ONE of the outcomes of Saturday's federal election is that Victorians now have as one of their 12 representatives in the Senate a man who has over the past 30 years been to jail twice and fined $100,000 for breaching court orders, and who has been roundly criticised by the High Court for undermining the right of an accused person to a fair trial. We are talking about broadcaster Derryn Hinch.
While Mr Hinch is not disqualified under the constitution from being a candidate for the Senate because he is not serving or waiting to serve a sentence for an offence under Commonwealth or state law punishable by a prison sentence of 12 months or more, the broader question is whether a person with Mr Hinch's record is fit to hold the office of a legislator whose role is to ensure that laws are enforceable and that the rule of law is upheld?
It is worth providing a brief outline of Hinch's offending record. In 1986 Hinch was jailed for 15 days and fined $15,000 by the Supreme Court of Victoria for contempt of court. Hinch had used his 3AW program to publish the prior conviction of Michael Glennon, a former Catholic priest, who was facing sexual assault allegations. Hinch campaigned against Glennon on his radio program. It constituted one of the most serious cases of contempt of court, involving the public prejudgment of the guilt of a person awaiting trial, to have come before the courts of this country.
The role of a legislator in our system of government is to ensure that our community is law abiding and in ensuring that the rule of law is being upheld by the executive government. It does the first by passing laws and the second by scrutinising the actions of government. It is difficult to say how Mr Hinch could seriously criticise or scrutinise actions by the executive government which undermine basic freedoms given his track record.
By Greg Barnes