Pinchgut – winter festivities

June 20, 2017

Pigmalion curtain call

I went on Saturday afternoon to the second and on Tuesday night to the last performance of Pinchgut Opera’s triple bill:

Rameau Anacréon (libretto by Pierre-Joseph-Justin Bernard)
Vinci Erighetta e Don Chilone (libretto by Vinci)
Rameau Pigmalion (libretto by Ballot de Sauvot)

I had picked up at the last minute two restricted view seats  – on opposite sides for obvious reasons.

Erighetta e don Chilone was a genially amusing (if not quite side-splitting) two-hander for Taryn Fiebig and Richard Alexander.  It’s a Neapolitan piece from the 1720s so stylistically think Pergolesi, who apparently studied with Vinci.  I enjoyed it though the business with a book (apparently it was meant to be a play within a play and a read-through at that) didn’t really add much for me.

The two Rameau works are both Actes de ballet.  Dance is a big element of them.  That is always a bit tricky because our modern tastes for dance and, I venture to say, the significance we attach to it, are probably not the same as in the original context.  Or maybe not so different.  Pigmalion, where there was actual dancing, managed this more successfully;  Anacreon was a bit busy and the resort to rhythmic movement as a substitute for dancing always feels a bit lame.

It’s said in such texts as I found in fragments on the web (or at least some of them) that Pigmalion is Rameau’s most successful work in this genre.  On Saturday, Anacreon had the advantage with me because (as I later realised) I have repeatedly listened to a chunk of it as part of a very old Les Arts Florissant compilation set of CDs.  By Tuesday, Pigmalion prevailed. I also felt that stylistically it was the more successfully realised.

I’m not a critic, so no roll call and just nice remarks.

Lauren Zolezzi, L’Amour in both works (first a kind of feminine Cupid in something rather like Con High uniform and then more adult and in masculine attire a la Cherubino) was probably the newcomer of the night.

In the orchestra, the violins were in fine form – how standards have risen over the years in the early music biz here in Oz!  Leader Matthew Greco played up a storm, especially in a very striking solo in the Vinci. I only noticed one tiny suspect moment in the oboes, which also is a sign of progress in the reliability stakes over the years though perhaps the parts in these works were not the most demanding or exposed.  Both of the Rameau pieces reserved particular moments of poetry for the flutes, and these were delectable.

The fast section of the Pigmalion ouverture includes what I can only describe as a particularly mind-blowing double hemiola system .

I don’t find it so easy to get worked up for an afternoon performance. I’m sure that on Tuesday I was in a more receptive mood than on Saturday. But there is also much to be said for what you can get out of something the second time around, provided of course that it is something that bears repetition.

On Tuesday I enjoyed the program very much.

[Picture from Pinchgut Facebook: I’m in there somewhere.]

Temporary postscript: for the next 3 or so weeks the performance broadcast on Sunday night can be heard from the ABC “Classic” FM website here.

 

 

 

My new scenic ride 2

June 12, 2017

After Steel Park, the bike path skirts foot of the sandstone plateau of The Warren, under what I like to think of as the Poo Bridge:

poo bridge

Another view:

poo br 2

Not long after, the path emerges just behind the Concordia Club near Tempe.

I take a left along Carrington Road.

Carrington Road

Once we spoke of remnant bushland (until Mike Baird had it bulldozed to make a parking spot for heavy equipment whilst the M5 is extended); now we might as well speak, in the inner city at least, of remnant industrial areas.  The buildings pictured (or some of them) were built in 1926 as a car assembly plant for General Motors.  Ibis roost in the palms and patrol the battlements.

Facing them are some strange almost-neighbours, the Sheik Alawy Youth Centre:

sheikh alawy centre

and

Rosicrucian Lodge

Who even knew there were still Rosicrucians?

Pictured in the foreground is a separated cycle way which the now-merged Marrickville Council installed. Problematically, the cyclists are faced with a “Give Way” sign each time a side street (itself with a “Give Way” sign in favour of Carrington Road) intervenes.  Further on, the cycle path dumps cyclists across the road with no warning to motorists other than an overgrown sign.  I find it safer to stay on the road.

The Carrington Road “precinct” has an almost-forgotten air to it.  To me that is part of its “you-find-this-ugly” charm.

The precinct is unlikely to remain forgotten for long.  It looks as though it will soon be thrown to the wolves of “urban renewal” – ie, more apartments.  There is money to be made.  Urgers are already on the case.

untitled (5)

Until that happens, the precinct and the larger Marrickville-Sydenham precinct which I then ride through after ducking under the railway (past the mysterious and only really visible from the train Sydney Water pumping station  where there also appears to be movement at the station) is given over to mixed light-industrial uses – distribution centres of one sort or another, motor workshops, community welfare groups and a strange preponderance of coffee roasters and wholesale bakeries emitting tantalising aromas.

Build it and they will come, I previously posted about the bike racks at Sydenham Station.  It is time to tether my steed.

P1120029

 

 

 

My (new) scenic ride to work 1

June 11, 2017

Just over a year ago, I moved to Canterbury. Ironically, just as NSW mergers of local government areas brought into being an officially designated “Inner West,” after over 30 years (leaving aside my Perth sojourn) I am no longer living there.

