WHAT'S THAT MR HULLS?
Despite the public outcries, Senator Bill Heffernan's attack on
High Court judge Michael Kirby has a lot more to do with politics
than it does with homophobia. After sustained criticism of Bishop
Hollingworth's old-fashioned view of sexual assault and the 'children
overboard' affair, Heffernan's attack on Kirby has all the hallmarks
of an orchestrated Liberal counter attack. It's more than just a
You attack ours and we'll attack yours. That's the principle that
allowed Heffernan off the leash. Fortunately for the Liberals it's
easier to attack a gay man by way of allegations about an interest
in young men than it is to demean Mick Jagger or some bloke from
Nine's Footy Show when he goes in search of young women.
That Heffernan aired his phony allegations under privilege says
more about the political process than it does about privilege. How
was a moral crusader like Heffernan able to justify such ethically
questionable behaviour to his superiors? In a political system known
for enforcing conformity how did Heffernan break the shackles? Designed
originally to enhance freedom of speech and the power of the individual
member it has always been compromised by the party system.
Rarely is the fearless quest for truth the raison d'être
of members who relish the salacious 'revelation'. As long as the
party system maintains its hold over member's parliamentary privilege
will continue to be bastardized in this way.
No matter what the opportunism of Heffernan, partisan politicians
such as Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls who claim Heffernan's
actions undermine the independence of the judiciary need to be treated
with scant regard. Heffernan has abused privilege and attacked a
judge in the same way the ALP did when it attacked justice Callinan.
When political purpose comes calling the independence of the judiciary
counts for nothing.
But does this mean judges should be protected from criticism? The
truth is judges have been protected for too long. Trade Unionists
who've defied capitalist laws, Irish republicans in Northern Ireland,
petty criminals and the families of murdered women know all too
well how the prejudices of conservative judges have been protected
from criticism. Only in recent times have the misogynist rulings
of some judges been put the test. If Hulls has his way we'll all
shut up and let those who run the legal system have their way.
It's no surprise that few people would even be aware that Justice
Kirby ruled against Heather Osland's appeal to the High Court. Imagine
if Bill Heffernan had chosen to dissect Kirby's thoughts on Osland's
appeal rather than descend into a tawdry tale of salacious stories
about male prostitutes.
Justice Alistair Nicholson, chief justice of the family court,
received a standing ovation when he defended Kirby at a legal conference
in Melbourne on Monday. Would he have been as popular if, as a defender
of the female victims of family violence, he'd been questioning
the assumptions of Kirby's judgment in the Osland appeal?
(more to come)