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Mob rule on Craig Thomson


Craig ThomsonLast week I received an email from a friend who has made a new life in Australia. She complained that Australian officials 'have a tendency to follow the letter of the law and refuse to think outside the box'. But she considers that a small price to pay for the increased wellbeing her family enjoys living in this country. She wrote:

Coming from a relatively lawless country, it has been difficult to adapt to the opposite scenario, where rules control people rather than the other way around. But, having said that, this is what makes Australia a functional, effective, efficient, law-abiding place, and it is precisely the reason we chose to move here.

Rules in general, and the rule of law in particular, promote the common good ahead of sectional interests. More often than not, refugees have fled lawless societies in search of the protection of the law. A well functioning rule of law is a haven for people of good will. 

It is particularly incumbent upon politicians to respect the judiciary. But on Thursday our near neighbour Papua New Guinea took a significant step along the road from the rule of law to dictatorship. Prime Minister Peter O'Neill had the country's chief justice Sir Salamo Injia arrested and charged with sedition. Sir Salamo had upheld a significant ruling that did not serve the personal interest of the prime minister and instead benefited his rival Sir Michael Somare.

By contrast, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard did little more than express disappointment last August when the High Court ruled unlawful her government's Malaysia solution, which it was relying upon to arrest the drift of political support from the Government to the Opposition. 

Former Chief Justice Sir Gerard Brennan reflected in 1997:

Should a judge be accountable to the government of the day? Certainly not. Should the judge be accountable in some way to an interest group or to the public? The rule of law would be hostage to public relations campaigns or majoritarian interests. Should a judgment be fashioned to satisfy popular sentiment? That would be the antithesis of the rule of law.

Judgment of Craig Thomson should wait for the decision of a judge in a court of law. However, popular sentiment and a populist Opposition have taken hold of the judgment of Thomson to the extent that a judge deciding not to convict him might almost expect the fate of PNG's Sir Salamo Injia.

The first conseqence of mob rule is injustice to an individual. But once it takes hold, the real casualty would be Australia's status as a desirable place to live. Migrants and refugees would no longer see Australia as the place to come to enjoy the protection afforded by the rule of the law. The politicians could finally have their wish because the boats might stop.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.


Topic tags: Michael Mullins, Craig Thomson, Gerard Brennan, Sir Salamo Ingla, Peter O'Neill, Julia Gillard



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Existing comments

Thanks Michael. Craig Thomson's alleged misuse of credit cards occurred between 2002 and 2007. There appears to be a problem regarding the application and implementation of the rule of the law. Does this farcical situation occur for other Australian citizens who misuse credit cards? Perhaps we could visit them in Long Bay or Pentridge for an answer!

Andrew | 28 May 2012  

If the rule of law is applied to Craig Thomson, he is innocent until proven guilty in a 'court of law'. As Joel Fitzgibbon remarked a couple of days ago, even if he did all that it seems he has done, the punishment he has so far received has outweighed the crime. It's clear Thomson's mental health is at risk and even an Opposition member, Dr Mal Washer, has publicly stated that the intense focus on this 'affair', needs to decrease. Australia has a proud history of egalitariamism and a 'fair go' - Thomson is still in Parliament, he is still a human being entitled to justice and I think this is an opportunity for Tony Abbott to show the Australian public - is he an opportunist greedy for power at any cost, or someone who is a credible alternative Prime Minister of our great country.

Pam | 28 May 2012  

"However, popular sentiment and a populist Opposition have taken hold of the judgment of Thomson to the extent that a judge deciding not to convict him might almost expect the fate of PNG's Sir Salamo Injia." One of the most outstanding examples of hyperbole that I have read in some time. Are you seriously suggesting, Michael Mullins, that the Coalition would move to arrest a judge on a charge of sedition, if he found Thomson not guilty? Anyway, you are assuming that this would be heard by only a single judge. I do not know that law well, but may any charges against Thomson not be heard by a jury? Would he not also have the right to appeal to a higher court? Looks like that nasty Coallition is going to have to deal with more and more people, if the judiciary won't play ball and lynch Thomson. Whilst I agree that Thomson has the right to a presumption of innocence in a court of law, that does not mean that he has no questions to answer. Bucket loads of HSU members' money has been fraudulently spent. Someone must be held accountable. I may have missed it, but Eureka Street appears to have been very quiet on this issue.

