The Guardian November 26, 2003


Government bully-boys attack judiciary

Confrontation between the judiciary and governments is 
increasing and becoming sharper. Governments at state and 
federal level are interfering in the legal procedures of the 
courts for political gain.

In NSW the Carr Labor Government, notorious for beating up law 
and order issues and attacking court decisions with demands for 
harsher sentences, last week overturned a decision by the Land 
and Environment Court which had ruled against the building of a 
garbage dump in the Sydney suburb of Clyde.

Residents had fought long and hard against plans by waste giant 
Collex to build a waste management terminal at Clyde from where 
400,000 tonnes of landfill would be shipped to a former mine near 
Goulburn, south of Sydney.

Corporate donations Carr posed as a compassionate advocate for 
the mineworkers who lost their jobs when the Woodlawn mine was 
closed and who are owed $5 million worth of entitlements. He used 
them as a pretext to overturn the court's decision.

But with the extent of corporate donations received by the NSW 
ALP, it is more likely that Carr's advocacy is really on behalf 
of Collex.

Shattered John Drake, a resident who was one of the leaders of 
the year-long campaign against the Clyde dump, said, "I am 
shattered. This changes the fabric of society because it 
basically says the law is irrelevant."

The current Federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, spent much 
of his time when he was Immigration Minister attacking the courts 
for making decisions that favoured asylum seekers, including 
those appealing from prison camps who had been locked up under 
the Government's mandatory sentencing laws.

Ruddock went as far as demanding that judges who he claimed had 
"involved themselves in the political process" should "resign 
from the bench and stand for Parliament". For Ruddock and Co the 
judiciary is viewed as a barrier that gets in the way of their 
political objectives.

Above the law Governments are effectively placing themselves 
above the law while posing as being tough-on-crime to win votes 
while attacking judges who expose their inhumane policies.

High Court Justice, Michael Kirby, last week criticised 
government interference in the judicial system saying they are 
"politicians or polemicists of differing types who know nothing 
of the common law and its marvellous creativity".

"These bully boys are contemptuous of fundamental human rights 
and jealous of any source of power apart from their own."

He said powerful interests hate it when judges "express the law 
in terms of legal principles to protect minorities, the weak and 
the vulnerable".

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