Home Australia Celebrating the Queen’s Ninetieth, Part 4: A Pardon for Bryant?

Celebrating the Queen’s Ninetieth, Part 4: A Pardon for Bryant?


(L) Carleen Bryant, (R) Princess Mary of Denmark
Two Mums with babes: (L) Carleen Bryant, (R) Princess Mary of Denmark, both from Hobart

by Mary W Maxwell, PhD, LLB

Let’s say the desired thing is to get Martin Bryant out of prison.  I realize that’s not the top priority; the top priority is for us to stop tolerating the complete breakdown of law, but just attend to this goal of prison-release for a moment. Which actions could result in his release?

Folks could demand either an Inquest or a Royal Commission, which would have the power of subpoena.

Note: 2335 souls have already signed a petition to that effect. Ms Bonney personally delivered the signatures to Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman and Tasmanian Governor Professor Kate Warner on March 16, 2016. To no availaroonie, needless to say.

…and there are other ways, too. But let’s consider a pardon. Sure, it’s not ideal as it implies “mercy” rather than “justice.” But at the moment mercy may be better than nothing.

Recall Pontius Pilate (Monty Python’s) saying “I shall welease Bwyant.” That is basically a pardon. You let the prisoner go free without resolving who committed the massacre, much less who covered it up for 20 years.

A pardon would have the value of shocking the public. At first they would think it wrong to let a mass murderer go loose, but conversation would be stirred up. Before you know it, peeps would realize that the official Port Arthur story isn’t worth a cracker.

How Does a Pardon Happen?

In the United States, convicted persons in prison can apply for parole to a parole board. They can also apply for pardons, or for clemency – a reduction in sentence as from death sentence to life in jail. The decision, in a federal case, is made by the president, usually for some political reason.  In a state case it’s usually the governor that has the power to pardon.

In Canada you don’t have to show that you are innocent to get a pardon. The goal is rehabilitation and being restored to the community.

In Australia, the standard method is for advocates of the hopeful pardonee to get a message to the queen. By tradition the monarch can use the RPM, the royal prerogative of mercy. In her long reign of 61 years, Queen Elizabeth must have pardoned many convicts.

You may have heard of the recent attempt by descendants of Breaker Morant, and two other Diggers, to get the Queen to pardon those three, posthumously. During the Boer War they had killed some POWs and civilians and were executed for so doing.

Commonwealth Attorney-General Nicole Roxon said Morant and the other men didn’t meet the criterion of being innocent both technically and morally. She said in 2012 that the Australian government would not pursue the matter further with the Queen. However, The Telegraph  reported on July 25, 2013:

“Jim Unkles, a military lawyer said: ‘I am applying to the High Court for a review of the British government decision not to help an independent inquiry. The appeal will be on the basis that there were major errors at the court martial, and that these men were denied their rights. Lord Kitchener conspired to get them executed.’ Mr Unkles argues the men received inadequate legal representation and were denied access to certain evidence.”

Ah, inadequate legal representation!  Please see the interview of Martin Bryant by his lawyer John Avery (or the other way around) dated October 3, 1996. “Inadequate” does not cover the situation. On the very face of the transcript we see that Avery tried to prevent Bryant from knowing his right to plead innocent.

Find Anyone Who Can Pardon

To me it’s confusing that the governor of each of Australia’s six states is a representative of the queen just as is the G-G in Canberra. The sovereignty of the states suggests that one could apply to Tasmania’s vice-regal, Governor Professor Kate Warner, for a pardon for Bryant.

Before becoming governor she was on the Law Faculty of University of Tasmania. So she must be quite aware of the Port Arthur case and may feel that unloading it would be good for her state.

And a pardon is way better for the top officials, as opposed to the incriminating potential of an inquest.

In my opinion the premier Will Hodgman, too, could whip out a paper and pen and write a pardon. My theory is that there ain’t nuthin’ to stop him. The warden running the prison answers to the Tasmanian Prison Service who answers to the Minister, namely Dr Vanessa Goodwin, who answers to the Premier.

That prison warden is going to say No to the premier?

Is the Privy Council Operative?

Alfred Thomas Vincent
New Zealand’s longest-serving prisoner, Alfred Vincent. At age 12.