That was a bit of a blow to my geographical self-respect (self-regard some may say).  It also means that I am one big hill further away from the city.  As age takes its toll, that has proved an obstacle to a bicycle commute.

Maybe one day I will surmount that.  Meanwhile, when time and weather permit, I can ride to Sydenham and take a fast and more frequent train from there.  This is my new scenic ride (half way) to work.  It takes me mostly along a stretch of the Cooks River cycleway.

detention, green

That’s the detention pond near the mouth of Cup and Saucer Creek, not long after I join the path on the south side of the river.  When I took this picture it was full of unsightly green algae. It has since cleared up.

P1120071

 

This is a distant view of the old sugar mill, now converted to flats:

P1120006

I usually cross the river at this point:

bridge near sugar mill

There is a small harbour which must have been used for the sugar mill:

sugar mill harbour

An area is fenced off to protect birds basking in the sun from pesky people.

pelicans 1

pelicans 2

I suppose I got too close for comfort.

It was difficult to catch a good photo of this, but you can detect the main stream of the river from the plastic water bottles and other flotsam floating up and down along it with the tide.  Here at least some street rubbish has been captured at the end of a stormwater drain:

rubbish trap

though as we know it is but a drop in the ocean.

The path continues past sometimes flood-prone land and (I’m being botanically imprecise here) pleasing stands of paperbarks which I guess find that congenial.

P1120075

After passing playing fields and some decommissioned tennis courts, the path crosses the Cooks River again on a bridge which is definitely in need of renewal.

This brings the path back to the southern side of the Cooks River.  There is a mosque.

islamic centreThe path crosses Wardell Road and there are more playing fields and a tennis court which is often being played on until quite late at night.  A new bridge crosses over again just near the Marrickville Golf Course clubhouse:

golf course bridge

P1120078

I ride past the club house and out of the golf course, cross the bottom of Illawara Road and come to Steel Park.

Even if I’m not really thirsty, I always pause for a drink of water here on principle.

water stand

Because it’s free.

 

 

 

 

 

The show has to end some time

June 10, 2017

My father’s friendship with B dated from their first year in college together in Perth in 1943.  After my father and B married and both couples found themselves living in Sydney from the mid-fifties on, the friendship continued between the couples and, in a quasi-cousinly way, their children as we arrived.  We spent time together on holidays and every year shared an evening meal on Christmas Day.

Perth was a small town.  B and his wife even knew my stepmother who had also been at UWA with them.

B was the last survivor of this little group.  A few weeks ago I visited him at the nursing home to which he and his wife had moved shortly before her death.  There wasn’t much left of him, at least that he was able to express outwardly.

Last week I went to B’s funeral.  I don’t think there will be any more such funerals to go to.  I can only think of two other surviving contemporary friends of my father – one (they were at school together) is 92 and in Arizona, the other is in Canberra.  (Both of these men also knew B.)  In a way then, for me, it is the end of an era.

Only at the funeral did I learn that B’s father, who had been a doctor in WWI at Gallipoli and later the Western Front, died of an “accidental” overdose of self-administered morphine when B was aged four.

When B’s son called me with the news (“It’s that phone call,” he said, when he was put through to me at work) he told me that one of the last things his father had been able to say to him, about 10 days before, was “The show has to end some time.”

Almost the last thing I remember B saying to me was more than a year before that, when I had visited him at the nursing home.  His speech was already a bit indistinct.  “There’s lots of shuffling going on here,” he said.  At first I thought he meant that there were lots of room changes going on, but then the penny dropped.  It was a reference to Hamlet.

 

 

 

 

Pointless III

June 8, 2017

Mr Chan becomes a defendant

Of course Chan was a defendant for the vexatious litigant proceedings, but those proceedings were concluded.

It is now necessary to go back to the last proceedings referred to in the judgment of Adamson J, involving TAFE NSW and the examination summons.

TAFE NSW obtained an order for costs in the proceedings brought by Chan against it.  TAFE NSW had those costs assessed.  Chan did not pay the costs.  TAFE registered the assessment as a judgment in the Local Court.  Once you register an assessment as a judgment you can then invoke the procedure of the court to enforce it.

An examination summons is a procedure where a judgment creditor can bring a judgment debtor before the court where it has obtained a judgment to answer questions about his assets.  The purpose is to enable the judgment creditor to obtain information about what means the debtor may have to satisfy the judgment, which the judgment creditor can then use to decide how to seek to recover its debt.

The first step is to serve a notice on the debtor requiring the debtor to produce documents in relation to his means.  TAFE did this in July 2010.  Chan failed to comply with this.

The next step is to get the court to issue an examination summons for the debtor to attend court and be examined. TAFE NSW did this, probably no earlier than late September 2010, as in October 2010 the Local Court made an order under Rule 38.3 for examination of Mr Chan, on 27 January 2011.

The examination was adjourned to 17 February 2011 after Mr Chan filed a notice of motion seeking an annulment of that order. His motion was later dismissed and he was ordered to submit to the examination in the Local Court on 17 March 2011.

