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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Sunday, 21 September 2008
Kirsty Ruddock a saving grace in Turnbull era as old guys trade sledges
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: human rights
No tension … Kirsty Ruddock, now the principal solicitor in the NSW Environmental Defender's Office, and her father.

No tension … Kirsty Ruddock, now the principal solicitor in the NSW Environmental Defender's Office, and her father.
Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Declaration: We regularly beg and borrow legal advice from environmenal lawyer/EDO principal Kirsty Ruddock regarding public interest litigation, who we understand duly records such phone or in person inquiries as proof of service to the Legal Aid Commission of NSW.


Big bad ex Howard minister Phillip Ruddock is in the press this weekend on his 35 year slog for the Liberal Party as a federal MP. No doubt he is in legacy mode and maybe even pre-selection postures too for his successor. There he is in colour coded tie to t-shirt image with professional daughter and bleeding heart Kirsty: And we can happily say KR is generous with her time and clear in her advice God bless her socks.

We understand on the domestic front she is quite colour blind too.

Being an escapee from a DLP ultra Catholic family history we can sympathise with her situation and wrote to her earlier this year "you can't choose your family ... especially mine" referring to old boozer Eric McLoughlin a confidant of Big Bob Menzies himself as political journo for the Sydney Morning Herald in the 40ies and 50ies. So it's interesting she seems to be in the forgiveness mode in these pictures here in Fairfax SMH and Age:

Time to reflect: Philip Ruddock yesterday with his daughter, Kirsty.

Time to reflect: Philip Ruddock yesterday with his daughter, Kirsty. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

The political synergies become clear in her past role as legal officer with Cape York Land Council led by Noel Pearson not afraid of some tough love on welfare policies in the Howard era. It's not betraying a confidence to mention her anecdote recently of crunching a developer in Cook Town - the same place on the Flannery, Roy Slaven tour of northern Australia on abc tv this week - over impertinent impacts on her blackfella clients heritage interests. She even got a pro bono deal with big firm Freehills and the Local Council folded in 2 days. Yay!

As for the past we notice the human cannon fodder on the other side of the detention centre locked doors in Fairfax here and 4 Corners (which we couldn't bare to watch being of a delicate disposition you know).

This is what Malcolm Fraser says in a piece on wisdom in the Good Weekend/Fairfax colour mag this very same weekend, just so we don't forget, and ask yourself which lawyer Howard or Ruddock he might be referring to:

"We begin to understand a person's wisdom based on what they do, what they stand for. If you take some examples out of recent times, there are people who train to believe in the rule of law, due process, equal application of the law to all people regardless of race, colour, religion; and then you look at what they do and you find they don't mean a word of it." [a page 36 GW 20 Sept 2008]

For his part Ruddock gets some attempted pre-emption on Big Mal (who used to be my local MP in Warrnambool) in too:

"Elected in 1973 in a byelection, he has served eight Liberal Party leaders. For him there are two standouts: Sir Robert Menzies and Howard. Ruddock has little time for Malcolm Fraser, who, he believes, shied away from major reform and stirred up bad feeling.

"The Dismissal changed all the cross-party camaraderie, personal relationships became very acrimonious. It was not until Hawke was elected that the situation in Parliament returned to normal."



And just in case there was any confusion about the values system of older and younger Ruddock about a meaningful career as a opposed to a 'successful' one, old man Phillip says this in The Age this weekend too (in bold):

Much has been made in the past of an apparent rift between the former attorney-general and Kirsty, his 36-year-old lawyer daughter, who held opposing views on immigration. In an episode of the ABC program Australian Story, it was said that Ms Ruddock was so at odds with her father's policies that she left Australia to work overseas.

Mr Ruddock laughs when reminded of the program, saying it was a beat-up because his daughter had already been offered a good position overseas.

"The program exaggerated the situation. There are no tensions between us, there are differences of view, but as I said on the program I didn't bring up my kids to be parrots. I have two daughters, they are exceedingly bright, real achievers, and we are close."

Kirsty Ruddock is the principal solicitor in the NSW Environmental Defenders' Office and appeared against the Federal Government in an anti-whaling case. "Kirsty believes in what she is doing and it's almost charitable work for her because she could be working in the first tier of a law firm on a big salary."

Ms Ruddock will attend a Liberal Party fund-raiser tonight to celebrate her father's 35 years of public service.


This is what Kirsty Ruddock had to say in an ABC Law Report show 31 October 2006 about the issue of our century:

Kirsty Ruddock is the principal solicitor with the New South Wales Environmental Defenders Office. I put it to her that the New South Wales government is current pushing through changes to legislation which will render any challenges, like those of Peter Gray, largely irrelevant.


