Modia Minotaur

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Unnatural Justice

Another thing that doesn't seem just is the treatment of Steven Chaytor. Chaytor, the Member for Macquarie Fields, who won his seat little more than a year ago after Craig Knowles retired, is accused of bashing his partner. Chaytor claims that he was attempting to prevent her from self-harm after their relationship came to an end. Regardless of whether this is true or untrue, it's obviously a very sad and unfortunate situation for all concerned.

Yet, whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? It was widely suggested that no lenience was shown towards Milton Orkopoulos because evidence suggesting his guilt was so convincing. In Chaytor's case, their appears a reasonable doubt that his actions were genuinely malicious. In either case, guilt or lack of guilt isn't the point - natural justice is.

`Natural justice' is a term I generally avoid using. It's been co-opted by the sort of people who assert that any decision that goes against them is obviously a case of corruption or incompetence, because it certainly couldn't be their fault (Chaytor's opponent in the Macquarie Fields by-election, discredited whistleblower Nola Fraser, is someone who springs to mind). But I think it's an appropriate one in this case. Both Orkopoulos and Chaytor have been denied not only the standard assumption of innocence due to us all, but, given their status as public figures, have been branded guilty by default in a way that will stick to them forever, no matter the actual state of affairs. I cannot see how Orkopoulos in particular could ever receive a fair trial. Even if they do, steps have been taken against them by the state ALP that refuse to entertain any suggestion that they are innocent. Orkopoulos, officially an innocent man, lost his ministry, his place in Parliament, and even his superannuation. Chaytor has likewise lost his endorsement for the next election, regardless of whether he is proven innocent in the meantime. Ordinarily, Chaytor would be dealing with the black mark in his career which remains regardless of guilt or innocence - a pretty nasty situation. Even worse, the candidate famously endorsed by Gough Whitlam as one of the next big talents to enter politics will not even have a career to have a black mark upon.

There's a time and a place for political expendiency, but frankly, this just looks gutless.

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