The examination was deferred because in February 2011 Chan commenced the proceedings in the Supreme Court which were dismissed by Fullerton J on 30 June 2011.

On 6 December 2011, Chan appeared before Magistrate Atkinson on the occasion set down for the examination.  He sought another adjournment, on the basis that he intended to appeal Fullerton J’s decision. After considering the notice of intention to appeal which Mr Chan then produced, her Honour refused the further adjournment. It is worth pointing out that the time to commence any such appeal had well and truly passed and any application for appeal would have required leave of the court as a result of Justice Adamson’s orders made on 4 November 2011.  The time to appeal from those orders had also passed, and no leave had been sought to appeal from Fullerton J’s orders.

Magistrate Atkinson refused the adjournment and ordered Chan to enter the witness box to be examined.  Chan refused.  Magistrate Atkinson told Chan that if he refused, she would refer the matter to the Supreme Court for him to be charged with contempt of court.  Chan still refused.  The examination did not occur.

In February 2012, the Prothonotary of the Supreme Court commenced a prosecution of Chan for contempt of court.

This is a cumbersome procedure.  It also encountered many delays.

Chan was the source of many if not all of these delays.

Proceedings were commenced by summons in December 2009.

Chan sought legal aid – his application was rejected and the matter had to be stayed to permit him to appeal that rejection; he sought and was given pro bono legal advice, which it may be inferred he did not accept.  Twice.

In May 2014  Chan raised the question of his fitness to be tried, a question which the Prothonotary considered had to be resolved.  This too proved a protracted process as Chan declined to provide his own psychiatric report or to be seen by Dr Allnutt, the psychiatrist finally selected by the Prothonotary to assess Mr Chan’s fitness to be tried in 2015.  Ultimately Dr Allnutt opined that Chan was not unfit to plead.  On 20 August 2015, by now up to no 15 in published reasons for judgment, Schmidt J held that, though Chan suffered from a mental condition that involved either delusions, or paranoia or likely both, he was fit to be tried.

On 23 June 2016 Justice Schmidt found Chan guilty of contempt.  Her reasons are No 20.

On 21 July 2016, Justice Bellew made orders for Mr Chan to attend for a pre-sentence report and for the filing of submisions in time for a hearing on sentence to occur on 7 and 14 October 2016.

As ever, that was not quite to be, but a sentence hearing did go ahead on 16 November 2016.

A development

But meanwhile, in December 2015, Justice N Adams had held that before deciding to refer a non-co-operating witness to the Supreme Court for prosecution, a magistrate had to offer the witness procedural fairness, and in particular an opportunity to make submissions as to whether the magistrate should deal with the contempt themselves – which they have the power to do.  The significance of this is that if a magistrate deals with the matter, the maximum penalty is less.  Maybe also section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 could apply.  (That’s my speculation, not Justice N Adams’ and its application to someone like Chan would be problematic.)  If the magistrate had not given a witness an opportunity to be heard on this question a prosecution by the Prothonotary is invalid.

The Prothonotory appealed against this decision but in October 2016 the Court of Appeal dismissed that appeal – Prothonotary of the Supreme Court of New South Wales v Dangerfield [2016] NSWCA 277  .

At the sentencing hearing, the Prothonotary (not that the Prothonotary, a court official whose exact present identity is decidedly difficult to track down, does this themselves) brought Dangerfeld to the attention of Justice Schmidt, but submitted that it did not apply in the case of Mr Chan.

On 2 June 2017, in judgment No 23, Justice Schmidt held that Dangerfield did apply.

Chan had submitted that if it did apply, then that should be an end to the matter.  Justice Schmidt instead ordered that the findng of contempt be revoked and the question of how Chan should be dealt with should be referred back to the Local Court.  In other words, the clock should be wound back to the point where Chan had been denied the opportunity to make submissions as to whether the Local Court should deal with the matter itself.

Despite Justice Schmidt’s stating that, because the finding of contempt was made before the decision of the Court of Appeal handed down its decision in Dangerfield, the proceedings were not a nullity, it is hard to avoid the feeling that all that went before in the Supreme Court was therefore essentially pointless.

What was the point of the examination summons?

By the time TAFE NSW started the process which culminated in the examination where Chan refused to enter the witness box, there were already published reasons from which it could be inferred that costs orders had been obtained against Chan by a whole host of parties other than TAFE NSW in at least the litigation which I have described in Pointless I as:

  1. the tenancy appeal;
  2. the Public Housing complaints;
  3. the train ticket subpoenas;
  4. Perry defamation; and
  5. the Constitutional objection to court fees (finally disposed of on 30 August 2010).

By the time the examination went ahead, it could be reasonably inferred from published reasons for judgment that Chan had also been ordered to pay costs in:

  1. The Local employment training solutions litigation;
  2. The previous proceedings against Mr Tran referred to in the published judgments in those proceedings; and
  3. The vexatious litigant proceedings.

