John White (Australian politician)
White was first elected as a member for Denison in 1986. He held the position of Health Minister during 1989-1992. During 1992-1998 he was Shadow minister for Arts, Justice, Environment and Aboriginal Affairs. In August 1998 he resigned from his Lower house seat to contest the Upper house seat of Newdegate. He was successful and took the position in September 1998.
In June 1999 White's Upper house seat of Newdegate was abolished when the size of parliament was reduced.
In early 2003 White and two others formed a company called Tasmanian Compliance Corporation (TCC). In August 2003 the company was awarded a Tasmanian Government contract to handle building accreditation, complaints and training.
The Director of Public Prosecutions ("DPP") in his statement of facts to the Supreme Court on Wednesday 5 September 2007 said that, "the TCC was the only eligible applicant for the contract and was therefore the only applicant able to be selected. The TCC’s profit was legitimate, and there was no corruption or impropriety by Mr White in seeking others to lobby on his behalf.
The Crown accepts that Mr White had no knowledge that his actions amounted to an offence." The DPP further stated that this is, the only known example of this offence, in any Australian state."
The Chief Justice, the Honourable Justice Underwood (as he then was), said inter alia in his comments on sentencing, on 10 December 2007 at page 5, "one might wonder why this prosecution was brought against Mr White in the first place." His Honour also stated at page 3, "there was nothing unlawful about Mr White lobbing" and further at page 4 "Mr White had no idea that by signing the agreement… he was committing any wrongful act." His Honour went on to say, at page 4, "he acted on reputable legal advice… and the level of culpability is very low." His Honour again questioned the wisdom of prosecuting Mr White, "when his level of wrong doing was of a very low order."
Following the 2006 state election, White came under significant public scrutiny after a confidential service level agreement, signed by White and the Minister Bryan Green which was being negotiated from November 2005, was leaked to Sue Neales, chief reporter of The Mercury, who was later criticised by the Chief Justice for her "contempt of court".
The agreement was leaked by a disgruntled employee, David John Diprose, a former Director of the TCC who had previously been stood down for incompetency and then sacked for dishonesty.
The agreement was intended to provide for the protection of intellectual property of the TCC and enable the establishment of appropriate contingency arrangements in the event of either party, the TCC or the government wishing to withdraw.
The intention of the SLA was to provide an exit strategy for either the Government or the TCC and should the Government give 3 years notice no compensation would be paid. However, if the notice was less than 3 years the TCC could claim up to $2.5 million in compensation depending upon the time of notice. On 25 October 2006 White was charged with conspiracy and attempting to interfere with an executive officer, contrary to the Criminal Code, section 69 (no one in Australia has ever been charged with this offense before, or since).
The DPP tendered no evidence in relation to the charge of conspiracy as there was no conspiracy simply lobbing, which is the right of every individual. It was at this point that the DPP should have withdrawn both charges, and not just the conspiracy.
The DPP commented to David Porter, barrister for John White, later to be appointed as Judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania in 2008, that he (DPP/Tim Ellis) was desperate to get an outcome.
It was a totally improper and inappropriate comment for a DPP to make as a DPP should only put facts to the Court and apply the criteria to prosecute properly, such a comment indicates a subjective view which is totally improper for a DPP (Ellis was charged in 2013 with causing death by negligent driving when on the wrong side of the road, he crashed head on and killed a young woman driving in the opposite direction to Launceston).
After initially pleading not guilty, the Chief Justice ruled that the signing of the document was the offence, and did not require any malafides. White then changed his plea to guilty, on legal advice of his barrister, in the Supreme Court on 20 November 2007.
The Chief Justice, the Honourable Justice Underwood (as he then was), said inter alia in his comments on sentencing, on 10 December 2007 at page 5, "one might wonder why this prosecution was brought against Mr White in the first place." His Honour also stated at page 3, "there was nothing unlawful about Mr White lobbing" and further at page 4 "Mr White had no idea that by signing the agreement… he was committing any wrongful act." His Honour went on to say, at page 4, "he acted on reputable legal advice… and the level of culpability is very low."
His Honour questioned the wisdom of prosecuting Mr White, "when his level of wrong doing was of a very low order."
His Honour criticised an article in The Mercury newspaper under the by-line, Sue Neales, Chief Reporter, titled "Extraordinary Deal." His Honour said, on page 6, "I have formed the tentative view that the publication is a contempt of Court, because at the time of the publication, proceedings were pending, the publication was not a report of these proceedings in the Court, and the account could be seen as having a tendency to prejudice or embarrass these proceedings."
The DPP did not take up the Chief Justice's comments to prosecute The Mercury reporter, Sue Neales, for contempt, and neither did the Tasmanian Police want to investigate her involvement with David John Diprose for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice (a form of contempt of court).
Mark Miller (the Principal Legal Office of the Tasmania Police then) in a letter to John White, dated 7 October 2011, stated that the "Tasmania Police do not have in place any formal guidelines applicable to the determination of whether complaints of criminal conduct will be investigated".
The Auditor General in his Report, No. 64 of 2008 stated the following: "An agreement between the parties would have assisted Workplace Standards Tasmania in managing its relationship with the TCC could have provided for the protection of intellectual property and enabled the establishment of appropriate contingency arrangements in the event of either party wishing to withdraw."
The Auditor General's Report was published in 2008 after this matter was finalised, and if it had been known at the time, a wise and objective DPP would not have proceeded with the prosecution.
- "Former State Minister pleads guilty to criminal charges", ABC News, 20 November 2007
- "No conviction for TCC director", ABC News, 10 December 2007
- Chief Justice Underwood, "Tasmania v John Charles White - Comments on Passing Sentence", Supreme Court of Tasmania, 10 December 2007
|Tasmanian Legislative Council|
|Member for Newdegate