Tasmania: new Sheriff, same old cover up

Andrew L. Urban

There is a new sheriff in Hobart town: Attorney-General Guy Barnett was appointed (in turbulent circumstances) to succeed Elise Archer in October 2023. But after years of stonewalling on calls for an inquiry into the murder conviction of Sue Neill-Fraser by lawyers, barristers, media and the public,* it’s the same old cover up.

Following in the shame-stained footsteps of former Attorney-General Elise Archer, Guy Barnett has refused to answer three questions we put to him (on October 31, 2023, with two reminders to follow) concerning the calls for a Commission of Inquiry into the case of Sue Neill-Fraser. Refusing to investigate what so many have identified as a miscarriage of justice amounts, arguably, to dereliction of duty – and an officially sanctioned cover up, in this writer’s opinion.

Ironically enough, one of the first decisions of the newly appointed Tasmanian Attorney-General was to make a request to the Tasmania Law Reform Institute to review the statutory framework applying to Commissions of Inquiry. The review follows the Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings.

He has also asked his Department to establish an independent review into whether Public Officers who received a grant of legal assistance during the CoI acted in good faith, and if not, whether they should be required to reimburse the Crown for expenses incurred. “A suitably qualified and independent person will be appointed to undertake the review,” Barnett said.

Guy Barnett

So who is Guy Barnett? Barnett was appointed to the position by Liberal Premier Jeremy Rockcliff, on October 2, 2023, following the tumultuous September 28 resignation of Elise Archer, who had been Attorney-General since March 2018. Notorious for refusing to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the controversial case of Sue Neill-Fraser, Archer put up several excuses to avoid an inquiry, each of which was debunked on this blog and in the author’s book, The Exoneration Papers – Sue Neill-Fraser (Wilkinson).

Just three months earlier, in July 2023, Barnett was appointed Minister for Health. His appointment met with mixed reactions from Labor and the Greens. “Minister Barnett has a track record of failing as the Energy Minister and as the Housing Minister – and now following the Premier dropping health, he’s been given the key to the largest portfolio in Health,” sneered the Labour media release.

The Greens went at ‘im, too: “Look at the location of Guy Barnett’s first press conference in his new role – the Royal Hobart Hospital. Nearly half of all patients arriving by ambulance to the Royal are now ramped, and half of emergency department patients aren’t seen within clinically safe timeframes.

“To turn the terrible situation in health around we need a new, more ambitious approach. The new Health Minister needs to start his new job by admitting the state of the health system is simply unacceptable, and by committing to doing things differently.” Likewise with the legal system we might add.

Barnett’s official bio:

Born and raised on a farm at Hagley in northern Tasmania, Guy Barnett gained a law degree and Master of Laws at the University of Tasmania.  Working then in a Melbourne and Washington DC law firm, Guy went on to establish and manage his award winning government and public affairs business based in Hobart and Canberra.

After almost a decade representing Tasmania in the Senate, Guy was elected to the Tasmanian State Parliament in 2014 and now serves as Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Health and Veterans Affairs.

Guy is also a Diabetes Australia Ambassador and an author of several books including, ‘Our Heroes, Tasmania’s Victoria Cross Recipients’ and ‘Make a difference – a practical guide to lobbying’.

Guy is married with 3 children, 3 grandchildren and enjoys cycling, tennis, squash and fishing.

Missing from this official bio is Barnett’s highly commendable key role in recognising the late Teddy Sheean:

Teddy Sheean was just 18 when he died on board HMAS Armidale in 1942. He refused the chance to board a lifeboat while his ship was sinking, returned to his Oerlikon gun and went down with the ship while defending his shipmates from enemy attack.

Barnett as the original applicant was given the opportunity to present the case in support of a Victoria Cross for Teddy Sheean to an Expert Panel chaired by Brendan Nelson, a former Defence Minister and Director of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Based on evidence presented by Barnett and others, the independent Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal unanimously recommended that Teddy be awarded a Victoria Cross for Australia.

His official bio is also silent on his opposition to same sex marriage.