It was also apparent that:

  • in 2003 Chan had been tenant of a room in a house;
  • since 2005 Chan had been a public housing tenant; and
  • he was a Centrelink client (and probably had been for some time given that he had obtained public housing in 2005) most recently on Newstart allowance.  (In fact, by April 2016 he had graduated to a disability support pension.)

The first of these strongly suggested he was hardly a man of means to start with and the second and third made him practically judgment-proof.  You can’t garnish Centrelink payments (only Centrelink can do that). A public housing tenant has no house to be sold up.

A moment’s reflection ought to have led to the conclusion that this situation was unlikely to change, especially given all that Chan’s many litigious ventures indicate about the kind of person he was, of which TAFE NSW must have had its own multiple demonstrations.  Even if Chan did have some assets against which a judgment could be recovered, the proceeds of such recovery would be vulnerable to being clawed back as preferences if any other costs-creditors took the trouble to have their costs assessed and he were then sent bankrupt.  I strongly suspect that most if not all of those with costs orders against Chan concluded that it was pointless even incurring the costs of having those costs assessed.

In the light of the enormous public expense that has been incurred by the State of NSW in one guise or another to date in the pursuit of the contempt charges against Mr Chan, which has still not yet run its course, it seems to me a pity that TAFE NSW took a different view.

 

 

 

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Pointless II

June 7, 2017

This is the second post in a series of posts about Yau Hang Chan, his interaction with the court system (and some tribunals) and that system’s interaction with him.

A vexatious litigant

On 25 March 2011 the NSW Attorney-General commenced proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW under s 8 of the Vexatious Proceedings Act 2008 (NSW) for orders prohibiting Chan from commencing proceedings in NSW and staying all proceedings in NSW without and subject to the leave of the Court.

When the matter finally came on for hearing on 18 October 2011, Chan did not appear.  He had previously filed submissions and sent various communications disputing the validity of the proceedings against him, including a message on the day of the hearing that he would not appear.  The matter proceeded.  On 4 November 2011 Justice Adamson made the orders sought.

Most of Pointless I was drawn from Justice Adamson’s reasons for judgment.  In addition to the proceedings listed in Pointless I, by the time the application was heard Chan had brought fresh proceedings in the Supreme Court against TAFE NSW.   These proceedings were in relation to steps (of which more in Pointless III) that TAFE NSW had taken towards enforcing costs orders it had obtained against him.  The proceedings were summarily dismissed by Justice Fullerton on 30 June 2011.

What my account has necessarily abbreviated is the full nature of Chan’s conduct which founded Justice Adamson’s decision.  You need to read her decision to appreciate the wide range of collateral issues raised by Chan in his proceedings, and the many claims which were made by him, many of them ultimately abandoned or never backed up or never backed up in any cogent way.

A hallmark of many vexatious litigants is a capacity to perceive grievances and to formulate claims and arguments but a reluctance to bring them to finality.  Faced with opposing arguments, fresh claims are brought, amendments and adjournments sought, applications are made to disqualify judicial officers.

This is tremendously and unfairly burdensome to opposing parties and also to the courts.  Just because the claims are meritless does not mean they can be ignored. Even if, in hindsight, Chan’s claims once dismissed can be seen as ridiculous and even foolish does not detract from the stress that they will have caused to those subject to them.

Ultimately a stop has to be put to it.  That stop does not prevent a vexatious litigant from attempting to bring a claim, but it does reverse the usual presumptive right of all persons to bring claims and the concomitant burden on the objects of those claims to respond to them.  Before a potential defendant or respondent need be troubled with the vexatious litigant’s claims, the court will consider whether the claim has arguable substance.

So you might think that Justice Adamson’s decision brought to an end Mr Chan’s entanglement with the court system and, more importantly, his entanglement of others.  What a relief.

But no.

What happened next is the subject of Pointless III.

 

Pointless I

June 6, 2017

This is the first in a series of three posts about Yau Hang Chan, vexatious litigant who currently faces the prospect of prosecution for contempt of court.

Like all long and sad tails, the beginning must lie buried in the mists of time, but it is necessary to begin somewhere.

Tenancy appeal

In February 2003 Yau Hang Chan entered into a residential tenancy agreement in respect of a room in a building at Croydon, for the term of one year commencing on 8 February 2003 and ending on 7 February 2004.  That, you might observe, is pretty much the most humble rental accommodation possible.  You can assume Chan was not a man of any substantial means.

On 3 December, the landlord gave him notice that he had to leave at the end of the term.  Chan did not leave and the landlords quite briskly obtained an order from the Residential Tenancy Tribunal for his eviction in March 2004.  Chan resisted this order by appealing (I infer some time in March 2004) to the Supreme Court, on grounds, mostly procedural, which were ultimately found to be baseless on 13 August 2004.  It counts as a mercy that he was then given until 27 August 2004 before the eviction order could be carried out.  He reached the end of the road with an application to the Court of Appeal for a stay pending an appeal to the court which was rejected on 24 August 2004.  Evictions are rarely carried out on the very first possible day, but nevertheless you can assume he was out pretty soon after that.

This must have been a dark time for Mr Chan.  On the other hand by his resistance he had effectively extended his occupation of the room for about six months, which was a pretty good result.

