Friday, 16 June 2017

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge says the public is "fed up". You bet we are!

Judges and magistrates have lashed out at "grossly improper and unfair" conduct by several Turnbull government MPs, who accused Victorian courts of being too soft on terror offenders.

Federal Liberal MP Alan Tudge has taken a public swipe at Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews over the State's soft terror laws and the Premier has answered his critic.

The three ministers' criticisms of the courts have appalled the professional association of judges, which said the comments could be misconstrued as an attempt to interfere in a case before the courts.

Judicial Conference of Australia president Robert Beech-Jones said the "co-ordinated and direct attack" on the independence of the courts risked undermining public confidence in the judiciary.

"The statements attributed to the ministers are deeply troubling. They represent a threat to the rule of law. They should never have been made." Justice Beech-Jones said.

Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula also hit back at the federal frontbenchers, warning they have come "dangerously close" to contempt of court.

Following national agreement to toughen parole and bail laws to prevent violent extremists being released from prison, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge claimed Victorian judges were failing the public.

Triggered by recent courtroom comments from Victorian Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Warren and Justice Mark Weinberg, Mr Hunt said their apparent support for lighter sentences was "deeply concerning". Mr Tudge said the public was "fed up".

So Human Services Minister and Liberal MP for Aston Alan Tudge thinks the public is "fed up".

You bet we are!

However, I suspect that it is not the judiciary which has caused this reaction so much as it is the antics of Alan Tudge and his Coalition cronies.

This constant ideological assault on the nation’s legal, political and social institutions and, the continuing erosion of the citizen’s civil and human rights, has moved well beyond the pale.

This latest attack on the judiciary has provoked a response from the Supreme Court of Victoria that Mr. Tudge in his overweening sense political superiority probably did not even consider.

The Age, 14 June 2017:

Three senior Turnbull government ministers will be hauled before the Supreme Court of Victoria to explain why they should not be charged with contempt after accusing the judiciary of advocating softer sentences for terrorists.

In an explosive development, the Supreme Court has ordered Health Minister Greg Hunt, Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge to appear on Friday "to make any submissions as to why they should not be referred for prosecution for contempt" .

A letter from Judicial Registrar Ian Irving obtained by Fairfax Media says comments by the three ministers published in the The Australian accusing the judiciary of going soft on terrorists would appear to bring the court into disrepute.

"The attributed statements were published whilst the judgements of the Court of Appeal were reserved," the letter says.

"The attributed statements appear to intend to bring the Court into disrepute, to assert the judges have and will apply an ideologically based predisposition in deciding the case or cases and that the judges will not apply the law."

The extraordinary order follows comments published in The Australian in which the senior ministers blasted the Victorian judiciary for handing down lighter sentences for terrorists as part of "ideological experiments".

The judicial registrar has also written to The Australian's editor and the journalist Simon Benson asking them or their legal representatives to attend the court, alongside legal representatives for News Limited.

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