Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Shadow Minister discusses separation of powers; and Pauline Hanson.

Download PDFDownload PDF

Nicola Roxon MP Shadow Minister for Population and Immigration Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on the Status of Women








PHIL CLEARY: Good morning Nicola.

ROXON: Good morning, how are you?

PHIL CLEARY: Very well thanks.

So, why do you think we shouldn’t have commentary in the parliament about an issue as important as this?

ROXON: I think we should have a debate about what appropriate laws should be, after all in the parliament we are the makers of the laws.

What I think is wrong in this whole debate is for individual politicians who will be responsible for making laws in the future, to then want to have a say in how those laws get applied. That’s actually the reason that we have politicians in the parliament making laws, and judges and juries in the court applying those laws.

We’re lucky in Australia that we have a system where politicians don’t run the courts and I think some of the debate has blurred that and tried to sort of suggest that we should have some role in determining what a particular sentence should be in a particular case and that’s really the side of it that I’m worried about.

PHIL CLEARY: But Nicola Roxon, as a modern women and a politician and someone who has to observe what goes on in courts and is aware of the many criticism that are raised about the way the courts deal with a range of issues including victims and women, don’t you have an obligation to speak up when you see an injustice?

ROXON: I think we have an obligation all the time to keep a very close eye on whether our laws are working properly.

So I think its of course legitimate for politicians to say we think that violent crimes should attract these sort of sentences or we think there should be laws to make sure that sex trafficking of Asian women is restricted.

All of those sorts of debates are legitimate roles for politicians to play and if people are unhappy about the sentence then we should be having a discussion about what sort of penalties apply if you are convicted of fraud because that’s what we are talking about.

I mean, I have no time for Pauline Hanson’s politics but she hasn’t been convicted because of her politics, she’s been convicted because she committed an act of fraud and this was the minimum penalty apparently in Queensland for such actions.

So, lets have a debate about whether the laws are right, not about whether or not an individual person should have a particular sentence applied when we don’t really have all the facts the judge and jury had in front of them.

PHIL CLEARY: But the judiciary tells us that all the time that they continually tell us that we don’t have the facts when they make judgements and pronouncements that we are critical of.

We’ll have a law reform commission report in Victoria that I would imagine will say some very damning things about how the criminal justice system has operated and won’t that reflect the fact that politicians have been silent for too long.

ROXON: Look, I don’t think we’re a disagreement on the fact that it is legitimate, it is obviously a really important part of our job, to make sure that we have laws that are working properly and obviously the way they’re applied does have to be debated.

What I’m objecting to is having comments from the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers attacking the court for making a decision in this case and essentially trying to turn a person, I think trying to turn Pauline Hanson into some sort of political martyr when in fact she was one of the most vocal supporters of harsher penalties and she didn’t have very much sympathy for other people who have ended up in prisons before her and I don’t really think she’s deserving of the special treatment that she’s getting at the moment.

PHIL CLEARY: But, Nicola Roxon, you were saying that the decision isn’t based on politics, yet you immediately go to her politics and you want to illustrate the fact that she is not a person of great political character.

ROXON: No, I haven’t said anything about her character…

PHIL CLEARY: (Interrupts) Political character

ROXON: What I’ve said is I don’t agree with her politics but people need to separate out that isn’t what she’s been charged with.

We don’t have offences for people belonging to particular political parties; what we have offences for are if you actually sign documents that are not the right documents or you mislead or fraudulently present material that isn’t your own, and that’s what she’s been convicted for and she’s also appealing and that process… I’ll respect whatever happens in that process, too, but I have a very strong view that we can get into a downwards spiral. It is important that the courts are respected. That’s actually how we keep some sort of law and order.

PHIL CLEARY: I think historically we’ve respected the courts. I think we’ve shut-up on a whole range of issues that we should not have shut-up, that we should have been vocal about. I’m sure you would agree that blacks have fared very badly in the criminal justice system and they were able to fare badly because good people said nothing.

ROXON: Absolutely, but I think the question you have to ask then, Phil, is why is it that when young people, young black people, are being convicted for pretty minor offences that we don’t have this sort of debate going on about whether or not their sentences are fair, but we do have it in this situation. And we have the Prime Minister commenting on it when I don’t recall in the five years I’ve been in parliament him ever making a comment about an individual case of a young black person being sentenced to two years jail for some other, often minor, offence.

PHIL CLEARY: I have no disagreement with you. I think that is patently true, but at the same time Bob Carr was quite happy to ride the current of passion that surrounded those celebrated rape trials up there in Sydney so not long ago.

ROXON: Yeah, and I think Bob Carr’s comments, my personal view, is that they haven’t been that helpful in this case either. I think it is important that we make sure that when we are public figures and politicians that we’re very careful in our comments about whether we are attacking the courts and our court system and our legal system on behalf of a particular person or whether we’re actually making a point whether our laws are right or not. I think the debate we should be having is are these sorts of electoral offences ones that should get a sentence for three years.

PHIL CLEARY: Yes, but Nicola Roxon surely we can’t look at the case detached from the political system, to say that politics doesn’t fashion the courts I think is so untrue. There are judges who are driven by or affected by their political disposition in the courts, working people have been saying that about royal commissions in the past for years and years.

ROXON: Yeah, but Phil I guess the important thing is a royal commission is not a court - this is actually one of the complaints people have about royal commissions, they’re not set up with the same protections and same strengths as courts are and so there are good reasons to want to have criticisms about those.

PHIL CLEARY: Well, judges are as protected in the judicial system as they are in a royal commission I’d argue. I mean a judge doesn’t really suffer because a judgement he or she makes.

ROXON: Well, I mean, we’re going down a track that is a fairly technical one. I mean with a royal commission people are appointed for a certain time with a specific terms of reference that are accountable in a different way, you know they don’t send people to jail or convict them there’s not a jury, it’s a

different set-up.

PHIL CLEARY: Alright, Nicola. I’m sorry, we’ve got to wind up because I have to run to the news. Tanks for taking time to have a yarn with us on what is a very important issue. I look forward to talking with you again about it.

26 August 2003

For more information call: Nicola Roxon or Matt Nurse on (03) 9687 7355 or 0417 386 535