Chan’s situation was apparently desperate enough for him to be allocated public housing, which he moved into on 18 February 2005.

Unsuccessful TAFE studies proceedings 

By then Chan had enrolled in January 2005 in a course at Ultimo TAFE.  In the second half of that year he was enrolled in the subject “Develop and Apply Knowledge of the Library/Information Services Industries.”  This ran from July to 30 November. On 15 November his teacher informed him that he had failed a group presentation assessment task.

On 16 November 2005 Chan commenced proceedings challenging this in the Supreme Court against the the teacher personally and the TAFE Commission.  When the matter first came before the court on 20 November it was stood down to give the parties the chance to reach a negotiated resolution.  Mr Chan wanted to withdraw from the course without penalty.  The TAFE Commission said that he could withdraw but that a fail would still be recorded.  Chan withdrew and a fail was recorded.  You can see that from his position the negotiations were fruitless and probably they were always going to be.  Chan continued his proceedings.  These were ultimately summarily dismissed by Master Malpass (actually by then he was an Associate Justice but Master Malpass has a much more satisfying ring) in June 2006.

Mr Chan appealed unsuccessfully against this.  He made FOI requests and appealed decisions against them.  In 2008 he commenced fresh proceedings against his TAFE teachers’ superiors with claims in defamation, misfeasance in public office and negligence.  Those claims, other than the claim for defamation, were dismissed in December 2009.

Public Housing complaints

Meanwhile, almost as soon as Chan had moved into his public housing, he came into dispute with the Housing Department (a loose term because there were name changes for the relevant entity from time to time).  Some of these he agitated in proceedings in the CTTT (the Tenancy tribunal) leading to a deed of settlement in 2006.

Claims by Chan eventually included that, from the outset, the Department had wrongfully backdated his lease by one day, that officials had defamed him, and various matters concerning condition reports and smoke detectors.  In March 2008, Chan commenced proceedings against the Department.  In 2008 he also commenced proceedings against an officer of the Department for defamation (and other matters) in relation to a letter she had sent him about inspection of smoke alarms in his property.  Both proceedings were ultimately dismissed as hopeless by Justice McCallum in August 2009.

The train ticket subpoenas

On 22 January 2007, Rail Corp brought proceedings in Sutherland Local Court against Chan for allegedly travelling on a train without a ticket.  This led to satellite proceedings commenced by Chan in April 2008 against the Local Court (a magistrate had set aside a subpoena) and even (in December 2008) against an employee of Railcorp who had appeared for Railcorp in the proceedings against the magistrate to inform the court that Railcorp rather than the magistrate was the proper defendant – as a result of which Chan was permitted to amend his summons.  The proceedings against the Railcorp employee were dismissed in April 2009 and those against the Court (by which time the Attorney-General had also been joined) in September 2009.

Perry defamation

On 9 January 2009, Chan commenced proceedings against Ms Perry alleging conspiracy and defamation in a letter she had sent him in December 2007 from the office of the NSW Premier in response to letters from him complaining about certain conduct of the NSW Police Force and about certain legal proceedings.  These proceedings were dismissed by Justice McCallum on 27 November 2009 on the basis that Chan’s pleadings and draft pleadings disclosed no reasonable cause of action ( Chan v Perry [2009] NSWSC 1293). Along the way Chan made an application that Justice McCallum disqualify herself which she dismissed on 19 November 2009 ( Chan v Perry [2009] NSWSC 1278).

Police FOI case

On 30 December 2009, Chan applied to the ADT  for review of a decision by the NSW Police Force decision in respect of a decision it had made in a relation to a privacy complaint made by him in relation to its COPS records.  This application was ultimately dismissed for want of prosecution by Chan.

Constitutional objection to court fees

On 8 February 2010, Chan caused a summons to be issued from the High Court seeking a declaration that Schedule 1 of the Civil Procedure Regulation 2005 (NSW) (relating to court fees) was invalid.  On 10 May 2017 this came before Justice Heydon – transcript here.    Although Chan had failed to file a statement of claim as required by the rules, the case was remitted to the Federal Court.

In the Federal Court Chan also filed a notice of motion seeking that certain Local Court proceedings be stayed.  On 6 August 2010 Justice Perram dismissed that application and ordered that these proceedings be dismissed if Chan had not filed a statement of claim by 30 August 2010 and stayed until he did so.  Chan did file something but in March 2011 Perram J held that it was not a statement of claim and so the proceedings had been dismissed on 30 August 2010.

Local employment training solutions

On 17 May 2010, Chan commenced proceedings in the Federal Court for preliminary discovery against Mr Harris, an employee of Catholic Care Sydney, which operates the Local Employment Training Solutions (LETS) program. Preliminary discovery is a procedure where you can obtain documents relevant to a claim you might have in order to decide whether or against whom to bring it.  On the same day, Chan filed a statement of claim alleging that the report prepared by LETS and provided to Centrelink contained fraudulent and defamatory allegations and that those allegations were part of a conspiracy to injure him.  Both cases came before Justice Cowdroy for case management.

