This week: 1) Palestinian student murder mystery; 2) PM Scott Morrison’s assault on civil liberties: 3) John Howard’s link with China; 4) Political secrecy of ACT courts; 5) Defence chief’s fury; 6) Books to read and not read; 7) Prince Andrew uncensored.
Why Aboriginal rap star murdered Palestinian student
Codey Herrmann, a 20-year-old Aborigine and aspiring rap artist, was arrested and charged with the murder of Palestinian exchange student Aiia Maasarwe on Friday, 18 January 2019.
Herrmann’s arrest followed the discovery of Aiia’s battered, raped, semi-naked and burnt body in the early hours of Wednesday, 16 January 2019.
He appeared before Melbourne Magistrate’s Court on Saturday morning, 19 January 2019, was refused bail and remanded to appear in the same court on Monday, 21 January 2019.
Apart from searching the crime scene itself, police combed a derelict weatherboard house in Grimshaw Street, Bundoora, in walking distance from where Aiia was murdered.
The streets of Bundoora reeked of neglect. It was a popular hangout for homeless young people, many of them addicted to drugs. “Sometimes the young people in there get a bit rowdy, but they’ve always been harmless,” said nearby resident Shayne Cairns.
Late on Friday morning, 18 January 2019, Herrmann took police to the murder scene and gave them a detailed confession of what happened. He was charged on the spot and taken back to the police lock-up.
A police statement issued some hours later said: “The 20-year-old (Herrmann) was arrested in Greensborough by local police working in partnership with homicide detectives at about 11.20am. The arrest [comes after] an extensive investigation into Aiia’s death following the discovery of her body near Main Drive and Plenty Road in Bundoora on Wednesday, January 16, about 7am. Police would like to thank the public for their assistance with the investigation.”
That weekend, 19-20 January 2019, Melbourne was cloaked in a cloud of mourning. Other women had been raped and murdered in recent years, including 22-year-old comedian Eurydice Dixon, 21-year-old student Nitin Garg from India, Indian-born fruit picker Ranjodh Singh in Griffith, NSW, and Irish-born ABC Radio journalist Jill Meagher.
Shocking figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed that one woman was killed by her partner or ex-partner every week in Australia. Melbourne feminist writer Karen Pickering vowed to hold a vigil every time a woman was murdered, regardless of who the perpetrator might be. The action began right away with a vigil on the steps of Parliament House on Friday evening, 18 January 2019, attended by hundreds of women and many men.
Police searching the scene of Aiia’s murder recovered a black baseball cap with “1986” on the front and a grey and black T-shirt. They were Hermann’s belongings. DNA testing of the human hair from the cap and T-shirt became a priority: forensic tests would lead police to the identity of the killer. The abandoned clothing, said Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper, was “the key to solving this crime”.
While the forensic tests provided crucial evidence of Herrmann’s guilt, the crime was “solved” by the attacker himself. He startled police interrogators by admitting to the crime and offering a full confession. By the time of his second court appearance, Hermann’s case was virtually closed: the police had a full confession and all the forensic evidence they needed.
Although he pleaded guilty, Hermann’s Supreme Court committal proceedings spread over three days, largely consumed by legal argument.
Defence barrister Tim Marsh, chief counsel at Legal Aid Victoria, argued that the plea hearing was not a search for truth but a search for an explanation. “I think it’s important for me to concede at the start that I will ultimately fall short in this task. There is not an explanation I can give you that is going to get us from that start to that finish.”
He said Herrmann’s life “followed a rhythm that was essentially, get Centrelink [welfare payment], buy drugs, share them with mates, shoplift food from the supermarket. He subsisted on a diet of croissants and chocolate milk … his lifestyle was one of pursuit of intoxication through methamphetamine and cannabis.”
Covering the trial for the Australian edition of The Guardian, journalist Gay Alcorn wrote: “It was Tim Marsh’s task to explain why Codey Herrmann, aged 20, with no prior convictions and no history of violence, would viciously bash a young woman with a metal pipe, rape and murder her, and set her body on fire.”
