Bob Brown is using his office as a senator to get his legal bills paid, and the media are willing accomplices in this cynical exercise in power. Yet the very same media couldn’t give a fig about the thousands of Australians who each day are sent bankrupt, have their lives torn apart and in some cases commit suicide, because they too have to pay a legal bill when they lose a case.

Senator Brown is entitled to use the court system to pursue his case, just like every other person in this country. And if he loses his case, which he did in this instance, then the general rule is that as the losing party he pays the winning party’s costs. There is nothing sinister about Forestry Tasmania, the successful party, pursuing Senator Brown for what was an expensive case. In fact, it was revealed yesterday that they offered to shave off a fair slice of their legal costs, but Brown wouldn’t be in the deal. So to suggest, as Brown and his disciples are doing, that the Tasmanian government is in some sort of corrupt conspiracy to hound Brown from office is absolute bollocks.

But there is a bigger picture being missed by the media here and those dear well heeled souls, including Brown’s mate Dick Smith, who are rushing to empty their bank accounts to help the high income earner Brown pay his legal bill. And it is that what Brown is doing is something the average Australian could never achieve — use their title, office or position to milk public sympathy to have their legal bill paid.

Each year thousands of Australians are dragged through the indignity of legal proceedings to ensure they pay the costs of the other party, when they lose a case. Bankruptcy, garnishee orders, instalment arrangements, sale of the family home, these are all tools of costs enforcement. For many people, it is a humiliating, degrading and heart wrenching experience. I have personally known of cases where people have contemplated suicide because they face having to pay hundreds of thousands in legal bills.

I am also personally aware of cases where the sheriff has turned up at the homes of families on a Friday evening to execute a warrant to seize assets, and to give notice that the family will have to quit the home so it can be sold. And our jails are full of people who, when released from prison and are trying to get back on their feet, will be immediately hit with unpaid legal bills.

In none of these cases does the person hit by the legal bill have the clout, the media profile or the resources of a taxpayer funded office to run a well orchestrated sympathy campaign which also serves as a neat fundraiser.

One trusts that Brown’s wealthy benefactors and the media now turn their attention to prisoners, the homeless and broken families who face a much worse predicament than Senator Brown. Wouldn’t it be nice, but of course it won’t happen.

Bob Brown has taken politics to a new low this week.

Peter Fray

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