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    « Arthur Moses | Main | Death and taxation »
    Monday
    Jun192017

    Sandalising the court

    June 13 to June 19 ... Manus Island settlement does not impute liability ... Pentecostal lawyer flagged as Triggs replacement ... Trio of ministers unapologetic as Victorian judges resurrect 18th century contempt of court offence ... Legal Aid chairman highlights nexus between property boom and elder abuse ... Week@TheKnees with Sohini Mehta 

    ON Wednesday (June 14) morning, Justice Michael McDonald of the Vic Supremes confirmed in proceedings lasting just five minutes that the Australian government and its contractors G4S and Transfield, now Broadspectrum, had agreed to pay compensation of $70m plus costs to 1,905 refugees and asylum seekers detained on Manus Island.

    On average, each plaintiff will receive about $35,000. However, compensation will be determined on an individual basis, with the plaintiffs' firm Slater & Gordon having applied to administer the redress scheme. 

    Amnesty International's Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze, who has visited Manus, said "the gross figure might seem a lot to the Australian public, but it's not much on an individual level. Nor does the compensation end the injustice".

    The future of 900 men remaining on Manus Island remains uncertain with the detention centre slated to close in October this year.

    For the government, the settlement has the obvious advantage of forgoing the international live streaming of an enormous six-month trial and the rigorous testing in a court of law of allegations of murder, systemic sexual and physical abuse, inadequate medical treatment and false imprisonment. 

    Though the Greens claimed that the settlement is "an admission of guilt", Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has clarified that it does not constitute an admission of liability, asserting that the Commonwealth "strongly refutes and denies the claims made in these proceedings". 

    *   *   *

    The Australian wants Pentecostal lawyer Augusto Zimmermann to replace Gillian Triggs as the Human Rights Commission's president.

    Following years of sustained attacks on the independence of the commission and its president, attorney general George Brandis is having a hard time finding a candidate who is prepared to front politicians and the media at the slightest provocation and inherit the demoralised and understaffed commission.

    Zimmermann, a senior lecturer in law at WA's Murdoch University, confirmed to The Saturday Paper that he had applied for the position. 

    National treasure Pastor Margaret Court and her husband, Barry, wrote to former PM John Howard endorsing Zimmermann's application, stating he was a "good Christian". This backing comes with clout - Barry Court is a former president of the WA Liberal Party.

    Fragments of Zimmermann's beliefs can be gleaned from the online pieces he penned for Christian Ministries Internal. He argued in a piece littered with biblical references that evolution undermines the rule of law and attributed the rise of the Nazis in Germany to Darwin's theory:

    "[N]o legal protection can be reasonably afforded against tyranny, if the supremacy of God's higher laws is not made to prevail."

    In another piece, he rejected Islam alongside Marxism and secularism. Across the world, he claimed, "the most rights-based and democratic nations are the majority-Protestant ones".

    Here's some video of Zimmo in action ... 

    *   *   *

    Three Turnbull government ministers - all qualified lawyers - got the solicitor general to front the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday (June 16) after criticising the Court of Appeal for handing down "soft" sentences for people convicted of terror-related offences.

    In a move which inflamed the justices, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar did not apologise and said they had intended to contribute to an "important public debate". 

    The court has reserved its decision to refer the ministers for "scandalising the courts" - a contempt offence dating to the 18th century. The offence lacks a formal defence of justification but may not be available if a defendant criticises the judiciary "in good faith".

    The offence of scandalising the court, looked upon as a long-standing restriction on free speech, was abolished in the UK in 2013.

    *   *   *

    ALRC wants greater protections for the elderlyTo coincide with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (15 June), AG George Brandis released a report by the Australian Law Reform Commission containing 43 recommendations to safeguard the nation's elderly from abuse.  

    The proposed changes include a serious incident response scheme for aged care homes, more stringent background checks of aged care workers and a national online register of documents available to doctors, financial planners and other professionals from which the validity of a power of attorney can be easily ascertained. 

    NSW Law Society president, Pauline Wright, pointed to the vital role of banks in the national strategy proposed by the ALRC and suggested the banking industry incorporate a commitment to preventing financial elder abuse in their code of practice.

    National Legal Aid chairman Graham Hill, while lauding the proposals in the ALRC report, urged an investigation into the nexus between surging house prices and the abuse of elderly people who had been pressured to guarantee a loan or supply a deposit by adult children struggling to enter the property market on their own. 

    The report prioritised the dignity and autonomy of elderly people: 

    "Older people, like most adults, prize their freedom and independence, and do not wish to be treated like children or sheltered from all risk." 

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