The application for preliminary discovery was ultimately dismissed for want of prosecution by Justice Cowdroy on 10 December 2010, but not before Chan had made an unsuccessful application that Cowdroy J disqualify himself because he had presided over a previous application by Chan in May 2009 for preliminary discovery.  Those proceedings were against Tran, an employment consultant to Centrelink, for documents relating to Chan.  Cowdroy J had made orders for preliminary discovery, Tran had produced some documents, Chan complained that production was incomplete and brought a notice of motion against Tran for contempt, Tran produced some more documents, Cowdroy J gave leave to Chan to withdraw the application for contempt and the proceedings were otherwise dismissed by Cowdroy J in June 2009.

Chan appealed against Cowdroy J’s refusal to disqualify himself and then against the final decision.  The appeals were ultimately dismissed (after various collateral issues were raised by Chan) by Justice Katzmann on 11 April 2011.  Chan instituted a fresh appeal which was dismissed by Justice Rares in May 2011.

By then, steps were underway to have Chan declared a vexatious litigant.  That will be the subject of the next post in this series.

 

Forty years on

June 5, 2017

On Saturday night I went to a reunion of my year from high school.  This was a “back to school” day where you could watch the football matches of the day, have a tour of the classrooms and facilities, and then have dinner.  I just went to the dinner.

The school is a boys private school.

In my time boarders made up about an eighth of the students – less by the end. Lessons seemed almost a sideline: the sociopathology of the school was overwhelmingly sport, played on Saturdays against other schools.  Rugby was the dominant winter sport.  In the junior age groups (13, 14, 15, 16) teams went down to “G.”  In summer, cricket and rowing shared the crown.  Tennis and swimming were outliers.  Soccer (as we called it then) and basketball were introduced under sufferance for winter and summer respectively.

Instead of an elected school captain, we had an appointed senior prefect – invariably a prominent athlete and cadet under-officer and usually at least reasonably academic. Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. The same goes for senior prefects – he has sent out the invitations for reunions in previous decades and did so again this year, though with the assistance of the school which by now has become very organised in its alumni relations.

Email and the internet make this sort of thing much easier than it would once have been.  Starting a few months ago there has been a flurry of emails as far-flung ex-schoolmates hit the “reply all” button announcing their intention or inability to attend and the odd broadcast reminder seeking missing contact details.

I did not respond to these.  At these reunions, it is the sporty element and boarders who are best represented.  A circulated list of those who had accepted to date confirmed this prospect. Few of the people I had much in common with were on it.

Then a “reply all” from an unlikely source mentioned me.  I havered right up to the last moment, then took the bait, making the necessary payment on the Thursday just before.

On the night we were about 50 out of a year which started with about 150 boys in first form and ended up with about 125 at the end of year 12.

I don’t know if we ever had a ten-year reunion.  I went to a twenty-year one in 1997.  That was the first time I saw my school fellows as a group as adults.  For me the chief interest was the small group of people (including myself) who had turned out to be gay.  Even then, not all of them chose to make any general declaration about that.  We formed a little quasi-masonic secret society for the night.

I remember some of our little sub-lodge as having a miserable time at school.   It never really occurred to me that any of them might be gay.  It was sufficient explanation for their plight that they were not sporty.

I don’t even recall having any particular theory about NH, a singer and dancer who went on to make a career around the world, though perhaps subliminally I did.  I shed a tear on hearing of his death some time in the 90s and I still remember him for both his beauty and his sweet disposition.

Seven other members of our year have died since we left school, so far as is known.

This time I was “the only gay in the village.”

The noisy sporty ones behaved pretty much as I expected.  Rowers were the hardest-core.

It wasn’t a night of many revelations or long-deferred denouements.  Those mostly happened 20 years ago – apart from the news in the meantime that a he (not one of the gay group) has become a she.

Nevertheless I’m still feeling a little shaken up, without being able quite to identify why.  Maybe it is just a matter of reverberance, a milestone passed, and the reminder when seen together of how old we are and are becoming, forty years on.

 

 

 

Disguised as a second trombone

June 2, 2017

On Tuesday night to Angel Place to hear the SSO playing Nick’s Playlist.

The SSO “playlist” concerts are a series which plucks members of the orchestra from their (relative) obscurity as members of the ensemble and gives them a short, interval-less program with an Angel-Place-sized orchestra to present a program made up of items which have particular meaning for them.  I’ve listened to broadcasts of some before and mostly they are a bit predictable so far as violinists tend to choose good violin bits, etc etc.  They are also a bit too chatty and made up of bits and pieces for my taste, so I haven’t previously chosen to go to them.

Then I received an email offer of a $25 ticket.  The Nick of the title was Nick Byrne. I checked the program and resolved to go.  The reason?  It featured the ophicleide, an instrumental curiosity which has long held a peculiar fascination for me.

Nick Byrne’s association with the ophicleide is well-known.  In the course of the concert he told the story of how it came to be, and it is a good one.  You can find a version of it in the Daily Telegraph with a fetching photograph of Byrne and, possibly more importantly, his ophicleide.

