The Gillard government has introduced two bills to parliament which if passed will supposedly better help deal with corrupt and derelict judicial officers. For some unknown but scandalous reason Fair Work Australia judicial officers have been exempted from the new laws.
Four questions were put to the attorney general Nicola Roxon by me with the fourth question about Fair Work Australia’s exemption being ignored.
I was originally going to focus substantially on the new laws but that has now been sent for an inquiry by the Senate and we can deal with that later. But it worth having a look at a few details before I get into the FWA exemption.
Two new Bills
My last post dealt with the fact that I could not get some basic questions answered from the AG in relation to the proposed new laws and showed the correspondence supporting that.
As I said in the previous post “There are two bills currently before parliament. The first one is called the “Judicial Misbehaviour and Incapacity (Parliamentary Commissions) Bill 2012” and provides a mechanism that would assist the Parliament s consideration of the removal of a judge from office. This is nothing but a time waster and the second bill is called the “Courts Legislation Amendment (Judicial Complaints) Bill 2012” and gives a legislative basis for a largely non statutory framework to assist the Chief Justices of the Federal Court, the Family Court and the Chief Federal Magistrate to manage complaints within their courts. Another time waster as the Chief justices just sweep complaints under the carpet.”
“What is needed in a truly independent body to deal with complaints against judges and magistrates but I will deal with that in my next post on this matter.” (Click here to read the previous post)
The press release is as below:
THE HON NICOLA ROXON MP
Minister for Emergency Management
14 March 2012
COMMONWEALTH first formal process for handling complaints against judges
Legislation to provide a clear, accountable and effective system for handing complaints against federal judicial officers was introduced into the Parliament today.
It is essential that the community continues to have strong confidence in our courts and a transparent and robust complaints process is fundamental to this, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said.
An open and transparent judicial system is a cornerstone of a fair and just society.
Australia’s courts are held in the highest regard and our judiciary take very seriously the responsibility entrusted to them as holders of judicial office – these reforms will strengthen our legal system.
In the rare circumstances where this might be needed, the Judicial Misbehaviour and Incapacity (Parliamentary Commissions) Bill 2012 provides a mechanism that would assist the Parliament s consideration of the removal of a judge from office.
This Bill enables the Parliament to establish Parliamentary Commissions to investigate serious allegations of misbehaviour or incapacity relating to a judicial officer, to support a decision to remove a judge under paragraph 72(ii) of the Constitution.
The need for a Parliamentary Commission would be extremely rare, but it is nevertheless important to have fair and transparent processes in place, and to have it well in advance of a situation where it may be needed, Ms Roxon said.
The second Bill, the Courts Legislation Amendment (Judicial Complaints) Bill 2012 gives a legislative basis for a largely non statutory framework to assist the Chief Justices of the Federal Court, the Family Court and the Chief Federal Magistrate to manage complaints within their courts.
The framework will give the heads of jurisdiction will have the ability to establish a Conduct Committee to investigate and report to them about a complaint.
The Government will continue to work closely with the courts to implement these reforms.
End of press release
If you look at the first bill, the Judicial Misbehaviour and Incapacity (Parliamentary Commissions) Bill 2012, it says “enables the Parliament to establish Parliamentary Commissions” which is hardly independent. What you will have is politicians who appointed the judge or magistrate in the first place setting up a commission to advise the rest of the politicians whether or not the judge or magistrate should be sacked. Hardly impartial.
The commission will also have the power suppress the reporting of documents or information which means it could be abused by the politicians to hide corruption. For example the same way the Fair Work Australia has been hiding the criminal conduct of Craig Thomson and the Health Services Union.
The second Bill, the Courts Legislation Amendment (Judicial Complaints) Bill 2012, will give the heads of the courts (Chief Justice and Chief Magistrate) the ability to establish a Conduct Committee to investigate and report to them about a complaint. They really have this capacity anyhow and do not need a committee and are highly unlikely to ever use a committee.
And what if the Chief Justice is more corrupt than any of the judicial officers under them. Say for example Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe who is one of the biggest crooks the country has ever seen. I did a post on him called “The handiwork of Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe – witness bribing, price-fixing, succumbing to blackmail to conceal a crime and lying to shareholders etc. Is there anything this man cannot do?” (Click here to read)
I originally asked three questions of the AG then added a fourth which at that stage they were still refusing to answer the questions as per my previous post. I eventually received a reply answering 3 questions from the Attorney Generals Department, not from the AG’s office. The questions that I put to the attorney general are:
1. What was the motivation for introducing the bills?
2. Were the bills introduced because of a large number of complaints about judges and magistrates?
3. In 2009 a Senate inquiry handed down a report recommending that an independent body be set up to handle complaints against judicial officers. Why has this not happened and in fact been ignored.
4. Why has Fair Work Australia been exempt from the new laws given they have judicial officers (judges and commissioners).
And a spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s Department response was:
- The legislation was introduced to provide a clear, accountable and effective system for handling complaints against federal judicial officers.
- Australia continues to be very well served by its judiciary.
- There have been very few serious complaints about judges in Australia’s judicial system which is testament to the high calibre of our judiciary and their commitment to the responsibility entrusted to them as holders of judicial office.
- The approach taken in the legislation towards processes for handling complaints about judicial officers recognises the role of Parliament and the important role of court heads of jurisdiction to manage complaints about judicial officers that are referred to them.
The response totally ignored question 4 about FWA but going by the email that I was sent question 4 was not sent to the department by Nicola Roxon’s office. And the answer to question 3 about the 2009 the Senate inquiry is not directly answered either.
Fair Work Australia exemption
Why Fair Work Australia is exempt who knows. They have judicial officers. They do have judges such as the President Justice Iain Ross (although they do not appoint their own judges) they have commissioners and judicial officers known as Senior Deputy President and Deputy President.
They are appointed to the age of 65 which gives them certainty of tenure as per other judicial officers in Australia. And as you can see by the letter in the link below Julia Gillard refers to them as “judicial members to the separate judicial division of FWA will be appointed in accordance with current processes” in her letter to the Australian Mines and Metal Association when she was Deputy Prime Minister.
Click on the link to read the letter: DPM Julia Gillard’s letter to AMMA regarding FWA appointments
As it currently stands New South Wales is the only state that has a body set up to investigate complaints about judicial officers which is called the Judicial Commission of NSW. This is limited to state judicial officers. But they do investigate complaints against commissioners at the NSW Industrial Relations Commission who are the equivalent of the commissioners at FWA. FWA was previously known as the Australian Industrial Relations Commission until the end of 2009.
Some of the commissioners have dual roles. They are commissioners at their state industrial relations commission and at FWA doing exactly the same functions.
So in summing up there is no logical reason why Fair Work Australia judicial officers are exempt from the new proposed corrupt judge laws. The only thing I can think of is that with FWA being seen as being so corrupt with the Craig Thomson / HSU scandal is would have been a bad joke to include them. The whole country would have been laughing.
Some might also think it is because the Labor government has been stacking FWA with union cronies as judicial officers. This to me is ruled out as a reason because Labor has also been stacking the bench with Labor cronies at the Federal Court, Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court.
Whatever the reason the government should come clean now and say why they have exempted Fair Work Australia from the laws. Because by itself it is absoluty scandalous but also adds to the corruption surrounding FWA in relation to their cover-up of the Craig Thomson fraud and theft
The two bills above have been referred by the Australian Senate for inquiry and report. You can make submissions up until the 27th of April 2012. (Click here to go to the government site for details) (Thanks to Allison in the comment section of the last post for bringing this to my attention)
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