The proposed amendments to the Bail Act – and the manner in which they have been commissioned - continue to shock even the most seasoned political observers.
I am still stunned by the brazen political inspiration for these amendments – universally slammed as “knee jerk.”
It took just five weeks of hysterical campaigning by some elements of the media to convince the new Premier he needed to act urgently on rewriting the Act – despite its years of painstaking preparation by the NSW Law Reform Commission.
My observation of highly paid Government “consultants” is they simply tell the government what it wants to hear.
NSW Premier Mike Baird gave his biggest clue towards the acquiescence of former Labor AG John Hatzistergos two weeks before the amendments were announced when the Premier informed the fourth estate that “he was very happy with the job Mr Hatzistergos is doing”.
In other words, the government’s determination to “meet the community’s expectations” was never going to be ignored by the “expert” they recruited. At the risk of neutering incumbent AG Brad Hazzard, Baird sought to ambush opposition leader with the Hatzistergos appointment – and sure enough John Robertson did not criticise the recommendations of his former ALP parliamentary colleague. Instead “Robbo” chose to attack the coalition for not responding earlier. Why? Because these week-kneed political “leaders” start trembling when the well-known print and digital shock jocks aim their guns. Robertson is just as culpable as Baird when it comes to pathetic surrenders to the demands of those who arrogantly pronounce their expertise on the “public pulse”.
Public pulse? This is no chicken before the egg argument. There are armies of unsuspecting readers and listeners who are prepared to believe whatever they read and hear - as certain newspapers and broadcasters blend their menu of hard news with unabashed, subjective, ill-informed nonsense and serve it up as part of the same “information” meal.
This commentary dressed-up as “fact” is like a good Chinese meal doused in MSG. The whole meal is consumed, and the artificial “flavours” are disguised, and then disgested. And before you know it the appetites of the audiences and readerships become ritualistic in satisfying their day-to-day information needs. Far be it from a malnourished congregation to question or attack the editors and program directors who feed them!
The most obvious problem with this ridiculous move to “toughen” the Bail Act, of course, undermines the basic principle that someone is “innocent until proven guilty.”
Using the dubious justification of “similar changes in Victoria and Queensland” Hatzsitergos advised that serious offenders will have to “show cause” why they should be given bail.
And the avalanche of criticism continued with attacks on the Baird Government from the NSW Bar Association. President Jane Needham SC said the proposed “retrograde” changes could threaten fundamental legal rights.
Nicholas Cowdery said the government should have waited “at least a year” before reviewing the Bail Act.
But Nick – that would be after the State election.
As for the Law Reform Commission? One has to really question its relevance and existence when its collective, objective wisdom can be abandoned with such swift, cynical regard.
Moreover, the Commission consulted ALL relevant stake-holders including the DPP and police association.
"He's got a very good tactical mind and is good with strategy ... great advocacy and comes to grips with the evidence."