As one Tasmanian parliamentarian notes, “I often don’t agree with him politically, but he is a decent guy…”

The questions put to A-G Barnett on October 31, 2023:

Q1: Since your appointment as Attorney-General, are you aware of the various grounds for disputing the murder conviction (see examples below) that have never been considered by any court of appeal:

Identified by Flinders University legal academic Dr Bob Moles:

1 Luminol test results are not admissible
2 Luminol test results in photograph in the dinghy are seriously prejudicial
3 Pathology evidence inadmissible
4 Submissions by prosecutor (speculation) and judge inadmissible
5  Jury misinformed concerning drug smuggling operations

6 Judge – circumstantial case wrongful summing up to jury

 Identified by former prosecutor Tony Jacobs :

  1. Evidence not disclosed re electropherogram (of Vass DNA), destroying prosecutor’s claim of transferred deposit;
  2. Evidence not disclosed about the false Mt Nelson address (given by Vass);
  3. Failure to object to inadmissible hearsay evidence from Detective Sinnitt re Vass possibly hanging around Goodwood;
  4. Evidence not disclosed that Mr Gosser in conversation with Detective Sinnitt re DNA unlikely to have been walked on;
  5. flagrant incompetence by defence counsel, the late David Gunson (citing 16 grounds);
  6. the failure of the solicitors lodging her 2011 appeal to raise these issues,
  7. the failure of the solicitor lodging her 2012 High Court appeal
    the failure of the Tasmanian Appeal Court in 2012 to, of its own motion, raise these issues.

Q2: Justice Estcourt’s Dissenting Conclusion

Neill-Fraser’s second appeal was refused by two of the three judges, but Justice Estcourt’s Dissenting Conclusion (summary below) argues in favour of upholding the appeal. Do you consider his reasons add weight to the other elements that point to a wrongful conviction (see above)?

459 Having regard to the evidence at the accused’s trial and the closing addresses of counsel and the learned trial judge’s summing up, I am of the view, after taking into account the fresh and compelling evidence of Mr Jones, that there has been a substantial miscarriage of justice.

 461 Had Mr Jones’s evidence been before the jury, the Crown case could not have been left to the jury with the reasonable hypothesis raised by the defence as to Ms Vass being present on the yacht trivialised as it was, as a “red herring”. Had the jury been exposed to expert evidence that secondary transfer of Ms Vass’s DNA on the sole of someone’s shoe would have been a “very rare occurrence” requiring a very specific and immediate concatenation of steps …

 463 In my view, on an objective assessment of the record, and recognising the limitations in doing so, after taking into account the fresh and compelling evidence of Mr Jones, there is a significant possibility that the jury, acting reasonably, might have acquitted the appellant had the fresh evidence been before it at the trial.

465 I would uphold the appeal and quash the appellant’s conviction for murder.


Q3: Are you aware of any reason that a Commission of Inquiry into the case should not be established?  

NOTE: Your predecessor cited a number of reasons why she would not do so, reasons which I argued have no merit. Please see


* public: a petition with over 38,000 signatories and letters to media

Guy Barnett
Hobart Office
Level 5, 4 Salamanca Place
Electorate Office
75 Emu Bay Road
Deloraine 7304
Phone: 6701 2170

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31 Responses to Tasmania: new Sheriff, same old cover up

  1. Keith says:

    We all criticise the government for their refusal to do anything about this debacle, but where is the opposition? Most oppositions are virulently opportunistic to bag the government at every turn for political gain. The fact that they have not shows me that they also are complicit in protecting the legal fraternity and police.

    • andrew says:

      Yes. I’ve been told several times by Tasmanians that everyone is scared of the police. Pollies included.

    • Garry Stannus says:

      Yes Keith, Sue’s supporters have wondered why it is that the political parties don’t ‘buy into’ the matter. Of course, there have been MPs who have supported Sue, but it seems that they’ve all been Independents … so is it a problem that is to do with the presence of political parties in the parliament?

      The parties’ indifference to Sue began with the Labor Govt of David Bartlett. It has continued to the present time. We saw the shameful obfuscation of the previous Attorney-General (Elise Archer), with her ‘before the courts’ stock answer. The Greens too seem to share the same reluctance to become involved and I’m a Green voter … a greenie ‘up the creek without a paddle’.