Ms Alcorn appeared to be as baffled as everyone else in the courtroom. She captured Melbourne’s desolate mood when she wrote: “…. The picture that emerged of her was of an individual, a young, vibrant daughter, sister and friend who loved travel and study, spoke four languages, a woman who lost her life in a few minutes of inexplicable horror.”
Prosecutor Patrick Bourke told the court that Herrmann was caught on CCTV footage wandering around the nearby Polaris shopping centre. He spoke to a man and smoked a cigarette. He had no recollection of where he got the metal pipe or WD40 used in the assault and body burning.
He fled the scene by climbing over a fence into a nature reserve, leaving a trail of DNA on his cap, the pipe, the oil can and on Aiia’s body.
Dr Andrew Carroll, a forensic psychiatrist, testified about his lengthy interview in prison with Hermann and his review of more than 2,000 pages of material from the Victorian Aboriginal Childcare Association which had files on him since he was a baby.
His mother was Aboriginal and his father was of German descent. At less than 18 months old he and his sister were taken away from the parents who suffered chronic alcohol and drug problems and placed in a foster home. The records showed his birth parents were also caught in a nightmare of domestic violence and emotional abuse and what was described as “failure to meet his basic needs”.
Dr Carroll explained the “profound psychological effect” of his early childhood neglect and how this stunted his brain development. Dr Carroll explained: “He was reared in a chaotic, insecure, dangerous environment.”
When Dr Carroll asked Herrmann about fathers, he replied: “I’ve seen them portrayed in the movies, but I don’t know really what they do.”
He very rarely saw his birth parents and his mother died when he was a teenager. In middle childhood he invariably slept in a foetal position and suffered nightmares.
In his final address, barrister Tim Marsh argued that because he was an Aborigine, this did not make Herrmann intrinsically less responsible for his crime and therefore deserving of a lesser sentence. However, his Aboriginal descent often indicates “deprivation and disadvantage” and “profound trauma”. The instability of his identity and sense of futility could be seen as mitigating factors in sentencing.
On Tuesday, 29 October 2019, Herrmann was sentenced in Victoria’s Supreme Court to 36 years in jail for rape and murder. Sitting as a single judge because of the defendant’s guilty plea, Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth set a non-parole period of 30 years.
Justice Hollingworth described Aiia as a “friendly, optimistic and kind young woman” while her killer Codey Herrmann suffered from a drug-induced psychosis and a severe personality disorder.
His already fragile mental health functions had begun to break down entirely, she said, but he had “fair prospects” for rehabilitation if he received appropriate support and supervision in jail.
“Women should be free to walk the streets without fear of being violently attacked by a stranger,” Justice Hollingworth said. “You struck her with the clear intention of killing her. You quickly subjected her to a savage attack. Aiia was physically small, unsuspecting and alone. She had no opportunity to defend herself. She was a friendly, optimistic, kind young woman who had her whole life in front of her.”
In court to hear the sentencing was Aiia’s father, Saaed Maasarwe and her sister Noor who carried a bag inscribed with the words, “Do not objectify me”. She glared at Codey Herrmann when he was placed in the dock and then rested her head on her father’s shoulder for most of the hearing.
As head of the family, Saaed Maasarwe sat straight-backed in his seat listening intently and occasionally using a tissue to wipe tears from his eyes. He never turned to look at his daughter’s killer. It was if he wanted to purposefully ignore him.
The prisoner entered court wearing a blue T-shirt, ripped jeans and a pair of runners. They were not prison clothes. It was if he was deliberately wearing the street uniform of Melbourne’s under-class.
Outside court, Saaed Maasarwe spoke through tears thanking the people of Melbourne and asking people not to focus on the length of Herrmann’s sentence.
“We don’t focus on revenge,” he said. “This is not our compass, this is not our focus, but to care for the society, for the people, for the ladies to be able go out and go back home.
“My daughter was someone who was happy, positive and liked to help everyone. She looked at the people – it doesn’t matter which religion, which nation, which colour – she looked at the people on the same level with the same eyes.
