Thursday, 18 April 2013

Beware the Political Inquisition - especially women and less than powerful men

Galileo before the Holy Office - with a little superimposition from Miss Eagle

After reading this and this, I was reminded once more of the men and women of Australia who have been involved in politics; who have come off second-best in the politics and power stakes; and who have ended up in prison because of it.

I first came to think of this in relation to the fall-out from the Fitzgerald Inquiry.  It seemed to me then and still does almost twenty-five years after its conclusion that some people of little influence were hung out to dry. Some people received political pay-back and some influential people got off scot-free.  Below is a an edited list taken from Wikipedia's list of Australian politicians convicted of crimes.

Name
Year
Party
Offence
Sentence
Notes
1990
misappropriating public funds
15 mths
1990
misappropriating public funds
12 mths
7 months
served in
home
detention
1990
misappropriating public funds
12 mths
1990
misappropriating public funds
12 mths

Brian Austin and Don Lane were considered turn-coats by some people since they had left the Liberal Party and joined the National Party.  They each held Brisbane seats and Brisbane has never been natural territory for the National Party which relies on regional and rural votes.  One view is that Austin and Lane switched parties to save their careers from being demoted or challenged by the Liberal Party itself.  Could this have had a bearing on the charges, verdicts, and sentences of these men when one considers the likelihood of significant numbers of the Brisbane legal profession having Liberal Party membership?  Political pay-back?

Harvey and Muntz were junior ministers who had done nothing to show any great political prowess or intellect.  Could these two have been sacrificial lambs offered up to the gods of justice?

Two very senior ministers stood trial but were acquitted. These were Ivan Gibbs - whose post-mortem tributes mention nothing of his trial - and Joh Bjelke-Peterson who was also acquitted amid allegations of jury rigging by the Young Nationals to find Joh 'not guilty'

For more on people associated with this political era which ended in electoral loss for the National and Liberal Party Government, please see Evan Whitton's view of events

For more recent adverse results from the Political Inquisition, let's look at the cases of Diane Fingleton, Pauline Hanson and David Etteridge.   

Di Fingleton is or was a member of the Australian Labor Party. Labor, under Peter Beattie, was in government in Queensland when she had to face the Political Inquisition.  Did Beattie do anything to defend her?  I don't know.  I have been told stories of sexism at the Brisbane Bar.  If true, does this attitude overflow to work against women on trial?  Etteridge was/is of slight political significance in the overall scheme of things - but if Hanson had to go, then so did he.  

The fact that these three cases were dismissed by the High Court of Australia leads me to ponder on the role of a Chief Justice.  Should the Chief Justice of Queensland have reviewed these three cases to ensure the safety of the decisions and verdicts?  If this is not part of the role of a Chief Justice, could the duties of the role please be explained to me? 

So in Australia we are not guillotining or shooting our political  opponents. We are not sticking poisonous needles into their limbs nor are we giving them mysterious skin diseases.  However, I think people who stick their heads above the political parapets of this nation; who do not follow a party line; or who offend the influential and their mores should be aware and be warned.  

There is still the Political Inquisition - and who knows who can or will be next?

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