02 June 2011

the discriminatory attitudes of the mighty who stand in judgement


There is a matter before the state parliament now as to whether it will ratify a decision by the judicial tribunal to sack a magistrate because of what would seem to be the risk that if he failed to take his medication for his bipolar disease, he might make an ass of himself.



One suspects that some mighty judges would think this magistrate had already made an ass of himself by his plain language and common decency in this advice to a young (and as it turned out, undeserving, as the gutter bottom of the Murdoch press hastened to crow) offender.


What is it that leads strong men to fear for their own manhood or whatever, when someone close to them has a mental illness. Hard to fathom, except in the simplest way in which societies now as then, engage in witch hunts and strike down those who remove certainty from their global self-importance.


The magistrates in their decency as more common folk, are up in arms.


The Anti-Discrimination Commissioner is concerned. That link reveals to me that there are two magistrates in trouble, something I did not realise when I wrote on 1 June 2011 to the Premier and others, also revealing something of myself.


Here tis:




Dear Premier Farrell and Attorney General Smith

I am writing with concern about the proposed removal of Magistrate Maloney, which I understand to be before the parliament now. 

I write as a person who in the 1980s was dealt with somewhat in the same high-handed 'tip him overboard' manner while in a very senior position in the foreign service, as ambassador to China, because of illness at the time. I became significantly more sick as a result of the chuck-out, hostility towards disability (and simple fear of disability) resulting in further problems over years. Spurned as if possessed. I remind you that the last person burned at the stake in England for being strange was deemed fit for burning because he was a Baptist (Edward Wightman 1612).

I was, years later, pleased by the passage of the federal Disability Discrimination Act in 1992. My treatment in 1985 would have been illegal had it occurred after passage of the DDA; there would have been greater benefit to my employer and less cost to the public purse were I properly treated and supported in work.

However superior the NSW court and parliament may feel it is to this federal law, however in some manner it is deemed that magistrates are not human or should not demonstrate human depths, I remain of the view that the removal of Magistrate Maloney on the grounds reported is not only an uncouth and antediluvian proposal from the court, but also contrary to the DDA, by the simplest test of the meaning of Section 5. Don't say that this section says if you'd sack him for what he did if he had no illness, so you can sack him. That's to miss the point of the illness and its correct-ability. If the brakes had failed on his car (through no fault or failure to perform on the part of the driver) and had caused an accident, what would the situation be then? 

If the case against the magistrate is no more than as reported in The Australian (and if it is something else then deal publicly with that) then you have a splendid opportunity to make clear to the courts that they are not above the principles of law (however some state law may seem to stand on the matter) and that even - even - a magistrate is deserving of decent treatment by his employers. In doing so with coherent and positive explanation you would enhance the standing of the parliament, perhaps also eventually of the courts and certainly of people coping with disability, in the general public eye. The distance between justice and compassion should not be astronomical.

For ease of reference, here is section 5 of the DDA.

I have copied this to members of the parliament in my region who know me: The Speaker, Acting Speaker Ward, Mr Green, Mr Park.

Hoping for sensible action, I am

Dennis Argall