In about 2001 Nick came off his motor-bike on the race track at Eastern Creek (yes, he is a brass player) and injured his right shoulder and arm.  That is a pretty critical injury for a trombonist (as Nick is) – even left-handed trombonists mostly operate the slide with their right arm. Faced with a good six weeks where he would be hors de combat, Nick rummaged around in the SSO instrument cupboard (it can’t have been quite as simple as that) and found an antique (c. 1830) and delapidated ophicleide.

I suppose an ophicleide could best be described as a cross between a euphonium and a baritone saxophone: most importantly for this story, it has keys (rather than a slide)  so could be played despite the state of his arm. The sound is produced with a brass embouchure.  It’s sometimes described as a precursor of the tuba, but the bore is much narrower.  It is otherwise sometimes described as a member of the keyed bugle family – though I see from Wikipedia that a valved variant was also made.

Nick told how he managed, over time, to produce a tolerable sound from it, and realised that here he might have found another niche, rather than just always being a second trombone.  I thought that a rather comical description of his plight.

Since then Byrne has established quite a profile for himself, recording a CD.  The American composer William P Perry heard that CD and then wrote a suite/concerto for Byrne who features on the recording of that by Naxos.   Nick encouraged us to seek that out and to buy the CD or download it (sign of the times).

But back to the program.  This was:

HANDEL arr. Archibald (for brass ensemble)   Arrival of the Queen of Sheba

BRUCKNER orch. (for string orchestra) Stadlmair  String Quintet in F: Adagio

FALCONIERI  Passecalle (played by 2 sackbuts, organ and percussion)

BERLIOZ    Rêverie et Caprice for violin (Andrew Haveron) and orchestra

MOZART   Masonic Funeral Music

PERRY     Ophicleide Concerto: Pastoral

KHACHATURIAN   Masquerade: Waltz

MENDELSSOHN    A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Overture

Nick explained that the Handel, played by the brass ensemble from the balcony back of the stage, was a piece he had first played as a teenager (in an ensemble of mostly tertiary students) at the Canberra School of Music.  It was a great concert-opener.  There were flugelhorns and Paul Goodchild on a smaller, higher trumpet.

It’s not quite so clear how the Falconieri got into the program.  It was not specifically written for any particular instruments, and could just as well (as Byrne remarked) be played by 2 viols.  I suppose more specifically sackbuttian music would either require more of them (such as Purcell’s funeral music) or other forces not convenient for the program.

The Perry was the a movement from the suite or almost concerto for ophicleide referred to already.  You can find Byrne’s recording on Youtube.  I’m still scratching my head to work out what the opening solo “lick” in that reminds me of – something niggles at me that it is a tune with words which end “loving you” but I cannot track it down.

In real life the ophicleide came across a bit less prominently than in that recording.  it revealed itself as an amiable instrument – a sort of Perry Como of brass, or given the mood of the piece, some pre-war crooner.  It was good to hear it so exposed, even if, overall, the strongest impression it gave was of being conspicuously inoffensive.

It was hardly surprising that, as a trombonist, Nick should have chosen Bruckner, Berlioz and Mozart.  Each of them has famous music for the trombones – Bruckner – the symphonies, and some church music; Berlioz, any of the brave trombone lines in many of his big orchestral works; and Mozart, church music again and of course, echoing that and echoing down the years since, the famous trombone moment in Don Giovanni.  The oddity of the program was that, probably owing to constraints of venue and available ensemble, none of the works chosen to represent these composers included a trombone.

I’ve never been a great fan of string orchestra stuff, so for me the Bruckner struggled to make an impression after the Handel.  The Berlioz, a violin concertante work based on some operatic offcuts, was new to me.  Its stop-start changes of mood proved a bit elusive and I wondered just a bit about what the rehearsal “budget” for this concert had been, though it remained a great treat to hear it and I shall now search it out.  The Mozart was just right, especially as the plainchant tune sounded forth from the clarinet and oboes – reminiscent, in a way, of the duet of the two armed men in Magic Flute.  And there were 3 basset horns and a bassoon making up the winds.  This was a concert of instrumental peculiars.

After the Perry, things revved up for the big finish.  First the Katchaturian, described by Byrne as a tribute to his Russian… – well, he struggled for a noun at that point as he did at a few other points.  This was rousing.

Finally, we came Mendelssohn’s overture to MSND.  As Byrne said, and truly it is so, this is the piece for which the ophicleide is most famous – certainly, I first learnt of the ophicleide when studying the score an AMEB theory or musicianship exam more than 40 years ago.  The ophicleide part is mostly played by a tuba these days, which Nick declared was “like a bull in a china shop.”

Of course that meant that I had to pay particular attention to the ophicleide part, which is probably a bit of an aesthetic distortion. On strength of Tuesday’s performance, Byrne has a point. How could I ever go back to the tuba? Of course there is more to the MSND overture than the ophicleide, including what I understand to be one of the most difficult woodwind chords in the repertoire to get in tune.  It was a great end to the night.

So an enjoyable concert and very good value.