“She liked all people, all humans – it didn’t matter where and when. This is how I want to remember Aiia.”
He also wanted to send a message to the Australian Government: “I wish and hope that they will care more for the people.” It was a significant gesture but Scott Morrison’s Coalition Government in Canberra was not listening.
In earlier court proceedings Codey Herrmann insisted on presenting his written apology to the Maasarwe family. In her summing up Judge Hollingworth referred to the letter and it was read out again:
“I’m sorry, your daughter didn’t deserve such a terrible and tragic thing to happen to her.
“I don’t expect any forgiveness as I will never be able to forgive myself and I will be trying to make amends for the rest of my life.
“There is no excuse.
“I truly apologize. I will pray for you and your family every day.
“Don’t give into hate like I did. Love.
Anyone with knowledge of Victoria’s prisons will know that they are run by crooked cops, crooked screws and organised crime. I suspect that when Herrmann, an Aborigine, said “Goodbye” in his letter to the Maasarwe family he meant it. He believed he was going inside and never coming out. His destiny was not to be a rap star after all, but yet another statistic of a black death in custody.
Next week: Aiia Maasarwe’s murder under the microscope, Part 3
Pastor Morrison’s assault on civil rights
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has launched a political witchhunt targeting anyone supporting mainland China. A top security document entitled “Guidelines to Counter Foreign Interference in the Australian University Sector” will be the platform for the Morrison Government’s anti-China rhetoric and pro-American military build-up.
The 43-page document has been produced in secret and circulated to senior civil servants, security service chiefs and university chancellors and vice chancellors.
For the first time in Oz history, high-ranking women from the intelligence services and universities co-edited a major security document. They are Catriona Jackson, CEO of Universities Australia, Vicki Thomson, CEO of the Group of Eight, Rachel Noble, Head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, Sarah Chidgey, deputy secretary Integrity and Intelligence Group in the Attorney-General’s Department, Heather Cook from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and Tanya Monro, chief defence scientist at the Department of Defence. None of these signatories produced dissenting documents or minority reports.
Amid the grandiose waffle about “academic freedom” and “strategic partnerships” with overseas networks, the document sets out to target all those – mainly academics, journalists, diplomats and politicians – who advocate an open-door policy with China on trade, culture, sport and diplomacy guided by the principle of Australia’s national interest and not Washington’s or London’s.
The document follows a well-trodden script written by Australian intelligence chiefs and repeated over and over again in the pages of Rupert Murdoch’s Australian and his other pro-Washington media. The main theme is that Australia is under “cyber-attack” from unknown foreign powers, but probably China.
Why not publish the proof? If Australian intelligence knows the culprit, why not name the country and publish how it was unmasked? Why keep it a secret?
If Australian intelligence failed in its duty to find “protect citizens and keep them free from threat”, then heads should roll. Such glaring incompetence should not be tolerated. Taxpayers fund the intelligence agencies by almost one billion dollars each year but, on the evidence, they are failing in their main duty of care. They jump to attention when a request comes from the US Embassy or the CIA; otherwise they are on the squash courts or taking the dog for a walk around Lake Burley Griffin.
The security document is filled with florid guidelines for “governance and risk frameworks” and offers suggestions to prevent “security risks” with “risk mitigation strategies”. But these are pink or red herrings.
The real purpose is to terrorise academics into silence and recruit students, particularly those on precarious visas, to become spies. The chapter headings show that the intelligence fraternity are setting up shop in academia in a big way: “Cyber security as a whole-of-organisation ‘human’ issue, with strong emphasis on a positive security culture”; “implementation of university cyber security strategies”; “cyber-intelligence sharing across the university sector with Government”.
In these various scenarios, the words “academic freedom”, “free speech” and “free inquiry” don’t appear. Morrison’s government is determined to gag universities, staff and rebellious students. The encouragement of free-thinking is the last thing they want to encourage. Apparently, it is OK on the streets of Hong Kong but not in Australia.
Is John Howard an “agent of influence”?
The Sino-International Entrepreneurs Federation has members and branch offices in countries around the world, including Australia.
