Guilty until proven innocent

Here’s a story of political hypocrisy so stunning, it’s hard to wrap my head around it: In Australia, Julia Gillard’s Labor Party’s government is hanging by a thread. In order to secure an extra seat, she bought off one of the opposition’s representatives by making him speaker of the House of Commons. Now that representative, Peter Slipper, is charged with sexual harassment and might have to step down pending resolution of the charges.

Australia’s Attorney General, Nicola Roxon, thinks that’s not fair:

We have a legal system so those complaints can be tested, so people are given the opportunity to defend them. We cannot live in a world – we might as well have no legal system if we just say as soon as the allegation is made, that then it’s proven true. That just feeds into the sort of muck-raking mentality that we have from Mr Abbott and says that any time an allegation’s been made, people are automatically sentenced to whatever he deems is right.

That’s not the way for us to run a country. It’s not the legal system that we have and it’s not the practice of what happened when Mr Howard was the prime minister.

She thinks that Slipper should have the presumption of innocence, and that he should be able to stay in his position (propping up the government) until proven guilty.

There is a notion that we should hold elected officials to a higher standard, at least when the charges are plausible, but as a general rule she’s right, of course. We should have the presumption of innocence.

That’s what is so outrageous about this story. Because in 2009 this very government changed the law to remove the presumption of innocence in sexual harassment cases. In fact, the new law was put into place by none other than Julia Gillard when she was Minister for Industrial Relations under Kevin Rudd, the previous Prime Minister.

Roxon says that’s not the way to run a country. She’s right. She says it was not the practice under PM Howard. Also right. But she’s wrong when she says it’s not the legal system they have, because they themselves changed the law:

If (a) in an application in relation to a contravention of this Part, it is alleged that a person took, or is taking, action for a particular reason or with a particular intent; and (b) taking that action for that reason or with that intent would constitute a contravention of this Part; it is presumed, in proceedings arising from the application, that the action was, or is being, taken for that reason or with that intent, unless the person proves otherwise.

These people remove the presumption of innocence, the most basic legal protection there is. Then, when one of their people is in the dock, they want him held to a lower standard than the one they imposed on everyone else.

The only comfort one can take from this is that in Australia, the leftists don’t have the temerity to call themselves liberals. So at least we don’t have the spectacle of “liberals” dismantling civil liberties.

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