Section 51 of the Commonwealth Constitution sets out the powers of the Commonwealth. Those powers include:
the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States, and the control of the forces to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth;
During the week some Commonwealth ministers of the crown criticised State based judicial officers for the discrepancy in sentencing between Victoria and New South Wales.
Mr Hunt said Victorian judges made “deeply concerning” comments during an appeal hearing for a convicted terrorist on Friday and accused the court of becoming a forum for “ideological experiments”.
The comments made by senior Supreme Court judges concerned apparent differences between the NSW and Victorian judiciaries when imposing sentences for terror offences.
Mr Hunt told The Australian the judges were “endorsing and embracing shorter sentences” and urged Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to immediately reject their statements.
Okay – so one branch of the Commonwealth government had a spat with a branch of the Victorian State government.
To be clear – I have no problem with people making general criticisms of government, including the judiciary. I have few problems with people making specific criticisms of government, including the judiciary. What isn’t clear to me is whether this is an attempt to influence the outcome of a specific case. That is not appropriate – but, on the other hand, if members of parliament think that judges’ sentencing is too lax they should impose higher penalties via legislation. Furthermore, the commonwealth parliament already has the power to legislate anti-terrorism laws.
THREE Victorian Turnbull government ministers will be forced to explain to the Supreme Court why they should not be charged with contempt after accusing the state’s judiciary of being soft on terror sentencing.
It’s understood the Supreme Court has ordered Health Minister Greg Hunt, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, Michael Sukkar, to appear on Friday to justify why they should not “be referred for prosecution for contempt”.
Now I imagine the ministers will make a legal argument about crown prerogative blah, blah, blah. The Liberals, however, should make a political argument about elites being soft on crime. Prosecute it hard and take no prisoners. Suggest a constitutional amendment that restricts judicial powers relating to sentencing and to ensure passage suggest reform of judicial salaries and superannuation.