New Zealand stopped referring cases to the Privy Council in London in 2004. However a person whose case was decided before that date could still approach the PC. Recently Alfred Vincent, age 74, was denied his appeal. As Diedre Mussen writes, at stuff.co.nz:

Vincent, who grew up in Canterbury, became eligible for parole 41 years ago and had appeared in front of the Parole Board almost every year since. Last October, the board issued a three-year postponement order, meaning he must wait until 2018 for his next chance for release from Rolleston Prison in Canterbury, where he had spent most of his incarceration. Vincent had become increasingly frail in recent years.

(He is to be kept locked up on the fear that he will re-offend; his sin being that of indecent assault on underage boys.)

In Australia, appeals to the Privy Council have not been possible since the Australia Acts 1986. I quote former Chief Justice of the High Court Murray Gleeson:

“For Australian lawyers of my age, the Privy Council was a real and powerful presence. During most of my time at the New South Wales Bar, from 1963 until 1988, appeals could be taken to the Privy Council from the High Court, from State Supreme Courts, and even from single judges of State Supreme Courts. Until the 1986 legislation took effect, litigants, by appealing from State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council, could by-pass the High Court in many cases, and it was not uncommon for appellants to do so where an existing decision of the High Court appeared to be adverse precedent.”

In sum, we cannot ask the House of Lords to help Australians.

Something Nice in Denmark

Looking around, whom else do we see that could urge Bwyant to be weleased.  How about a nice Aussie mother who lives overseas? How about a nice Aussie mother of four overseas who will one day be Queen (Consort) of Denmark, and whose son Christian will one day be king?

You’ve got it: the Crown Princess who started life as Mary Donaldson.

She had the most terrific wedding ceremony I have ever seen. The best wedding reception, too, where Prince Frederick said “I will love you and protect you.”  Wow. Protecting the Missus — in this day and age!

Good, then she has a protector if she thinks of helping a fellow Tasmanian. She can make little noises in royal circles (they’re all cousins aren’t they?). Anyone could understand that she hails from the Apple Isle, and still cares about her people. It’s only natural.

Her sister is a nurse in the Royal Hobart Hospital. Princess Mary herself has a Bachelor of Law degree. Her first career was in Sydney. The story is that Mary met Frederick in a bar at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. And now they have umpteen offspring. Well, four actually.

Walter Mikac’s Children

I see that the Danish Crown Princess is the patron of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation. That is a charity for helping children that is named after two child victims of the (real) gunman of Port Arthur. They were the daughters of Nanette Mikac who also died and Walter who survived.

The Foundation has several missions; one is called the Best Buddies program. It helps any child to find a buddy at school and to be safe from bullying. Per its website:

“The Framework builds strong relationships which research shows children benefit from immensely – with younger students feeling safe and cared for, and older students feeling valued and respected.”

To me that sounds Confucian and I am entirely in favor of it. Interestingly, Princess Mary is not only involved in the Australian arrangement for Best Buddies, she has made a similar set-up in hundreds of schools in Denmark!

Now here is a video for anyone who thought the coronation anthem  Zadoc the Priest was only for Brits:

And here we see Their Royal Highnesses visiting Tasmania in 2008. At 1.30 minutes she visits the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.

Photo credit: http://www.stuff.co.nz/


  1. I believe what Justice Gleeson says is wrong. Reason, the Australia Act 1986 is illegal as it is supposed to replace the Australian Constitution which it cannot without a referendum to firstly nullify the Constitution and then another referendum to affirm the proposed Australia Act. If this is not right, then we have all been lied to from the cradle by politicians, the legal fraternity and teachers. A country cannot have two sets of rules to be governed by. The only legal set of rules for Australia is the Constitution.

      • Mal, what I had in mind was that you could check with the House of Lords re the Bryant case. (Any port in a storm?)

        But then I went to look for the Lords and found that they have a twitter channel, and that tomorrow on parliamentlive.uk they will broadcast (or livestream) their debate on the EU referendum.

        Whatever happened to all that stuffy Debrett’s Peerage stuff?