Kirsty Ruddock: Yes and no. I guess there'll always be innovative lawyers out there looking for ways to challenge things, but essentially what they're doing is, they're amending some of the requirements of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, to ensure that when the minister looks at approving a project, they're removing a requirement to comply with the environmental assessment requirements of the Act. And just requiring the project to ensure that they've made an application and the Director General of the Department of Planning is giving the report to the Minister as the only requirements before the Minister makes a decision.


Damien Carrick: So essentially, the decision-maker can choose to decide OK, the project hasn't necessarily complied with the conditions of the environmental assessment, ie. to lodge some kind of assessment of the potential climate change consequences, but that's OK, I can give you the go ahead anyway.


Kirsty Ruddock: I mean I guess yes, strictly speaking looking at that section in isolation it has taken away the environmental assessment requirements, but there's nevertheless other objectives in the Act they'd still probably need to comply with.


Damien Carrick: This isn't the only case where there's been an attempt by environmental lobby groups to use climate change arguments in environmental planning processes. There was in fact a Federal Court decision earlier this year on this very point.


Kirsty Ruddock: Yes, there was. It was in relation to a challenge that was launched in relation to two coal mines that were in the Bowen Basin in Central Northern Queensland, and it was launched by a group called Wildlife Whitsundays, who are a branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. And they challenged approval decisions of the Minister for Environment, for his refusal to I suppose assess this mine under the Commonwealth legislation. What they argued is that the Commonwealth Minister for Environment should have considered the greenhouse gas implications of these two coalmines as they affected matters of national environmental significance, in particular impact from the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics World Heritage area. And the Minister, in his decision had said No, he hadn't – or his delegate had said no, we haven't actually considered those matters, and that was how the challenge started.


Damien Carrick: And what did the Federal Court say?


Kirsty Ruddock: Essentially what happened, it was kind of a difficult case because originally when the statement of reasons came out from the delegate of the minister, it was quite clear that greenhouse gas implications hadn't been considered, and he had left that out of the statement of reasons altogether. But during the course of the court proceedings, the decision maker clarified that he had in fact considered them and he didn't think they were significant enough to trigger the Act, and the Federal Court accepted that; they said obviously the climate change impacts from these particular mines were not significant enough.


Damien Carrick: In other words, I think the argument was that sure the Great Barrier Reef is a protected area under Commonwealth legislation, but the impact on the Great Barrier Reef of climate change resulting from these particular coal mines and the CO2 emissions which might go into the atmosphere as a result of the coal mines, wouldn't be significant?


Kirsty Ruddock: That's right, yes.


Damien Carrick: And I believe there was also a case in Victoria involving the Hazelwood coal fired power station; what happened there?


Kirsty Ruddock: Yes, there was. There was a decision that was challenged down there in relation to the terms of reference that were given by the minister to look at this particular rezoning application in relation to the coal mine and the power station. Essentially the minister gave a direction that the panel that were assessing it shouldn't look at the greenhouse gas issues relating to greenhouse gas impacts I suppose from the mining operation, and they did that and they ignored submissions that were made and that was challenged before the tribunal down in Victoria, and subsequently the tribunal found that the panel had created an error because they needed to consider all environmental impacts, and the matter was then remitted back to the panel to do considering those submissions.


Damien Carrick: So at the end of the day though, they considered those submissions and then rubber-stamped the project anyway?


Kirsty Ruddock: Yes, that was I guess the more unfortunate long-term result, that they did actually then consider the impacts, said that they were going to be quite significant, but then recommended the rezoning go ahead.


Damien Carrick: It would seem to me that the legal system isn't particularly receptive to arguments about climate change, because even where you have a victory, and the decision-makers are forced to look at the issue of climate change, they can nod to it, and then choose to ignore it, and proceed?


Kirsty Ruddock: Yes, that is one of the consequences I guess, of a lot of large-scale projects, and also Commonwealth environmental decisions are not subject to what's known as a merits review in most cases, so you can't actually argue I guess about the merits of the decision and the science behind some of these things, it's merely about the process and whether the correct processes were followed. And in a judicial review sense. So that does obviously limit some of the outcome that you can seek in relation to large projects.


Damien Carrick: Kirsty Ruddock, principal solicitor with the New South Wales Environmental Defenders Office. And in case you're wondering, yes, she's the daughter of Federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock.

Big Malcolm Turnbull could do alot worse than a pre-selection of KR scion of Berowra given the issue of the century facing all us.

Posted by editor at 7:02 AM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 21 September 2008 8:05 AM NZT

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