John Howard OM, former Australian Prime Minister, belongs to the Chairman’s Office. It may be ceremonial but it is a big deal.
Other Australians holding high office in the Sino-International Entrepreneurs Federation are Andrew Robb, former Trade Minister, Liberal Party federal director and John Howard’s chief of staff; Warwick Smith, a former Liberal Cabinet Minister and assiduous networker; Kerry Stokes, media mogul and Liberal Party donor; and Craig Emerson, economist and former Labor Party Cabinet Minister.
Why is the media witchhunting some politicians, notably former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating and former NSW Labor Premier, Foreign Minister and NSW Senator Bob Carr, for their defence of China while ignoring John Howard and company who are rubbing shoulders with elder statesmen from China’s Communist Party?
Geoff Wade of the government-sponsored Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) appears to be in little doubt that the Sino-International Entrepreneurs Federation maybe little more than a Chinese Communist Party “front”. Is he right or not? Is it still functioning and is Howard still on the Chairman’s board? I think we should be told …
Political secrecy of Canberra’s courts
By Robert Macklin* (reproduced with permission of the author)
There is no end to the cost of war. The battlefield casualties grab the headlines, but so many of its crises take place behind the darkened shutters of our hospitals and, occasionally, our courtrooms.
One occurred in Canberra’s Supreme Court Four 10 days ago. The final blow was dealt shortly after 4pm. It was timed, I suspect, to avoid the prying eyes of the public and the media.
I was present when a fellow Canberran (who for legal reasons I’ll call “Witness J”), a graduate of Duntroon, a former Captain in Army Intelligence who fought with his unit in Afghanistan in 2011-2012, heard a judgement passed against him.
He belongs to a well-respected Yarralumla family. Members have occupied high office in Treasury and other public service posts. He was schooled in Canberra before graduating to Duntroon. He and his Indonesian fiancée plan to marry shortly after Christmas.
When charged under the Intelligence Services Act 2001, “Witness J” pleaded guilty. His actions were triggered by what he perceived as a personal affront to someone he loves and whom he intends to marry next year.
The Supreme Court proceedings were a clinical operation. Justice John Burns had heard the case in July when “Witness J” – at the time a secret prisoner in the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) – brought a civil action against the AMC’s General Manager, Ms Corinne Justason.
It was triggered by his request to me – made through his brother – to visit him in the jail to advise him about the process of getting the book he had written published commercially.
The request came out of the blue, but it was not unusual. As the author of some 29 books I am often asked for such advice, and I was certainly intrigued by this one. It was a memoir covering his time in a local jail known as the AMC. His synopsis and Chapter One were both very engaging and well written.
I decided to offer to help his writing project and applied to jail authorities for permission to visit. Initially, this was granted but then, the day before the appointment, I was told permission was revoked. When I asked why, the answer was silence.
What I didn’t realise was that following my request, Ms Justason had alerted the Australian Federal Police. The AFP then raided the Melbourne home of “Witness J’s” brother. Police seized all copies of the manuscript that he had sent him. In the prison, “Witness J’s” cell was also raided and his writings seized. His email access was also restricted.
The prisoner was outraged. Though he had no formal legal training he conducted the case against his persecutors himself. An observer reported that he reminded her of Atticus Finch, the part played by Gregory Peck in the award-winning classic film, To Kill a Mockingbird.
I knew almost nothing of this. I was bemused by the silence, the more so when I learned that the earlier case that resulted in his incarceration had been conducted in secret as had his 15-month sentence in AMC. I raised the matter with friends whom I believed were well placed by their former and current positions in the Department of Defence community to throw light on the matter. But they too were surprised.
“This is not Nazi Germany,” they said. “We don’t have secret trials in Australia.” That’s what I thought too. That’s what differentiates us from Egypt, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran and all the other tyrannies.
But I saw anomalies that I found deeply disturbing. For example, the government had expunged “Witness J’s” real name from the public record and replaced it with the random alias ‘Alan Johns’. In the Supreme Court judgement that free him after serving a 15-month sentence, Justice Burns addressed him as “Mr Johns”.
