The President of the New South Wales Law Society issued a very interesting newsletter last Monday, noting the win we achieved in the High Court.
He had this to say about tribunals in general after the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) was told to leave me alone by the High Court:
There has been criticism that appointments to tribunals in other states and at Commonwealth level have been political in nature. Notwithstanding the veracity of such claims, it does little to evoke public confidence in the justice system. Nor does it support the premise of the rule of law and the separation of powers.
You don’t say.
I’ll just point out here that during my merry adventures in the land of NCAT I was privileged to experience the full force of a tribunal system so politically impartial that the head of the Administrative and Equal Opportunity Division was forced to recuse herself from proceedings involving the world’s most offended man.
The reason: unchallenged evidence was placed before the Tribunal that this magistrate and Mr Burns had been engaged in private conversations.
This same magistrate also liked to assist the HIV Legal Service with its fundraising events while presiding over matters in which the HIV Legal Service was acting. That is a big ‘no no’ under the NCAT code of conduct.
Or, at least, it should be.
I have written about this scandal here.
And the New South Wales Crown Solicitor’s Office wrote to me a year ago about this scandal (and by scandal, I mean that they wrote to me about my article covering it and not the actual scandal itself), stating:
“The authority of the law rests on public confidence.”
Then they decided that public confidence in the NCAT could best be served by not doing anything about the scandal and instead threatening me with charges of criminal contempt for writing about it.
You can see the full letter below:
So I promptly decided not to remove my article and instead wrote back to the Crown Solicitor’s Office asking how it could be possible that I could be in contempt of NCAT when NCAT had no jurisdiction over me, as found by the New South Wales Court of Appeal.
You can see my full letter below as well:
I am yet to receive a response. I’ll just assume that I’ve got ‘em stumped.
It really helped to lift my spirits about the whole NCAT thing and the public confidence it apparently deserved when I also discovered that other NCAT members presiding over vilification complaints liked to promote ‘Invasion Day’ protests.
And then put it on their Facebook pages.
Which kind of brings us back to the point the President of the Law Society of New South Wales was making this week: tribunals have a bad reputation for lacking transparency, accountability and independence. And that the best way to address that problem would be to ensure that tribunal appointments are merit-based, open to scrutiny and independent of government social engineering programs.
Until that happens, I guess you could say that NCAT ain’t a court…
…and given the President of the New South Wales Law Society has suddenly found an interest in things like transparency, I have no doubt that this pro-gay marriage organisation (until its members revolted) is going to start making similar points about the law and confidence in it and the conduct of the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Board.
No doubt that thorny little issue will be front and centre of next week’s newsletter…