. The tapes were damning, and NSW Labor Premier Neville Wran (another very close friend of Murphy’s) and Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke had immediately moved to ensure the material revealed on the tapes was never the subject of a thorough investigation. This, however, wasn’t enough to save Murphy.
NSW Chief Magistrate Clarrie Briese testified that Murphy had spoken to him in 1982 and hinted that he should arrange the ‘fixing’ of (tampering with) a court case involving his ‘little mate’, Sydney lawyer Morgan Ryan. Ryan was listed with both state and federal police for involvement in organised crime,10 and was the solicitor for, and business partner of, the notorious organised-crime figure, Abe Saffron.11
The conviction was appealed on technicalities, and a new trial was ordered. At the second trial, the jury did not hear all the relevant evidence, and Murphy was acquitted. Fresh evidence against Murphy soon arose, and the Hawke Labor government could no longer resist calls for a full inquiry. Three retired judges were appointed to head a parliamentary commission of inquiry into Murphy’s conduct, but just a few months later, the government abolished the commission and passed special legislation that buried its findings for 30 years, threatening 6-month prison sentences for anyone caught leaking.12
None of this stopped Turnbull from defending Murphy, and heaping praise upon him, in his articles for The Bulletin magazine.13,14,17 Indeed, Turnbull was pro-Murphy to such a degree that the Labor Party deferred to his articles when commenting on the matter. Peter Bowers, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald in July 1985, said:
“Turnbull’s article in this week’s Bulletin magazine, asserting that Murphy’s conviction was a miscarriage of justice has been hailed by the Labor Party at large as the last word on the subject.” 16
Turnbull praised Murphy for “dragging our law into the 20th century”,18 which is a euphemism indicating his “progressive”, secular humanist, anti-Christian ideology. He said history would look kindly on Murphy’s achievements – more kindly than upon his critics who would be forgotten “because of their insignificance”.17
Further, not only was Murphy a close friend of Malcolm’s mother, he was a mentor to Michael Kirby who was, in turn, a mentor to Turnbull.15 Kirby was a character witness at Murphy’s trial, and Turnbull’s father-in-law, the left-Liberal Tom Hughes QC, was part of the legal team that defended Murphy free of charge.
Turnbull’s “best friend“, the then NSW Labor Premier Neville Wran, was also a very close friend of Murphy’s, and launched a vicious public attack on Chief Magistrate Clarrie Briese after Murphy’s second trial, in April 1986. Wran’s attack was denounced by many senior legal figures, including the President of the NSW Bar Association, the Commonwealth Attorney-General, the Law Society of NSW, the Law Council of Australia, the Magistrates’ Institute, the Deputy Chief Magistrate, the Chief Justice of NSW, and a number of other judges of the NSW Supreme Court. Wran also spearheaded the creation of the Lionel Murphy Foundation, to honour Murphy after the latter’s death, in October 1986.
Turnbull, of course, didn’t disclose these intimate connections in his public writings on Murphy, and in 1991 he again praised Murphy in a speech delivered for the 5th Lionel Murphy Memorial Lecture, where he said:
“There is very little in Lionel Murphy’s public life that I have ever had cause to disagree with.”
In 1999, several journalists revealed that another judge and former Labor cabinet minister, Jim McClelland, also a friend of Murphy’s, had told them, in confidence, during the Murphy trials, that Murphy was indeed guilty and had also tried to enlist McClelland in his attempt to ‘fix’ the Morgan Ryan case. A 1995 video taped interview showing McClelland admitting Murphy’s guilt was also made public for the first time in 1999 (embedded below).
Turnbull should be publicly questioned on his vehement support for Murphy, but given the state of journalism in Australia, don’t expect it any time soon.
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1. Turnbull, M. (1988). The Spycatcher Trial. (p. 38). London: Heinemann.
2. Ibid, p. 165.
3. Mychasuk, E. (1998, Sep 29). CBD. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 27.
4. Mychasuk, E. (1998, Sep 25). CBD. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 25.
5. Mychasuk, E. (2001, Apr 7). How HIH went pear-shaped on the expansion trail. Sydney Morning Herald.
6. McGregor, C. (1999, Aug 21). What Katy did next. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 4s.
7. Gilmore, H & Sharp, A. (1999, Jun 6). Nick joins big name battle of Sydney. Sun-Herald, p. 5.
8. Porter, J. (1992, Apr 24). CBD. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 25.
9. Lawson, V. (1991, Dec 28). Forever Nifty. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 27.
10. NSW Opposition Leader John Mason. (1980, Feb 27). NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard, p. 4797.
11. Bacon, W. (2003, Nov 22). I fought the law …. Sydney Morning Herald.
12. Marr, D. (1999, Jan 23). How Diamond Jim saved his mate. Sydney Morning Herald.
13. Turnbull, M. (1985, Jul 16). Miscarriage of justice against Murphy. The Bulletin, pp. 37-40.
14. Turnbull, M. (1985, Jul 30). What a jury going public means to Murphy. The Bulletin, pp. 37-38.
15. Turnbull, M. (1988). The Spycatcher Trial. (p. 89). London: Heinemann.
16. Bowers, P. (1985, Jul 13). Innocence is an article of faith for the ALP. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 27.
17. Turnbull, M. (1986, Nov 4). The Bulletin, pp. 39-40.
18. Turnbull, M. (1977, Mar 19). A radical on the High Court. The Bulletin, pp. 38-41.
19. Turnbull, M. (1988). The Spycatcher Trial. (p. 143). London: Heinemann.