John Ryan | 28 May 2012  

Thanks Michael, I fully agree with you, my only comment is that, given the mob-rule mentality from a significant number in the populace, a major section of the Media and the Federal Opposition, your comment that migrants will no longer find Australia a desirable destination will seem like a very good thing to them.

Jeff Kevin | 28 May 2012  

"A well functioning rule of law is a haven for people of good will." That may be true but how can Australia be a haven for people of good will when the laws of the land permit the deliberate murder, slaughter of children in the womb?? The author gives us an example of injustice, but surely the greatest injustice of our laws is the killing of the most innocent in our society by others. These condemned children have no right to be allowed to be born under the worst laws of the world. If Australia is to be a haven for people of good will then all laws allowing abortion should be thrown away for ever and allow the right to life for all unborn instead of the horrific murder of so many in the womb.

Trent | 28 May 2012  

Mob rule ????? Orchestrated by a populist opposition????? The blind bias is staggering! The length of the bow drawn in this piece is quite something else.

john frawley | 28 May 2012  

Indeed, this is a poor show all round as far as the handling of the Thomson issue goes. Abbott and his cronies are a disgrace, but why does the ALP attract such dodgy people in nthe first place? And here I am thinking of the latest revelations in the SMH of the Obeid and related matters rather than Thompson. As for Brennan's lofty words, what about the High Court during the DOGS case? Talk about shoring up your mates in the Vatican from the highest court in the land! Or Vescio being refused a High Court slot to have his case heard about funding the Pope? Room for doubt in all areas of human endeavour, particularly where money and God are involved.

Andy Fitzharry | 28 May 2012  

Well said Michael. The behaviour of the parliament and the media - including Fairfax and the ABC - in this and the Slipper matter have been appalling and disgusting. Not to mention the deafening silence of the church and all those others who claim some sort of moral authority. Abbott and his mob have been engaged in brutal bullying that makes the antics of some officials of the CFMEU and others look like child's play.

Ginger Meggs | 28 May 2012  

... but when the good mob do nothing evil prevails ... mate.

Greig Williams | 28 May 2012  

As the distasteful accompanying illustration from the "Herald-Sun" shows, there are, in the Australian media, an immanent mob-mentality and blood lust which, from time to time, erupt dreadfully. It happened in the Chamberlain case -- and I'd suspect that, then, some of the lower courts were, indeed, influenced by it. Eventually the calm deliberation of the rule of law prevailed and Mrs Chamberlain was acquitted. The "utterly convinced" media [and hence the gulled public] were wrong then; they might be wrong again -- they may, in the end, be proven right but their arrogant current conviction does not make them right. Only calm assessment of what the real legal charges might be [apart from the lurid innuendo of prostitutes], what the evidence is -- and how strong -- will permit justice to be done. Readers need also reflect on the implications of "mob-rule" and "lynching parties", and to recall that they can occur in "civilized" countries, to realise how recent our "rule-of-law" is and how fragile "civilization" can be. The rule of law is, surely one of the hallmarks of such a civilized society: it was hard-won and should not capriciously be cast aside in the service of popular prejudice or political advantage.

Dr John CARMODY | 28 May 2012  

Michael,all that you say is reasonable and true. What you do not mention is interesting. Why the four year delay in any outcome ? Justice delayed is (in some cases ) justice denied !

David Walsh | 28 May 2012  

There are many unanswered questions about the Thomson affair, including the relationship between Kathy Jackson from the HSU and Michael Lawler from FWA (now there is a conflict of interest of some proportion) , the interesting issue of who is covering Ms Jackson's legal costs (you would be surprised), and, probably most significant, the claim by Craig Thomson that he has provable alibis for three of the alleged prostitute visits. After all, if he can prove that even one of them was a set-up/forgery, then the whole allegation against him falls apart and there would be definite evidence of a conspiracy. I would commend to all readers three excellent journalistic pieces by Peter Wicks in the online journal Independent Australia, even if they doesn't change your mind your sense of certainty will be challenged.

chris g | 28 May 2012  

Oh, give me a break! You have a government that has manipulated things from the start. Why has it taken so long to investigate Craig Thomson? And now, why has the guy who wrote the Fair Work Australia report on extended leave until the end of the year? Hard questions that need answers and Tony Abbott is doing just that. The majority of Australians simply want another election and an end to this ramshackled governemnt who couldn't lie straight in bed!

