The aftermath

Parliament House, Canberra. Image taken from

There are a lot of sore heads today. I suspect a lot of people have been wrong-footed by the election result. I know I called it wrongly. I wrote my own prophesy yesterday before the polls had closed and what I predicted was this:

“A narrow but convincing Labor victory, and for Tony Abbott to narrowly keep his seat.”

Yeah, I couldn’t have got it much more wrong if I’d tried.

Bill Shorten woke up yesterday morning and thought he’d finish the evening as prime minister. Instead he’s roadkill. It is he, not Scott Morrison, who becomes a political footnote.

That has to hurt.

So, some sympathy for him, but also some for Tony Abbott. Whatever you think of him as a politician, the general consensus is that outside of politics he’s not a bad bloke. In his concession speech he said he would rather be a loser than a quitter and I respect that. He certainly had a talent for making the political weather.

Fraser Anning lost his senate seat. And my sympathy runs out before I get to Fraser Anning. The senate is better without him.

You may ask how I voted, and I decline to say. It was instilled in me from an early age that your vote is your own business and I intend to keep it that way. Am I myself pleased or displeased with the result? Again, that’s my business.

But I’d like to say something more. Years ago I went on a tour of the house of commons in the UK. The tour actually takes you into the chamber itself but the guide explains that you are not permitted to sit on the benches. Why not? Because to sit, you have to run in an election and win the right to sit. That’s what winning a seat actually means.

On Friday I was on my train home when another passenger started complaining loudly about politicians. No, he said, he wasn’t going to vote. He refused to be on the electoral roll. All of them were a bunch of useless, corrupt you know whats, only in it for themselves. Eff this, eff that, eff the other. The usual.

Also last week, I found myself in a conversation with someone who didn’t like a particular law. And I thought the usual thing that I never say: you might not like the law but you’re expected to obey it. And if you don’t like the law and want to change it, there’s a way to do that. Join a political party, run for office, win a seat, then vote to repeal the law you don’t like. That’s how the system works. And if you’re not willing to do all of that, then tough luck.

The fact is that most of us will never go into politics. We sit on the sidelines and talk but do nothing more. I don’t exempt myself from that description.

Which brings me back to Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott. Whatever you think about both men, whatever their personal and political flaws, and whatever their absolute naked self interest, neither man sat on the sidelines. Whatever you think about them, and the election result, they both had a go.

Good on them.

The Melancholy Roman

Conflicting Stories

A still from the video

There was an article in The Age (the Melbourne newspaper) this morning which more or less implied that a Victoria Police officer murdered a suspect back in 2013 and planted a knife on him. Money quote:

Mr Baker always maintained that he shot Mr Micetic in self defence after the motorist pulled a knife during a struggle.

But grainy dash-cam footage later played in the Supreme Court revealed the weapon had been allegedly planted on the dead man’s body.

Serious stuff that, and I wondered why I hadn’t heard more about the scandal. The news item itself was referring to an inquest into Mr Micetic’s death that is due to begin on 21 October. Apparently a green Hyundai sedan stopped to assist at about the time of the shooting. The driver of that car may or may not have spoken to other police officers who were arriving at the scene to assist their colleague. However the driver left the scene and the police did not know his or her identity. The coroner was hoping that the driver would come forward to give evidence.

It’s worth saying at this stage that Mr Baker is no longer a police officer (hence the reference to him as “Mr”). He was tried for murder and acquitted in 2017.

Reading the story, the reason why the driver of the Hyundai had disappeared, never to come forward, seemed pretty obvious. If you turned up at the scene of a shooting and realised that the cop involved was busy planting a knife on the body, would you stick around? I wouldn’t.

But like I said, I was curious as to why I hadn’t previously heard about the case. So I did an internet search for the name of the dead man, Vlado Micetic. I soon came across a column by John Silvester, who also writes for The Age. I realised that I’d read the column last year and that it covered the same incident.

John Silvester is well known for his police and crime journalism and he and a former colleague, Andrew Rule, wrote the Underbelly series of books. The books and the spin-off tv series were so successful that the Melbourne gang war from 1998 to 2010 is sometimes referred to as the Underbelly gang war.

But I digress. Silvester’s column is interesting because it gives a vastly different account of the shooting.

Baker pulled over Micetic because a quick check had revealed that his car had stolen number plates. It was a routine traffic stop. And far from what this morning’s article says about grainy dash-cam footage revealing the planting of evidence, you can barely see a thing. At the time of the shooting both men were in front of Micetic’s car and hardly anything is visible in the video at all.

But Baker was wearing a microphone and you can hear everything that went down. Baker’s version of events is that Micetic pulled a knife and attempted to stab him. In the audio you can hear that Micetic was not cooperating and then that Baker was suddenly shooting him, three times.

Apparently, about fourteen seconds after the shooting you can hear the sound of a zip, then a click. The prosecution case was that this was the sound of Baker planting a flick knife on Micetic’s body. In other words, they said that Baker shot Micetic dead for whatever reason and then pulled the knife out from somewhere and planted it.

That’s a strong allegation. The trouble is that another police forensic recording analyst listened to the recording and disputed this conclusion. Then there’s the fact that Baker was a highway patrolman and not a detective, while Micetic had 99 convictions and had five knives in his car. It seems much more likely that Micetic actually had the knife as Baker suggested, than that the policeman was carrying a spare knife in case he had to plant it on someone.

Which means it’s not really that hard to see why Baker was acquitted at trial. And this morning’s article seems rather at odds with the facts. Might Baker have committed murder and gotten away with it? Yes, but it seems far more likely that he killed Micetic in self defence, exactly as he said.

The Melancholy Roman