  2. I find the hole legal fraternity very misleading, they wont us to be followers then when we ‘complain’ or have a point of view there’s silence! Firstly Im personally disappointed with Warner, Goodwin and all involved with PAM. The PAM ‘saga’ in Tasmania is kept under wraps, no-one talks about that ‘Murderer’ Martin Bryant ( wash your mouth out with carbolic soap) Princess Mary is apart of the Government, in my opinion P Mary will never comply to changing the lie now, as they all are doing. Martin was the pasty and in their eyes he remains the pasty and to be kept silent. One of the best ways is NOT to vote for any Government, make the system fail, then e may get a chance to speak.
    Great work Mary, TY …..Cherri

  3. Contineing with my comment above, under the Constitution, we the Sovereign people are the owners of the Sovereign Country, Australia. However under The Australia Act 1986 the registered owners are The Roman Catholic Church, The United Nations and the World Bank (or the IMF). Getting worried my friends?

  4. Mary,your question regarding registered owner in the written text is probably not there. My information came from a person who seems to know our Constitution inside-out, by the name of Wayne Glew. The other reason I believe this information is true, is that every Corporation must have shareholders, who vote the corporation into existence, it’s rules and any changes to those rules. I was not able to find a mention of any shareholders when I searched some time ago. Another problem I have with Australia supposedly being registered as a Corporation is that it is registered, along with certain National Security information that was supplied, in a foreign country, the U.S.A., which itself is supposedly a Corporation.

    • Kinda hate to flaunt my ignorance, Mal, but I can only offer what I take to be the reality. Here is my sales pitch against the theme that a country is a corporation.

      In the US (and also in Oz) it is ridiculously easy to form a corporation. You can basically incorporate yourself, perhaps in search of tax advantage, or of lowering your liability (I realize you know all that, Mal). In the old days a charter was granted only to a corporation-wannabee that could promise, in return for the privileges, some meaningful benefit for the society. I think we should bring that system back, pronto.

      Anyway, in Delaware, one of the many corrupt states — that one owned by the Dupont family I believe — there are even easier terms for forming and registering a corporation. Say Bob Hawke sashays in there in 1987 and says “Hey I’ve got the makings of a new corporate entity, lets’ call it Australia. I’ll be the prexy and my pal Keating here will be the Secretary-Treasurer.”

      The Delaware clerk will say “Fill out this form and that’ll be five hundred dollars please.” (I did that myself in NH and it cost only a hundred.) They sign – no questions asked as to the nature of the corporation. So far nothing has changed Down Under by dint of Hawkie’s furtive action, right? We haven’t ceased to be a country, or a nation-state. All is as was. No worries, Mate.

      Ontologically speaking, a country is a territory with people in it who relate to one another in some sort of communal way. Mainly it’s a job for the imagination – we imagine ourselves to be a big clan. I assume the Powers That Be are always trying to disempower us. They want us to lose self-confidence, tradition, togetherness, hope, whatever. They are jerks beyond belief but are clearly on a roll. They would certainly love it if we stopped believing we are a nation. They’d probably lime us to stop believeing we are in the human species. Maybe we are dandelions or something.

      Every now and then I read that the US is a corporation. Maybe I am thick and just don’t get it, but it never impresses me in the least. The argument strikes me as garbage. (Any corporation has its power through law, right? How else could it enforce its will?) Are there bogey men out there? Yes, yes, absolutely, but we can handle that no matter what “Delaware” gets up to.

      If you can put together a good argument, Mal, I think Gumshoe will run it as an article. Of course if you mean that some Aussies are hiding the national treasuries’ funds by using a front name, well that’s no ontological enigma, that’s just everyday run-of-the-mill thievery.

      As for your other tack, about the 1986 Australia Act not being according to Hoyle, there was no established way for us to break the maternal bonds with Britain other than by a bit of legalistic abracadabra. I mean it was probably a moment that called for abracadabra. I don’t see that it did any harm. Sure I agree that not honoring the rules is harmful as such. Mal, you really sounded like a New Hampshirite (rabid guardians of the Constitution, they). But if you meant more than that, please come back at me again. I never heard of Wayne Glew and maybe need to.

      And to any other readers I say: don’t trust me in this area.

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