  2. Garry Stannus says:

    Andrew, in his Exoneration Papers makes the true point that of Sue Neill-Fraser’s supporters, there are those who believe in her innocence and those who also believe that she did not get a fair trial. Of course, there is also a middle ground of supporters between those two views … I think we all know that her trial was not fair.

    I think that only the person/persons who killed or were present at Bob Chappell’s killing know ‘as a fact’ what actually happened.

    My interest has always been in the unfairness of the trial – particularly Justice Blow’s and Crown Prosecutor Tim Ellis’s unwillingness to have/direct/ask that Meaghan Vass be recalled to the witness stand after Detective Sinnitt (following Vass’s evidence) had brought material into the court and had given evidence to the effect that Vass’s whereabout’s on the night in question were actually unknown. She had actually spent the night away from her refuge residence at an address that could not be – has never been – located.

    Her DNA was found on the Four Winds yacht, where it appears Bob Chappell was killed.

    I am at the moment working on the material contained in the transcript of Sue Neill-Fraser’s first Appeal to the Supreme Court of Tasmania. I am painstakingly slow.

    Tony Jacobs, now retired as Tasmanian Senior Prosecutor, has published some views about how Sue’s Trial Counsel, David Gunson, failed in his presentation of her defence:
    [https://wrongfulconvictionsreport.org/2022/11/15/sue-neill-fraser-injustice-product-of-our-tasmanian-legal-fraternity/] We supporters, for some years, kept quiet about our misgivings about Gunson … for fear that somehow we’d prejudice Sue’s chances. The judicial (and the police and the govt and the pollies) system wasn’t so sensitive … they have robustly refused, ignored, contradicted and presented lame argument, false claims all along the way.

    Of course there has been a Judge (or two) along the way, some Politicians (Federal and in both State Houses), an ex Prosecutor and de bono advocates, and quite a few supporters – to keep the matter alive, yet in the case of most of them, cheerfully ignored and contradicted over many years: ‘What-would we know?’

  3. Garry Stannus says:

    Well, in the present turmoil of the Justice Geason case … Minister Barnett has seemed to move to – not just an Inquiry into Geason’s alleged misdemeanors, but also seems to be putting on notice that he will move a White Paper (not sure if I’ve got the term correctly … since Robert Richter famously delivered one such paper – aka as the Dossier – to the then three Head Honchos of the Tasmanian Liberal Government)

    Is this an indication of how bad a position the Tas Liberal Government is in? Don’t forget, it’s just weeks since Elise Archer … who had consistently refused to intervene in Susan Neill-Fraser’s case – resigned as Minister of Justice and also of Corrections and went out squealing about her Cabinet confrères.

    To imagine that as of the last week or so, that the Tasmanian Court system would exclude the Press from a Court where one of the Supreme Court Judges was being arraigned on charges of common assault and abuse … I have to say, finally, that in my opinion, my Tasmanian Judicial System is corrupt.

    Geason has been in the spotlight since February 2021 … and Chief Justice Blow … the man who oversaw and miscarried Susan Neill-Fraser’s trial back in 2010 was it? – has hardly moved the Geason matter/s on in the last … 2 years and 10 months is it?

    Tasmania needs some leadership. At the moment, we are going to ‘Hell in a handbag/handbasket‘. Dante wrote (excuse my possibly poor recall) ‘Lasciate omnes intrantes‘:

    Tasmania: ‘Beware all ye who enter here‘.

    I am a Tasmanian.

    Garry Stannus.

    • Robert Greenshields says:

      ……and meanwhile in NSW last week, those with the power to control and manipulate have put in place a ban of non-disclosure until 2063, for the name/identity of a “Mozart and Lyszt”, executive member of the NSW policing force who smashed up a police car, and then discarded it, on his way home from a knees up he had attended where closed circuit filmed him drinking many/multiple alcoholic beverages.
      When it suits the authorities they play lord with a big stick and utilise sections of the media as a convenient tool to terrorise, and create psychological extortion to enhance profiles and image, all seems honky dory, but when a supposed high profile plod drives drunk and smashes up publicly paid for property, executive plod somehow gets a ban on his name being published for in excess of four decades.
      Talk about the diseased stock squad, fair dinkum, what a disgrace and a cowardly behavioural act by those who claim predominance, respectability, and a moral compass that guides citizens.

