Michael Smith was a journalist for 10 years in Melbourne and London. He was four years at the Old Bailey Criminal Court, one of the oldest and most famous courts in the world. Michael was in court, with Lord Chief Justice Lord Lane, when the Guildford Four were released. The Guildford Four were wrongly jailed for 16 years after police lied, in statements and during trials. One of the defendants died in prison. The case has been described as one of the greatest injustices in British criminal history.
Michael was a media adviser to Cabinet Ministers in the Victorian Kennett Government and Australian Howard Government. He was Director of Public Affairs with global PR firm Burson-Marsteller.
Over the past decade he has worked with London and Washington-based international law firm Amsterdam & Partners and the Geneva-based International Federation of Red Cross. He has also, in recent years, written for The Australian, the Herald Sun and Australia’s national broadcaster the ABC.
His A&P law firm clients included businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, imprisoned by Russian president Vladimir Putin, Thaksin Shinawatra, former Prime Minister of Thailand, and Thailand’s ‘Red Shirts’ United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, and German-born/New Zealand-based internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, whom US authorities are trying to extradite to the US.
He was media adviser to A&P re its representation of Dr Georges Tadonki at the UN Dispute Tribunal court case in Africa Tadonki v Secretary-General United Nations. The judges were external to the UN, appointed by UN member nations.
Dr Tadonki was a disaster relief expert in Zimbabwe. He tried to raise the alarm of an impending cholera crisis. UN officers in Zimbabwe and New York ignored and actively buried his pleas, putting the UN’s relationship with Robert Mugabe ahead of the health and safety of the people. Dr Tadonki persisted. The UN sacked him. Dr Tadonki had a heart attack. 100,000 people contracted cholera. 4000 died. The deaths were preventable.
Dr Tadonki, once well enough, sued the UN. Robert Amsterdam and A&P represented him pro bono. Dr Tadonki won. The judges upheld his complaint. He was awarded damages and compensation. The judges condemned the UN officers and processes. ABC Foreign Correspondent broke the story of the case outcome and judges’ final report. The spotlight led to changes at the UN and in its relationship with the Mugabe regime and other governments in Africa. The case won American Lawyer magazine Pro Bono Case of the Year at the 2013 Global Legal Awards.
Michael was the International Federation of Red Cross emergency services media adviser and spokesman in Sierra Leone during the 2014 Ebola crisis, in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami and in New Zealand after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. He has also been the emergency services media adviser and spokesman for Australian Red Cross during a number of disasters in Australia.
Michael has spoken at a number of conferences, including the Walkley Foundation Annual Public Affairs Convention, the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) Information Warfare symposium and the Australian Government Relations Summit at the National Press Club.
At the ADFA event, Michael released statistics on Australia’s troop death rate in Afghanistan, one of the highest, at the time, of the 40 nations in Afghanistan.
Michael has been in the Middle East three times. He has been in the war zones in Iraq, West Bank, Gaza and Southern Lebanon. He has been in Syria, Beirut, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
He lives in Canberra, Australia.