Ben Roberts-Smith lied about burying USBs containing sensitive, classified defence material in his backyard, the judge of his defamation case has found.
In his full judgment released on Monday, Justice Anthony Besanko said Roberts-Smith knew the documents were relevant to the case and kept them hidden:
I do not accept the applicant’s case that the failure to discover the USBs was due to inadvertence. The applicant lied about not burying the USBs in the backyard of the matrimonial home. He must have known they were relevant. He had sworn three affidavits of discovery and each time has not discovered them. I find that he decided not to discover them.
The defamation trial heard Roberts-Smith’s ex-wife and a family friend dug up six USB storage sticks buried in a child’s lunchbox in the Roberts-Smiths’s family back yard, before handing the classified files to police.
Included on the USBs was classified information including operational reports from SAS missions in southern Afghanistan, drone footage of military operations and classified photographs.
BoM releases weekly forecast
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued its weather update for the week ahead. It warns of a windy cold front moving through Western Australia at the moment, and forecasts warm and wet conditions on the way for parts of eastern and south-eastern Australia.
Labor says fighting inflation is at core of Albanese decision making as RBA prepares to meet tomorrow
Asked whether a rate rise can be expected by the independent Reserve Bank tomorrow, Labor MP Jerome Laxale said he didn’t want to pre-empt their decision but “economists seem to think that’s the way they are going to go”.
Laxale told the ABC:
It’s important for governments to make sure that they are not adding to inflation or adding fuel to the fire, and that something I know has been at the core of the decision-making of the Albanese government.
We’ve now had two budgets in a row that have returned revenue upgrades back to the budget, but we also have [the Reserve] Bank governor himself say there are elements in this budget directly reducing inflation …
… We know it’s tough out there, it’s not just mortgage holders bracing for impact, we know renters are really doing it tough and we know interest rate rises have [a] disproportionate impact on those who are doing it tough and those who are renting.
The Nationals’s Michael McCormack added his thoughts:
… we’re looking at a situation where grocery prices are going up, mortgages are going up, cost of living is very high on the average household. Jerome can talk from the talking points all he likes, the situation is Labor is in power, they said there would be $275 power price cuts, there hasn’t been that, and there won’t be under this government.
Liberals concerned consultation has not taken place over Macquarie Island marine park
Liberal frontbencher Jonathan Duniam is asked on the ABC whether he supports an expansion to Macquarie Island marine park, as announced by the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, earlier today.
Duniam said he has not seen the scientific data underpinning the decision, but would support it if a “proper process” has been followed.
He said his main concern as been around the consultation process:
Conservation is a good thing, provided it is done properly and all competing interests are taken into account. I’m concerned at this point [that] they have not been.
He also shared concerns over “green or red tape” being placed on fisheries operations:
They will still be able to fish but the big concerns will be around what it means when they go to market and the first they have taken from the marine park, a lot of people will look at that out in the marketplace and say ‘how are you taking this from a marine park?’ It’s akin to hunting in a national park.
You would not be able to serve some sort of meat taken from a national park in a restaurant and I think there are similar concerns about fish taken from a marine park.
Labor Senator calls for PwC to release names of people involved in confidential information scandal publicly
Senator Deborah O’Neill has issued this statement over PwC, calling on them to release the names of its employees who were pushing to monetise confidential government information publicly:
The contagion threat continues. After more than a month of calling for PwC to publicly name those who were part of the 144 pages of emails detailing its attempts to monetise confidential government information for private profit, PwC has decided to provide this information in response to the Senate’s question on notice.
PwC should release these names themselves, and they should do it publicly. In my opinion, this is an attempt to use the cloak of the Senate to maintain confidentiality. The whole of Parliament, the Australian public, and the international audit, assurance and consultancy sector deserve to know the identities those who participated in this egregious breach of trust and assault against the interests of the commonwealth.
Assistant trade minister ‘determined to make sure’ free trade agreements good for Australian agriculture
The assistant trade minister, Tim Ayres, is speaking to the ABC from London where he is taking part in talks about Australia’s push for expanded access to markets in Europe and in China.
He said there are a series of challenging issues that come at the end of every free trade agreement negotiation:
The European agreement is an important agreement for Australia … and we are determined to make sure that we secure an agreement here that is in the national interest and delivers a commercially meaningful outcome for Australian agriculture in particular.
There are broad benefits of both the UK [Free Trade Agreement] after its entry into force, and a prospective EU FTA broadly across the economy in the services sector, in terms of access for Australian workers to come over here and work for two or three years in the case of the UK FTA, but we are determined to make sure that we grasp this opportunity to secure a commercially meaningful outcome for Australian agriculture …
Protesters demand end of new mining projects
Unions, religious groups, climate activists and high school students rallied outside NSW Parliament House today, demanding the government put a stop to new coal and gas projects, AAP reports.
Climate activist Raymond Weatherall is crystal clear about what should happen to new gas and oil projects:
They don’t deserve to be on our country… And if we beat (mining company) Santos, it will inspire other Aboriginal people to say ‘no, stop coming onto our land and killing it’.
Weatherall is leading the fight against Santos’ Narrabri gas project, and is one of 18 Gomeroi people on a representative body of the native title claimants.
Santos launched proceedings last year in the national native title tribunal to continue its 850-well coal seam gas project in north-west NSW without consent from the Gomeroi People. Traditional owners voted 162-2, with four abstentions, to reject the agreement.