    • Garry Stannus says:

      Oh yes, sorry I missed out including the vital bit in my above comment …

      Mr Barnett also announced he was considering establishing a Judicial Review Commission in Tasmania.

      “This will also outline options for handling complaints and concerns about the conduct of judicial officers,” he said.

      “This will ensure that our State has an appropriate and best-practice model to deal with situations such as this, and I look forward to progressing this work as a matter of priority.”


      Well, is this not a welcome move, a welcome suggestion to establish a Judicial Review Commission in Tasmania!

      Any thoughts, fellow readers?

    • Don Wakeling says:

      What an irony: CJ Blow advises Gauson J to resign so that he can avoid a suggested formal Inquiry into his ALLEGED conduct. A proven abuser of the criminal trial jury system giving his pompous advise from on high. Don’t want Inquiries,do we Blow.

      • Robert Greenshields says:

        Pompous and from on high Don? As I have an interest in cases involving or interpreted as injustices I am in a continuing mode of further education.
        One of our nations earliest, and to this day highly acclaimed judges “Sir Redmond Barry”, certainly has a history of dubious, selected, privileged and biased behaviour I have recently read. Seemingly selectively presented as a leading citizen with the morality of an individual who sets a great example, and could be looked upon as a shining light the young nations citizens of Victoria could look up to and aspire to, it seems much said and written about him has been extremely selective/choreographed.
        Apart from Barrys obvious injustices directed towards the Kelly family, in particular Neds mother post her farcical trial and conviction at Beechworth, initiatives I believe Barry orchestrated as leverage to further weaponise efforts to coral her sons, his recorded generational held beliefs that Irish Catholics working classes were insignificant, basically sub human and a threat to Anglo supremacy, his and his families long term affiliation to Freemasonry adds weight to my thoughts.
        The fact that Redmonds behaviour when in transit to Sydney in search of a legal career was less than virtuous and supposedly required his ships skipper to confine him to his cabin, his resultant failure due to his recognised shipboard behaviour to gain a long term beneficial career in NSW directed Barry to opportunities only available in Victoria.
        In Victoria his education, skills and acquired connections ensured a steady income and comfortable lifestyle. A lifestyle that included fathering four children to a woman of supposed less social standing. Given it was during the reign of one of the most immoral, but brutal imperialists and colonialists ever recorded does not detract from the fact that
        hypocrisy reigned supreme, and the sense of white Anglo entitlement was exercised at will.
        Sadly I don’t feel that we have morally advanced very far from the forementioned colonial days example of supposedly one of our heralded community and legal professionals, and until honesty is practiced in and outside our judicature, I don’t think there are many within the many conglomerates connected, who can ever be trusted.

      • Don Wakeling says:

        While Inquiries are on my mind, I see that the Taspol selected O’Farrell KC is now replaced by Damian Bugg KC.
        Taspol never gives up does it. O’Farrell was ex DPP with public statements( as President of Law Society) that Taspol enjoyed his full confidence. Now of all the people they could appoint to conduct the “inquiry” into the Risdon taping , they choose another, former DPP .

        • andrew says:

          I know Damian and Tasmanian lawyers I respect hold him in high regard.

          • Don Wakeling says:

            Thanks Andrew, that very reassuring.

          • Geraldine Allan says:

            Currently, I have a foot in both Damian Bugg camps re the outcome of the current Bugg Review.

            My knowledge of him goes back to 1961 when he was a boarder at St Virgil’s College, Hobart, & I was a boarder at St Mary’s College. ‘Nuff said.

            Then, I have documents that were hidden in a locked executive officers’ director cupboard for 15 years. These contain information from when he was first appointed as Tasmanian DPP. I won’t go on.

