Aussies lose courage of their convictions

IN HIS OWN WRITE

GORDON BROWN
Last updated 10:40 15/12/2012

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OPINION: There is so much of a heavy nature going on this week that we'll start with something light - Australians.

The country's population now seems to have become so fragile that even watching a disturbing news item on television can lead to a need for mass counselling. It seems the poor Jasons and Kylies were in danger of being distressed merely by being televisual witnesses to unpleasant stuff.

Here is what happened: On Sunday, the lead item on Sky News Australia (Channel 90 on Sky) was the story of the Sydney DJs' prank call to the London hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was. Sky's news item then recapped the whole tragic case, including the suicide of the nurse who answered the call.

It was certainly a sad story, but what came at the end was hard to believe.

The newsreader said "support from these organisations is available for anyone who is feeling distressed", as the freephone numbers of three counselling services, Sane, Lifeline and Beyond Blue, were flashed on screen.

They sure have got over their convict past. Now, they are such sensitive souls that even watching a sad news story can lead to offers of mass counselling.

Bain bane of our Iron Lady

At the other end of the sensitivity scale, Minister of Justice Judith Collins has qualities that are reminiscent of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

She is remembered for one of her most famous comments, "The lady's not for turning", when refusing to stop liberalising the British economy.

She was a formidable political figure and that speech helped cement her reputation as the Iron Lady.

Collins is also a formidable force and gained the nickname "Crusher" Collins after enacting the boy-racer laws, which led to recidivist offenders having their cars crushed.

Recently, she played hardball with a couple of Labour MPs, Andrew Little and Trevor Mallard, suing them for defamation after they claimed details of an ACC scandal had been leaked by her office.

She refused to accept any thing less than an unconditional apology and the case was heading for the courts until she got what she wanted at the eleventh hour.

However, it was the obstinacy of Thatcher over a poll tax that led to her downfall. What had been her biggest asset was also her biggest liability.

This week, it appears Collins is in danger of going down the same path with her actions over the report into whether David Bain should receive compensation for the time he spent in prison, before being found not guilty in a retrial.

Because of the incestuous nature of the legal profession in this country, it was rightly decided an independent overseas opinion be sought.

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Consequently, the minister's predecessor, Simon Power, appointed Ian Binnie, a retired High Court Judge and noted Commonwealth jurist from Canada, to do the job.

He spent months doing his report, but Collins didn't like it. She reckoned it was flawed and passed it by the solicitor-general, one of the chaps on the anti-Bain side of the debate, who agreed it should be peer reviewed.

Under pressure, she did release the Binnie report, but now she needs to get over it and pay Bain his compensation.

Justice Binnie reportedly received $413,764 for his professional services and expenses. How much more do we have to pay before Bain sees a cent?

The pills made me do it

Do we have a legal system or a justice system or are they incompatible?

That's something worth pondering and I can just see a new Tui billboard after the discharge without conviction of former chief prosecutor for the Serious Fraud Office Anita Maria Killeen on forgery charges.

She got off because of the supposed side-effects of a fertility drug. Yeah right! Auckland Judge Mary Beth Sharp believed this preposterous defence, despite admitting one charge of forgery and one of using a forged document, which carry maximum jail terms of three years and 10 years.

Killeen did not have to sit in the dock or plea, so did not have to suffer any of the indignities the usual, non-lawyer defendant types have to go through.

Let them eat . . . breakfast

Finally, let's hear it for new Zealand's ultimate caring person, Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills: "I don't care why children are turning up to school without breakfast. We just need to feed them."

Yep, let's throw even more billions of dollars at the problem. The parents would love it, but there would still be just as many hungry children.

- Taranaki Daily News

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