Monday, 14 July 2014
The concepts of separation of powers and judicial independence are very important pillars of our democracy. However, those concepts are not absolute. Our High Court has the power to review laws passed by this parliament and declare such laws invalid. Likewise, our Constitution contains provisions to ensure we have judicial accountability by giving parliament the power to sack judges. That is in section 72 of our Constitution which provides:
The Justices of the High Court and of other courts created by the Parliament:
… … …
(ii) Shall not be removed except by the Governor-General in Council, on an address from both Houses of parliament in the same session, prayed for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour …
All our state constitutions have similar provisions. This is an important part of the checks and balances in our system to make sure no one sector has too much power.
What constitutes proven misbehaviour? I would say a judge making comments that aid and abet paedophilia constitutes misbehaviour. And that is what we have had, sadly, in a case in New South Wales recently. I will quote the words of that particular judge. He said:
If this was the 50s and you had a jury of 12 men there, which is what you'd invariably have, they would say it's unnatural for a man to be interested in another man or a man being interested in a boy. Those things have gone.
It is unbelievable that that comment could be made by anyone in our society at a time when we are having an inquiry into child sexual assault. Cathy Kezelman, who is president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse, has said:
To equate homosexuality, incest and the crime of child sexual assault is as ill-informed as it is outrageous. For it to be paraded by a Judge in Australia in 2014 during the time of the Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse, or at any time, is beyond belief. Literally thousands of survivors of child sexual abuse have given testimony before the commission of the decades of damage their abuse has caused.
We must have zero tolerance of paedophilia in this country. We must have zero tolerance in our community and in our parliament but, most of all, we should have zero tolerance in our judiciary. I congratulate our New South Wales Attorney General for the steps he has taken to bring these comments to account before the judicial commission. I hope our New South Wales parliament, on both sides of politics, does the right thing and takes action against this most abhorrent, disgusting and obscene statement by this judge.