Afterwards we were invited to join members of the orchestra for a drink in the foyer.  I hope they were given a bar tab for their pains.  I bought a drink (detracting from the bargain rather) but was too shy to approach anyone.  What could I have said?  I might have said to Emma Scholl how much I admired her last G# in the Mendelssohn, but I couldn’t spot her.

In the course of the concert, conductor Benjamin Northey made a little joke, on the topic of unlikely musical sentences.  Northey cited as a classic instance something like:

 “The clarinettist’s Lamborghini is parked at the front of the building.”

(Actually, not so unlikely except as a matter of degree: Mr Celata has pretty flash taste in cars as I recall.)

Northey offered:

“The ophicleidist will be selling his CDs in the foyer.”

Not that, as it happened, he did.

All of a sudden I realised why Nick’s remark about finding a niche had seemed so comical to me.  My own musical sentence in honour of the evening, albeit not entirely without precedent is:

“The ophicleidist was disguised as a second trombone.”

 

Proposed travel ban for pedophiles

May 30, 2017

News  is out today that the Australian government, at the urging of HH Derryn Hinch, will be taking passports away from convicted pedophiles.  It is estimated that over 20,000 convicted sex offenders on the National Child Offender Register may lose their passports or their eligibility for them.

It’s a slippery slope, and we seem to be rushing headlong down it.  Here is one comment by “Mark II” on that story:

I think it’s a great initiative – I am no supporter of this government but I think this will sail through with bipartisan support. In fact, I’d extend it further, and say anyone convicted of a trafficking offence for drugs or serious financial misdemeanours should be barred from travelling, too. I’m not talking about a recreational marijuana user or kid who’s swallowed some E down the club – but anyone selling, sorry, you lose the right to be tempted a la Corby and the current clone. And – if you rob your employer or clients and go to jail for it – likewise. No escaping overseas to start anew and avoid your garnishee responsibilities.

At  least “Mark II” shows some awareness of the possible blanket-reach of such measures.  Good luck to him in expecting that the authorities will draw the right line between serious and minor offences – the current approach to even trace elements of drugs (which provide no evidence of intoxication or impairment) in roadside drug tests is a case in point.

Others cheerfully propose even more radical measures without such awareness.

My own feelings are more in line with this comment, by “Jack” (though “scum” is not a word I would choose to use even of people who do very bad things):

I agree child sex tourists are scum. But we need to be careful with populist blanket legislation because, as we have seen, it can have unintended consequences and it can impose excessive punishment on those individuals who are not likely to reoffend. This is why authorities, even in the USA, have questioned the fairness and effectiveness of blanket sex offender registers. So I’d rather see a targeted register, with judges having the option of putting a name on it.

 

If you follow the jurisprudence in NCAT and other tribunals dealing with applications for Working with Children Clearances (rough selection here), you will soon discover that a very broad range of people commit offences against children.  Only some of these are indicative of a settled tendency to abuse children; many others are products of specific situations which are not likely to be repeated or where the person convicted is likely to rehabilitate and has by now shown that to be the case. These, include juvenile “sexting,” obsessive curiosity in the face of the internet, difficult family and personal circumstances, immaturity and loneliness.

There is a whole heap of bus drivers who have done something wrong within their own family, often many years ago, but who have driven buses without incidents for decades, who are currently been deprived of their employment even though the likelihood of their offending against someone outside the family must be very small – as their incident free record since demonstrates.  They go to the tribunal to try to get a clearance but often fail because they lack the resources to mount a proper case.

Some people who have pleaded guilty many years ago to what then seemed a minor offence (which they might have defended) must now regret that decision bitterly.

To ban someone for life from leaving the country is a very simplistic response to a wide range of offences.

If there are to be travel bans, it would be better if these were imposed on a case by case basis when there is a real risk; they could be limited by time or subject to some procedure for review/extension.

I realise that whilst this could be done going into the future for fresh offences, it would leave unaddressed the question of historical offences.

It is not easy to see how this can be addressed.  The many difficulties just expose to me the fundamental wrongness of imposing a civil disability retrospectively in a blanket way.

Cases of notorious sex offenders in South-East Asian countries (mostly) are rightly a matter of outrage, but they must be a very small number compared to the 20,000+ on the Child Sex Offenders Register (plus those whose offences occurred too long ago for them to make it on to the register).

One possibility would be to impose a more selective ban, targeted to those with historic offences whose travel activities indicate repeated travel to “child sex tourism” destinations.  In the future, this would require more rigorous collection of destination information for overseas travellers, which at present is mostly based, I expect, on self-reporting on travellers’ return.

Whatever will be done will involve some overreach, and even if there is a mechanism for appealing against it, will inevitably work against the less well-resourced.  It will also work against people with family overseas who have legitimate reasons to visit them and for whom the usual assumption (and Government attitude) that a passport is a privilege rather than must be questionable.

In the meantime, we can expect charges of offences of this nature to be defended more vigorously than ever, with attendant trauma to complainants/victims.  This is already happening.  Even when there is a plea of guilty, the process of investigation (to ensure nothing worse happened) and prosecution has its own Heisenberg effect, as in the case of Christopher Ryan Jones which led to victim impact statements from victims who would probably otherwise have been happily oblivious of the wrong done to them.