            Suffice to say, I’m fence sitting for now.

  4. Robert Greenshields says:

    Without looking to minimise the experiences of Sue Neill Fraser or any other Tasmanian who has suffered through the criminality of the judicature proceedings, and probably the policing forces down there, I am heartened to read of the ongoing truthful recognition that all Australian states and territories are tarred with the same disgraced, disgusting, brush.
    Australia is and has been morally and physically retarded/regressed through the fundamental misnomer that our policing forces are trustworthy, professional, competent, skilled, or operate in an impartial and responsible manner in the interests of communities and their citizens.
    Best wishes to all those who embrace fundamental honesty and integrity, and post in support of a better Australia through exposing the obvious cultures of cowardice, thuggery, criminality and deceit within our forever tainted and corrupted policing forces.

    • andrew says:

      And it’s not just the police (with some honourable exceptions). Prosecutors who pursue convictions not the truth, and even some judges, ironically enough, contribute to the string of injustices around Australia. Serious reforms are overdue, not least to the culture of policing, the managing of forensic services and ethical prosecutorial procedures.

  5. Father Ted Whalensky says:

    Andrew – going thru current and especially historical records – can’t see how the Tasmaniac Justice system is any worse than any other state . South Australia is a particularly nasty can of murdering worms – eg. The Ray Bailey state murder involved two putrid state Policeymen systems- lying / cheating fabricating then hanging an innocent little citizen .That Maniac Manock garbage is still held with enough respect to keep Derek Bromley in their stinking prison for 40 years . The South Australian police murder of Dr.George Duncan is another proud moment ! The Western Australia mob are rotten to the core – The Little Johnie Pat bashing to death and disappearing witnesses. The fiasco of 50 years to pay Darryl Beamish a pittance for his corrupt death sentence. The Queensland police have a long record of extorting money from Protestants ( and free jiggy jigs). The Queensland Jury manipulation system is famously easy to prove – the method used is so well documented. The gutless police bashing of a young man at Byron Bay NSW. (video) . His mother was not
    impressed . Don’t forget the Police Sydney Hilton Bombing and the Whiskey murder of 15 innocent patrons – part of the Queensland Police extorting racket . Then totally fabricated Convictions – some eventually overturned- some disgracefully not . One Queensland Police Commissioner had to leave the state because of Death Threats from other police against his family . At least corrupt Police Commissioners are safe from other corrupt police gang members – Mendelssohn Miller is testament to that – SO the rotten fermenting little apple island is just keeping up the good Police/AG / DPP / Judge “Justice” Court work record of achievement .

    • andrew says:

      You are quite right; every jurisdiction is home to miscarriages of justice, as I’ve discovered over the past 10 years.

    • Owen Allen says:

      Fitzgerald, Costigan, Wood Enquiries. At least some States appear to be making an attempt to better things, unlike Tasmania, blantly tells you to get stuffed Whalensky.

  6. Geraldine Allan says:

    Look up employment history, Amber Mignot, Attorney-General Barnett’s Chief of Staff, from October 2023.

    Previous history =
    Chief of Staff to then A/G Archer, November 2022—October 2023;
    Solicitor for the State of Tas during Commission of Inquiry, March 2021—December 2022;
    Director, Tas Department of Justice, September 2013—December 2022.

  7. andrew says:

    If the political establishment is aligned with the justice system in a protective embrace, the symbiosis becomes an impenetrable shield, capable of ignoring the rule of law and the requirements of justice.

  8. Garry Stannus says:

    Guy Barnett … look up his Inquiry into the sale by Gunns of the Triabunna wood-chip mill to Graeme Wood and Jan Cameron. Ex Wildo, Alec Marr was appointed manager of the defunct site and ensured that it could not be used again as a wood-chip mill.

    [See: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-14/triabunna-woodchip-mill-timeline-of-key-events/6823748%5D

    Barnett instituted an Inquiry into the sale of the wood-chip mill and as Inquiry Chairman and while the Inquiry was under way, said publicly:

    What we know is that Gunns, Labor-Green government, the environmentalists – they were in bed together

    A Tasmanian MP on the committee investigating the Triabunna mill sale has called the inquiry a sham because the State Government has already decided on its findings.

