Whatever happened to the rule of law and the presumption of innocence in this country?

There has been an unseemly haste to rush to judgment about former NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Milton Orkopoulos. Mr Orkopoulos has been charged with serious offences. But the case against him is untested in any court, and he is entitled, as is every person in this country, to the presumption of innocence.

Take this Daily Telegraph headline last Monday – “S-x scandal MP quits”. Doesn’t this headline assume that there is some sort of s-x scandal? There is not, at least not until Mr Orkopoulos has run the full gamut of the courts, including exercising his fundamental human right to appeal against any findings made against him.

On the same day, Mr Iemma was quoted in the Tele as saying that he was insisting that Mr Orkopoulos resign his seat in Parliament, and that if he hadn’t volunteered to do so, then Mr Iemma “would have pursued measures to have him out of parliament.”

So beastly careless is Mr Iemma about the presumption of innocence that he also said he will freeze Mr Orkopoulos’s superannuation entitlement.

No wonder Mr Orkopoulos sought to take his own life this week. He has been abused and crucified but remains an innocent man.

Of course, knowing it can also be cavalier about the rule of law and human rights, the New South Wales Opposition yesterday thought it would throw some mud at Attorney-General Bob Debus. Opposition Leader Peter Debenham made the claim in Parliament – heatedly and repeatedly denied by Mr Debus – that the Police Integrity Commission was investigating Mr Debus and that the matter related to s-x.

This attack by Mr Debenham was outrageous. Complaints and allegations come in their thousands each year to regulatory bodies like the PIC. The vast bulk of them are dismissed because they have no merit. Yet, the inference from Mr Debenham’s questions in the New South Wales Parliament yesterday was that Mr Debus had something to hide.

Not a shred of hard evidence was produced by Mr Debenham. And even if it had been, the appropriate place to deal with such matters is in the courts – not in the Parliament where people care little for the harm they do each other.

Peter Fray

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