Adding to the cloak-and-dagger atmosphere, the case was anonymously listed as simply, ‘In the Matter of an Application’. To the ACT courts, “Witness J” was and remains a non-person.
So, what lay at the base of this mystery? Is Australia really as open and just as we have been brought up to believe? Or has some combination of the war on terror, the provisions in the recent ‘security’ legislation, coupled with a government’s endemic desire for secrecy taken us to the fringe of autocracy?
Just ask “Witness W” and his Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery, a former ACT attorney-general, who faced secretive proceedings for blowing the whistle on the bugging of Timor-Leste’s Cabinet discussions on Australia’s theft of the tiny nation’s offshore oil and gas fields. I suspect Bernard Collaery has little doubt about Australia’s totalitarian shift.
“Witness J” had spent 10 stressful years fighting for his country and seeing his fellow soldiers killed in the bloodied dust of Oruzgan Province in Afghanistan. Then he joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) where he spent five years in postings to Iraq and other places. His secretive treatment at the hands of the “justice system” is nothing short of scandalous.
I have written three biographies of SAS operatives in SAS Sniper, SAS Insider and Redback One and the comprehensive history of our Special Forces and Intelligence Services in Warrior Elite, so I did not have to be told the real story behind his guilty plea. It is no part of the MS – Here, There Are Dragons – that he sent me and which I have now passed to my regular publisher on his behalf. That is an amazing story of a good man thrown into the company of the depraved. It’s an insight into the dark heart of humanity and a miracle of adaptation.
But the real story behind it is one that demands to be told because it’s about a world that those of us who have not served in the front lines of our defences know nothing about, and where the stress of war and conflict become too hard to bear. I hope he tells it. It’s one that we all deserve to know as we count the cost.
- Robert Macklin is a Canberra-based journalist, columnist and author. With more than 50 years’ experience of national politics, Brisbane-born Macklin’s opinion on politically influenced court secrecy is a “wake-up” call. His article was first published online by Canberra’s CityNews on 13 November 2019 under the headline, “Counting the Cost”.
Fury of former Defence chief
Paul Barratt AO, ex-secretary of the Department of Defence in Canberra, sent an IT message to friends this week:
“Our leaders fiddle while the country burns. And [Anthony] Albanese backs the National Rifle Association (NRA) template ‘Now is not the time to talk about causes’. Bullshit. God help this country. There’s not a leader in sight. They’re all pathetic.”
Must-read books for 2020
Russia and the West – The last two action-packed years 2017-2019 by Tony Kevin
His privately published book can be ordered through this website: firstname.lastname@example.org $25 at bookshop events or $30 (including postage) online.
Tony Kevin is famous for his scorching account of Australia’s refugee crisis and the SIEV X tragedy. He exposed the cruelty and dog-whistle politics of former prime minister John Howard. His latest book is a work of political candour and freshness. The author rejects the comic book caricature of Russia which is presented in the Western media.
You have probably missed the Canberra book launch, but check out the following dates:
Melbourne, Monday, November 25. Readings bookshop in Hawthorn, 6 pm for 6.30. Launch by Caitin Johnstone, journalist, author, feminist and cage rattler.
Brisbane, Wednesday, November 27. Avid Reader Bookshop, West End, 6pm for 6.30. Launch by barrister James O’Neill, noted geo-political analyst.
Sydney, Thursday, December 5. Gleebooks, Glebe Point Road, 6pm for 6.30. Launch by Professor Bob Carr, former NSW Premier, Senator and Foreign Minister.
Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko
This book, published by the University of Queensland Press, won this year’s coveted Miles Franklin Award. Judges praised the Aboriginal Australian’s book as “a novel of celebratory defiance”.
The Saturday Paper hailed her novel as “funny and fierce” and said it offered “redemption and forgiveness where none seems possible”. Interviewed by the Oz Guardian, the author said: “This bloody bullshit about the forgotten white working class – if there’s any forgotten people in Australia, if there’s any battlers in Australia, it’s brown and black people.