Peter | 28 May 2012  

Peter, what you say about the desires of 'the majority of Australians' may or may not be true, but it is, or should be, irrelevant to the way in which the allegations against Thomson should be dealt with. The point that Michael makes is that such allegations should be dealt with according to law, not according to mob-rule, trial by media, and Tony Abbott's lust for power.

Ginger Meggs | 28 May 2012  

At the ACTU Congress, Mr. Bill Kelty Said "I've got to be frank - it is too easy to blame the media. to easy to blame the faceless politicians and there is no purpose blaming the opposition for doing what after all, you'd expected them to do".

Ron Cini | 28 May 2012  

I too believe the way this has been handled is deplorable.
Some time ago I contacted The Leader of the Opposition warning him to back down or he would have deep regrets if Craig Thompson despaired.
I also reminded him that as a Catholic at least, he had a duty of care to his fellow man.
A pity he didn't avail his powerful voice in the Australian Parliament and speak up for the countless innocent children and vulnerable adults who suffered at the hands of the church.
I suspect, it was political correctness like so many others, and the "friend" he had in "high" places: not referring to God of course.

L Newington | 28 May 2012  

A couple of the posters here talk about Abbott's lust for power. This applies to Gillard as much as to Abbott. She cuts deals, breaks her word, recruits and retains the shoddiest of parliamentarians. If Labor had a decent majority, Thomson would have been hung out to dry months ago. Gillard is clinging on to the reins of power with the same desperation that Abbott is trying to prize her fingers off them.

MJ | 28 May 2012  

No money was fraudulently spent by Craig Thomson though, every cent was accounted for in his speech.

And now 7.30 has finally decided to expose the interference by the VP of Fair work Australia into internal HSU affairs.

The police, the DPP, FWA, the AEC have all said Thomson has no case to answer and Abbott has been punished for his cruelty by Newspoll.

Do people even understand that there is no fine or penalty attached to use of credit cards because there were no set rules.

The first report was only 146 pages to examine an audit of the entire Victorian Branch and clear the jacksons - the second one dumped the crimes of the Jackson's on Thomson.

Marilyn | 29 May 2012  

The assumption that we're a democratically pristine country is delusional. Where do I begin? From the infamous Khemlani affair of years gone by or the rise and rise of Murdoch's media empire? The Craig Thompson 'affair' is riddled with the kind of political ingrituge that we usually attribute to what-we-derisively-called the 'Third World'. The tabloids conveniently ignore the connections between the so-called HSU whistleblower, Kathy Jackson and Michael Lawler of FWA, the latter's friendship with Tony Abbott (PM-in-waiting (sic). And then what's the HSU whistleblower's connection with the right-wing HR Nicholls Society? And so on, and so on. As they say, the more you dig ( a la Gina Rhinehart, metphorically speaking, of course), the more you'd find dirt in the protagoinists' finger nails. Indeed, Abbott would not do a Peter O'Neill. At least, not as crude as that. The whole sad sage of the Thompson Affair goes beyond mob rule. I can;t help thinking of the days before the burning of the Reichtag in Berlin not that many years ago.

Alex Njoo | 29 May 2012  

Alex, it sounds a little like the Vatican doesn't it.
It's all about power, politics and mud slinging.
The only difference being the latter is by democratic election.

L.Newington | 29 May 2012  

I would like to remind a lot of the posters here that the real victims of the Thomson affair are the workers of the HSU. And whilst conservatives of various hues seem to be getting a hammering here, what about the union movement? Who holds this lot to account? The corruption and rorting that has gone on in the HSU beggars belief. I was glad to hear many at the recent conference of the ACTU saying that much had to be done to repair the image of the unions following the disgraceful misappropriaton of the HSU members'dues and fees. Michael Mullins talked about mob rule and the end of civlisation. Where was any microscope held up to the unions to show that they are not necessarily obeying laws?

John Ryan | 29 May 2012  

If the alleged misappropriated funds were spent on something else like a Landrover or lavish meals, it would merely be regarded as a perk of the job - still scandalous but not "sleazy" which is the issue that's firing this kerfuffle and demonisation of Craig Thompson.
Do people realise that it's quite legitimate and legal to hire the services of a prostitute?

AURELIUS | 30 May 2012  

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