A HOST of bizarre allegations against former High Court judge Lionel Murphy that were sealed for more than 30 years in classified documents have been aired.
The documents reveal Murphy, who died in 1986 from cancer, had been accused of having links with Soviet spy agency, the KGB, and of having a hand in the illegal migration of Filipinos and Koreans into Australia.
Other allegations were that a diamond ring given to his wife was part of a tax evasion scheme, that he directed surveillance of a suspected criminal be downgraded and that he accepted free flights from Ethiopian Airlines.
The allegations of misbehaviour were investigated as part of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry established in May 1986 by the Hawke government.
The inquiry was dropped two months later after Murphy announced he had terminal cancer.
But the release the 4000-page sealed files today shows the commission was investigating 41 allegations against Mr Murphy.
It dismissed 21 of the allegations.
The remaining 20, commission lawyers contended, involved misbehaviour within the meaning of the constitution.
One of the dismissed claims was that Mr Murphy had links to the KGB.
“Two individuals jointly made the claim that the Judge was a Soviet spy and a member of a Soviet spy ring operating in Canberra,” the documents said.
“This allegation was supported by no evidence whatever and rested in mere assertion of a purely speculative kind.”
The inquiry found there was no evidence that he had been involved in organising the illegal immigration of Filipinos and Koreans into Australia.
It also found the documents presented as evidence in the allegations about a diamond ring and tax evasion were likely false. The matter was dismissed.
Another claim the inquiry dismissed was the allegation that Mr Murphy, while Attorney-General during the Whitlam Government, had directed the surveillance of alleged crime figure, Abe Saffron, to be downgraded.
It also found that Mr Murphy’s actions did not constitute misbehaviour when helping to arrange public housing in 1974 for Junie Morosi, who was in a relationship with then Deputy Prime Minister Jim Cairns.
The matter of free or discounted travel from Ethiopian Airlines, where his wife was employed, was also dismissed.
“Investigation revealed nothing improper in the appointment of Ms Murphy as a public relations consultant nor in the fact that in lieu of salary she acquired and exercised entitlements to free or discounted travel for herself and her family.”
The commission said that at the time of being wound up it had made no findings of fact and therefore no conclusions as to whether Mr Murphy’s conduct amounted to “proved misbehaviour”, the constitutional requirement for the dismissal of a High Court judge.
But the files paint a picture of Murphy as a networker with dubious friends who sailed, ethically speaking, close to the wind.
Among the 20 allegations commission lawyers contended involved misbehaviour was an alleged attempt to bribe a senior Commonwealth police officer, Don Thomas.
During lunch at a Korean restaurant in Sydney in 1979, Murphy was said to have told Thomas “we need somebody inside to tell us what is going on” in the about- to-be formed Australian Federal Police and promised he could be an assistant commissioner in it.
Other allegations related specifically to Abe Saffron, “a person of notoriously low repute”.
It included that “there is a long history of the judge receiving sexual favours from women supplied by Saffron”.
Two allegations involved a private prosecution of Gough Whitlam, Murphy and two other former Whitlam government ministers by Danny Sankey, represented by David Rofe QC.
Murphy was said to have had Saffron intimidate Sankey into withdrawing his prosecution and to have urged Ryan to “cause harm” to Rofe in revenge for his role.
On another occasion, Murphy allegedly helped Saffron over a contract to remodel Sydney’s Central station and a contract to run Luna Park.
Another alleged threat involved Murphy helping Ryan threaten NSW state MP Milton Morris to expose a tax evasion scheme if he wouldn’t get the Liberal to stop attacking Ryan.
Two matters involved Murphy’s actions during his trials.
The earliest allegation dated back to when Murphy was still attorney-general. He was responsible for ensuring that two people caught in a bungled burglary at the home of Ms Morosi were not prosecuted.
BEFORE THE INQUIRY
Mr Murphy’s troubles had started with the publication of the so-called Age tapes in 1984, which purported to include conversations he had with a Sydney solicitor who was charged over an immigration scam.
Two Senate inquiries were held; the first cleared Murphy but the second found his conduct might have amounted to proved misbehaviour.
By then, the NSW chief magistrate and a District Court judge said Murphy had improperly tried to influence them in favour of the Sydney solicitor.
He was charged in 1985 with two counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The trial famously heard Murphy said to the chief magistrate: “And now, what about my little mate.”
Murphy was ultimately cleared after an appeal and a retrial.
The Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into whether Murphy ought be removed from the court was then launched when fresh claims of misbehaviour started circulating.
More to come..
Originally published as Murphy’s flaw: High Court judge’s secret side