The NSW and federal governments approved the Narrabri project in 2020.
High school student Alice, 14, skipped class to attend the rally with her mother and friends in support of the Gomeroi people. She told AAP:
If the government isn’t going [to] protect our futures, then we’ll do it ourselves … Sometimes adults don’t want to tell us what’s really happening because it was their responsibility, and it’s a hard idea to face but it’s real and we need to do something about it.
Protesters also called on the government to repeal anti-protest laws. Darren Greenfield, secretary of the NSW branch of the construction union, said Sydney would not be the same without protests:
Circular Quay, the Rocks – they would have been trampled many years ago if not for our forefathers standing up to protest. Think about the people that put you in this house and put you into government and get rid of these anti-protest laws.
Scrap them tonight.
Kathleen Folbigg’s lawyer: ‘we are all human and our legal system can make mistakes’
Kathleen Folbigg’s lawyer Rhanee Rego has described today as a “breakthrough moment on a long and painful journey”.
We thank the attorney general for making an evidence-informed decision today and recommending that Kathleen Folbigg be pardoned. We thank the governor for acting on this advice and unconditionally pardoning Ms Folbigg.
This case reminds us that we are all human and our legal system can make mistakes.
It also reminds us that we have the capacity to do great things in the pursuit of truth. It is Ms Folbigg’s hope that the legal system will thoroughly investigate sudden infant deaths before seeking to blame parents without good reason to do so.
She hoped the case would “reignite” discussions about the role of science in the law, saying:
It is impossible to comprehend the injury that has been inflicted upon Kathleen Folbigg – the pain of losing her children, close to two decades locked away in maximum security prisons for crimes which science has proved never occurred.
This decision highlights the need for Australia to consider seriously implementing an independent body for reviewing miscarriages of justice, such as those which have been established in the United Kingdom, Scotland, Norway, New Zealand and Canada.
We strongly urge the attorneys general across the country to prioritise a review of their post-conviction review systems as a matter of priority.
Tracy Chapman releases statement after pardoning of friend Kathleen Folbigg
Kathleen Folbigg’s longtime friend and supporter, Tracy Chapman, has thanked all the people who supported the campaign to see her freed after she was released from prison this morning.
In a statement, Champman also remembered the Folbigg children who had died. She said:
I know the past 20 years have been horrific for Kathleen, not least for the pain and suffering she has had to endure following the loss of her four children. They were gorgeous children.
Caleb, even at 19 days old, was a placid baby with intense eyes and long fingers of a future piano player.
Patrick, despite all his medical issues with epilepsy and blindness, was focused on discovering the world around him through his hands.
Sarah was cheeky, poking her tongue when you called her name, and found fun and joy in the simplest of things – playing with her toys and chasing her dad around.
Laura was an empathetic and compassionate little kid.
They are all missed every day.
Ben Roberts-Smith sent anonymous threats to SAS comrade, judgment finds
A judge has found that Ben Roberts-Smith sent two anonymous threatening letters to an SAS comrade, the full judgment of the war veteran’s defamation case reveals.
The letters warned the comrade – known as Person 18 – to recant his evidence to the inspector general of the ADF’s inquiry into war crimes, or face being accused of murder himself. The letters said:
You and others have worked together to spread lies and rumours to the media and the inspector general’s inquiry. You have one chance to save yourself. You must approach the inquiry and admit that you have colluded with others to spread lies.
We are very aware of your many murderous actions over many tours in Afghanistan, including specific dates … just like when you took part in the execution of two persons-under-control at Tizak. You know what you have done and so do we.
Don’t forget this because it will not go away. You will go down, better to take a reprimand than murder charges.
The court heard he gave the letters to former policeman-turned-private eye John McLeod to post. The court also heard from Emma Roberts who said Roberts-Smith admitted to sending the letters. She also said she saw him at home with a grey shopping bag filled with a packet of Reflex paper, a packet of envelopes and a packet of gloves.
Roberts-Smith denied sending the letters.
Justice Anthony Besanko found:
I am satisfied on the evidence that the applicant [Roberts-Smith], through Mr McLeod, arranged for two threatening letters to be sent to Person 18. I accept the evidence of Mr McLeod and Ms Roberts and I reject the evidence of the applicant [Roberts-Smith].
Judge finds Ben Roberts-Smith lied about details of key incident in defamation case
The judge of Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation case has found the war veteran lied about details of a key incident to explain evidence from witnesses which might otherwise seem unfavourable to him.
One of the key allegations published by the newspapers was about an incident in Darwan.
At trial, the newspapers sought to prove it was “substantially true” that Roberts-Smith, on a mission to the southern Afghan village of Darwan in 2012, marched a handcuffed man named Ali Jan to stand above a 10-metre-high cliff that dropped down to a dry riverbed below. The court heard that Roberts-Smith then “walked forward and kicked the individual in the chest”.
The court heard the man survived the fall but was significantly injured. Roberts-Smith then allegedly ordered a subordinate soldier to shoot Ali Jan dead before the body was dragged into a cornfield.
In his full judgment released on Monday, Justice Anthony Besanko said “the applicant’s evidence as to the path he took from the compound to the creek bed was unsatisfactory”.
Further, I consider that he has lied about the height of any embankment on the side of the creek bed abutting the fields and he has lied about using his foot to move the insurgent near the Helmand River with a view to possibly explaining evidence from witnesses which might otherwise seem unfavourable to him.