“Prison is fundamental to keeping poor people poor. The Poorest of the poor. Australia hasn’t changed in this respect in over two centuries. This mentality of chucking people away when they’re inconvenient started in Britain and has continued until today. Except these days it’s extremely big business.”
She said her novel was aimed at portraying Australia’s underclass in rural NSW, and especially the black underclass. “I wanted to talk about class. I wanted to write about the connections between poor blacks and poor whites in the country, in the jail class.”
Adani and the War over Coal by Quentin Beresford
A bold, page-turning account of the manipulation of Australia’s politicians and media by one of India’s biggest polluters.
Environmentalist Bill McKibben writes: “There are many big, bad projects that the fossil industry is pushing across the planet, but the Adani coal mine may be the biggest and stupidest of them all. To understand the roots of this debacle, this book is necessary reading.
John Bercow, House of Commons Speaker, to publish his Brexit memoir in February 2020
Colin Chapman, former President of the Australian Institute for Foreign Affairs, wrote: “We will miss John Bercow – even if the British Tories won’t – but his voice will continue, loud and clear, next year.”
Book to avoid in 2020
Malcolm Turnbull’s memoir as spineless 29th Prime Minister from 2015 to 2018. Wait for it to be remaindered (you won’t have to wait long) or borrow it from the local public library (if they have enough cash to buy a copy).
Early prediction: The book will be an apologia blaming everyone but himself. It will be a name-droppers’ delight with vanity-ridden anecdotes about every single world leader he ever met. He will attempt to revive the party’s “wet” faction – having betrayed everything they ever stood for (which wasn’t much). The “moderates” have fled politics for well-paid jobs and conceded victory to hardliners, nut jobs and supporters of Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton.
Headline of the Week
“Even hippies of Nimbin blame greenies”
-Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspaper with front-page story blaming “greenies” for state-wide fire emergency which resulted in four deaths and enormous loss of property and farmland. The “exclusive” article by Graham Lloyd, so-called “Environment Editor”, said: “The greenies have a lot to answer for over the incendiary state of the Australian bush.”
The Australian website describes Lloyd as “a fearless reporter” who covers “all sides” of the environment debate. He is the paper’s former deputy business editor and chief editorial writer faithfully serving the News Corp line. Give that man a Xmas bonus!
His News Corp career was championed by former editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell [no relation whatsoever] who once described Lloyd as “the smartest environment writer in the country by light years”. He claimed that Lloyd could “run rings around clowns like Tim Flannery in any forum on knowledge of science”.
Another supporter is notorious climate change denier, One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, first elected to the Senate in 2016 with 77 first preference votes, who said Lloyd was a journalist who “showed the courage to research the evidence for climate change”.
Other prominent Lloyd barrackers are Liberal Party radio ham Alan Jones and News Corp right-wing commentators Andrew Bolt and Chris Kenny.
Quiz of the Month
Left to right: Sam Dastyari, former Labor NSW general secretary (Sussex Street machine) and NSW senator; a mystery man with a grizzly beard; Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and National Party leader.
Question: Who is the bearded bloke in the middle? Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Tony Abbott, or someone else?
There’s a huge prize for the first correct entry.
Prince Charming uncensored
Britain’s oldest institutions are crumbling: Magna Carta – gone! British empire – gone! The royal family – in chaos!
Prince Andrew, Mrs Betty Windsor’s second son, is currently trashing the reputation of the Britain’s richest family through his connection with American celebrity under-age sex procurer Jeffrey Epstein. Killed in a New York jail on 10 August 2019 to silence him (Big Apple officials and the media said he committed suicide), Epstein procured teenage girls for wealthy politicians, royalty and business owners. On 29 August, 2019, his New York trial judge Richard Berman dismissed all criminal charges laid against him. Records seized by police at his Florida residence containing hundreds of names of Epstein’s clients have been sealed and locked away.
Even the most hardened royalists are finding it hard to stomach Prince Andrew’s dalliance with Epstein.
This photo montage may help you to decide: is Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, a fit and proper person to be eighth in line as the future King of Britain and Australia?