    The five-member committee is looking into the 2011 sale of the former Gunns mill to Graeme Wood and Jan Cameron, allegedly for a lesser sum than offers from two timber industry consortia.

    The committee is made of up of three Government MPs, Labor’s Rebecca White and the Greens’ Cassy O’Connor.

    Their inquiry is ongoing, but after two days of hearings the committee’s chairman, Liberal MP Guy Barnett, thinks some facts have been proven.

    “What we know is that Gunns, Labor-Green government, the environmentalists – they were in bed together,” he said.

    Ms O’Connor said she believed the inquiry was a waste of time.

    “The outcome has already been pre-judged by the chair,” she said.

    “The report of this committee will ultimately be biased and a sham”

    [See: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-14/triabunna-inquiry-a-sham-says-greens-committee-member/5671444%5D

    I would not trust Barnett ‘in a pink fit’!

    • Garry Stannus says:

      I should also have said that Barnett is to be congratulated for his role in the awarding of the Victoria Cross (posthumously) to Teddy Sheean. This recognition and honouring of Sheean, so long in coming, was widely welcomed by Tasmanians. The refusal – over many years – to recognise Sheean with the VC – had been a source of frustration to many of us on the Apple Isle.

      Read the ABC account (which is pretty good) at

      View the painting by Dale Marsh which is seen in many of the links to Sheean and hangs in the Australian War Memorial.

      It’s ironical that the nonsensical resistance that was given over those many years to the awarding of the (posthumous) VC to Sheean should have apparently been overturned by a number of persons, including Guy Barnett: yet it is Guy Barnett who can play a role in the overturning of Sue Neill-Fraser’s nonsensical and wrongful conviction … after all, he is the Minister for Justice, now that ‘stonewalling’ Elise Archer is gone.

  9. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich says:

    Justice does not exist in Tasmania.

    • Don Wakeling says:

      That the “excuse” for word judge got to be , and is, on an extended term now, their Chief Justice, says all you need to know about the administration of the criminal law in Tasmania. Any inquiry which does not compel Blows CJ and former DPP Ellis to appear and be questioned for their disgraceful, and wrongful Trial conduct, isn’t worth convening.

  10. Ian Gardner. says:

    I left Tasmania in 1968 – what a good decision! The state is a disgrace to the rest of the country. When I lived there the Barnett name was respected. I don’t know anything about Guy Barnett, except for what I now read and the good family reputation. I would hate to think that a man of this calibre and position would act with the ignorance and arrogance of his predecessors. So I suggest that the people of Tasmania continue to apply pressure to have the Sue Neill-Fraser case brought to justice.

  11. David Dickman says:

    Well this Guy puts paid to the old axiom “A new broom sweeps clean”
    More like ” The muck is still swept under the rug”
    What an abysmal failure the Tasmanian Justice System is proving to be.
    The people of Tasmania whom endorse this government should hang their heads in shame.

  12. Keith says:

    30,000 signatures on a petition was all it took for the WA government to repeal its flawed aboriginal heritage laws. Will 38,000 signatures be enough for Guy Barnett to commit to a Commission of Inquiry into the SNF case? I fear not.

    • andrew says:

      Tasmania is a walled jurisdiction. It can and does just stonewall…or as I call it, cover up this miscarriage of justice. Only the Tasmanian public could make them accountable.

  13. Williambtm says:

    In all my correspondences with above miscreant minister, he is not being positioned by this State of Tasmania’s media behind the multiple false assertions iterated by this very person.
    His position as the new State Attorney-General will not provide any likelihood of the pristine justice that could be better demonstrated.
    Guy Barnett was an ardent fan of wood chipping the remainder of the State’s Gondwanaland era Ancient forests.
    This says it all in my opinion of him, as the most inferior of the persons in a State political party to the point of his incompetence & his gross disregard for the people of Tasmania.
    As for my history I have dwelt in this State since purchasing a home in 2001.

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