|Not happy, Geoff|
Geoff (ATSIC Chairman)
Clark is in the news again facing charges of assaulting police. He was arrested last
year in his home town of Warrnambool during a pub brawl at the Criterion
Hotel. Nothing unusual about that - he has a long history of 'involvement' with
the police, and his permanent sneer (the unfortunate result of a fight many
years ago) is testimony to the fact that he doesn't shy away from resorting to
his fists if gentler forms of persuasion (like threats and stand-overs) don't
But the controversy this time is over who is to pay his legal costs. He
obtained approval 'in principle' from the ATSIC board to pay his legal bills
(expected to be about $45,000). More correctly, he obtained approval at the
tail end of the last meeting of the previous board for the money - after most
people were sent out of the room, and the rest wanted to get out so they could
catch their planes home.
In principle, of course the Aboriginal Legal Service has been paying the legal
bills for Aborigines charged with crimes since its inception - that's its
function. But $45,000 seems rather a lot for just an assault
charge - particularly when the defendant is paid a $255,000 pa salary from the
tax-payer already, and could clearly afford to pay for his own defense.
But, says Geoff (I-hired-silk-for-this) Clark, this is a matter of
principle - the changes are a fit-up, and the whole event took place because of
(you guessed it) racism. The
story is a bit vague, but it seems that a group of Aborigines were asked to
leave the pub and Clark encouraged them to insist 'we'll leave when the white
people do'. Exactly why a publican would want to expel a group of thirsty and
well-behaved Aborigines from his pub is a bit of a mystery, but the whole thing
is a bit confused.
But with ATSIC looking more and more threatened by audits and effectiveness
inquiries, with Minister Phil Ruddock demanding greater control, and with Geoff
Clarke having his share of enemies even within the ATSIC structure (the rape accusations didn't help
much), the board may reverse their decision. Geoff may have to pay his own
Taxpayers can revel at the thought of ATSIC spending that $45,000 on
something so much more useful. Well, naive taxpayers can anyway.