Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Kirby Files (2nd of an intermittent series)

In early January 2003, I posted “The Kirby Files (1st of an intermittent series)”. While in some ways, I’m pleased to be able to now post a sequel – and so make good the long-ago, seat-of-my-pants promise that there would indeed be a “series” – this post will be without the satirical light touch of its predecessor.

Firstly: How did I intuit that there would be a sequel? That’s easy – when you’re entangled with a toxic old queen, like Sydney lawyer Gordon Stewart is (toxic queen, that is; Justice Michael Kirby is the entangled one), it soon becomes painfully clear that nothing short of death is going to shut them up.

In my first instalment, I called Gordon Stewart ‘Gordon “Rose” Bay’, taking the mild precaution of giving him a pseudonym because I felt then that I didn’t have the full measure of him. The underlying November 2002 story, in which the self-described “old friend” of Kirby was (seemingly) gratuitously dragging the judge through media mud, was, frankly, a touch bizarre. Following a kiss’n’tell front page story on the married Stewart and his (male) mistress in today’s Australian, though, Stewart’s game seems transparent enough.

In case it’s not clear, I’m not particularly interested in the details of the small-beer (for Sydney) property dispute between Stewart and his male mistress. Nor is the rest of Australia, I imagine. What does justify the front page treatment of the story, of course, is the involvement of Justice Michael Kirby, in a peripheral and personal capacity only (Kirby had and has nothing to do with the property dispute, but is, as we already know, an “old friend” of Stewart, as well as at least a social acquittance with Jason Harvey, Stewart’s former boyfriend).

Which is really almost the extent of the “story”. In other words, the Australian has again gone on a mud-slinging rampage around Justice Kirby’s private life – mud “slinging” and not digging because there is nothing to dig.

Oh, except for one poisonous morsel to slip from the mouth of Stewart – Kirby apparently had a key to the Stewart/Harvey love-nest, given to him so he could, in Stewart’s forked phrase, “relax” away from work. (The disputed love-nest, at 54 Darley Street, Darlinghurst, is a few hundred metres from where I assume Justice Kirby’s Sydney chambers are).

Not surprisingly, and quite properly, Kirby has not commented on the facts of, and imputations behind Stewart’s story about the key. As a bare fact, it is (assuming that it’s true) a meaningless piece of personal fluff – Kirby possessed the key to a then-friend’s apartment . . . and?. What Stewart clearly intends to imply, however, is that Kirby used the apartment for clandestine sexual purposes; along with a secondary imputation, necessarily resulting from the fact of Harvey living there, that these sexual acts would have either been with Harvey personally, or else only taken place with his forbearance.

As a defensive trump-tactic in a property dispute – former male-mistress Harvey wants title to the apartment – Stewart’s gambit is breath-taking. He has happily admitted the existence of the mistress into the Oz’s tape-recorders, so making the ongoing dispute also financially irrational and self-destructive. Stewart is apparently a very wealthy man, and the current market value of the disputed apartment (purchased for $77,000 in 1991) is not going to be even close to the millions that his wife Lorraine could – and presumably now will, unless she’s insane – take him down for in a divorce.

Unfortunately for Michael Kirby, taking down Gordon Stewart is simply not an option – meaning that Stewart remains free into the future to play “You’re my insurance policy” merry-hell with Kirby’s reputation. High Court judges can’t engage what could be seen as a public slanging match. In terms of defamation remedies, while today’s Oz verily trowels-on imputations adverse to Kirby – and well-knows it, too – the likely slippery qualities of his “friend” Stewart in the witness box means that Kirby’s suing the Oz would be fraught with peril. In court, Stewart would presumably pontificate disingenuously about the intended innocence of his word “relax”, while at the same time make good use of courtroom privilege to wheel out lurid, unsolicited stories about Kirby, the tone of which would likely have made Stewart's closest cognates in legal history, the rent-boy testifiers in Oscar Wilde’s (criminal) trial blush.

Whatever Gordon Stewart’s motivations are, the Australian’s willingness to sign-up alongside him for the ride is frankly despicable. Making its role more heinous is the fact that today’s story did not reference the November 2002 story in the Oz, in which Stewart’s strange personal vendetta against Kirby was first revealed (and abundantly so, in retrospect). Most seriously of all, in its pathetic need to visually link Kirby, as much as possible, to the pretext-for-a-story Stewart/Harvey property dispute, the Australian all but publishes Kirby’s home address. A photo of Stewart and Harvey, captioned “at Justice Kirby’s [Rose Bay] harbourside home” narrows down Kirby’s “palatial” abode (for anyone with a Sydney Street directory) to the spot where the NE tip of Point Piper ("Woollahra Point") is in line with the top of the Harbour Bridge. Nice one, you gutter hacks.

Correction 1 August 2004

The “June 2002” story in the Australian – on the Kirby/Stewart “friendship”– has been corrected to November 2002.

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