Victorian State Election 2018: Meet Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party!

I don’t have time to read all of this!
The Basics

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Website:  https://www.justiceparty.com.au/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/justiceparty.com.au/
Themes: Tougher sentencing!  No bail for violent criminals!  Tougher parole laws!  And be nicer to animals.

With friends like these…
The Group Voting Ticket

Hinch’s favourite parties seem to be the Aussie Battlers, Transport Matters and Sustainable Australia.  From memory, Sustainable Australia is as hard to get a read on as the Battlers, so this indicates a preference for the highly confused… Hudson, the Liberal Democrats and the Animal Justice Party also appear several times in his top five.  In Eastern Victoria he puts Michael Fozard high on his ballot, and in South Eastern Metropolitan he puts Chawla’s team second and all the ungrouped independents towards the top of his ballot.

The bottom of his ballot is always the Greens, with Liberal and Labor directly above, often alternating candidates (sometimes Liberal first, sometimes Labor first).  The Australian Liberty Alliance is always fourth last and the Victorian Socialists always fifth from the bottom.  The only exception to this rule is in South Eastern Metropolitan, where he clearly has Feelings about the Transport Matters candidates.  Ali Khan is ranked 16; Sharma Chetan and Roona Fazal are at 27 and 28; but Inderpal Singh and Deepakbir Kaur are at 52 and 53 – below even the Greens!  I would love to know what they have done to offend Derryn, but alas, a quick Google tells me nothing.

The main trends I see here is that Hinch really doesn’t like the major parties, but he has a soft spot for independents.  He tends to favour the more confused and woo-filled minor parties over either the lunar left or rabid right parties, suggesting a centrist leaning.  And putting Chawla and Lee at second on his ticket suggests that stopping family violence is a priority for him.

The Body Politic
Policies, Snark, Terrible Theme Songs and Other Observations

In Australia, in recent years, it has seemed that magistrates and judges are, increasingly, dangerously, more concerned with the welfare of convicted criminals than they are about their victims. We believe the punishment should fit the crime.

Under community pressure, politicians have increased maximum sentences for some violent crimes but they are rarely imposed. Even minimum sentences are not honoured. And suspended sentences, early parole and name suppression constitute a sick joke.

Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party has no slogan, but on their front page they do quote Peter Finch in Network: ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’

Which is better than what I want to do, which is quote the Mikado…

My object all sublime / I shall achieve in time / To make the punishment fit the crime, the punishment fit the crime!
And let each prisoner pent / unwillingly represent / a source of innocent merriment, of innocent merriment…

Ahem.  Where were we?  Ah yes.  ‘Mad as hell’, along with the word ‘Justice’ in the party name, are pretty much the key themes of the party: justice has not been done, and we are going to change things so that justice is done.  Despite being tough on crime, the DHJP is not an especially right wing party, however.  They are low on xenophobia, high on feminism, and above all motivated by concern for the victims of crime.  The main page of the website has a tab for the National Redress Scheme (for victims of institutionalised abuse), which contains a link to the scheme itself, as well as information about legal, financial, and counselling support.  Another tab leads to an American petition to change the law so that if anyone sees a young child left unattended in a car, they must report this to the police, and stay with the child until help comes.

This is a party of people who feel strongly and will not stand by idly while others are hurt.  They do not strike me as people with particularly nuanced views, but their hearts are in the right place.

I won’t go through all the candidates, but I did want to note in passing that I’ve clicked on a lot of candidate pages in the last few days, and this was the first party I’ve seen that was dominated by female candidates – eight out of the twelve listed.  Which makes a refreshing change.

The DHJP has eight policies most of them quite brief and unexpectedly clear.  This has not been a feature of the policies I’ve been reading this week, and it’s very refreshing.  This is the advantage of drawing our politicians from the journalist class!

Also… it might even be effective politicking, because I have to say, I’m feeling a bit swayed in the DHJP’s favour right now just because they are so lucid and easy to make sense of.  Never underestimate the advantage of a well-written policy platform!

So.

Hinch has strong feelings about Animal Cruelty, and has been writing (and attending protests!) in this space for more than 40 years.  He is a long time Greenpeace supporter, and is working with the Greens to block live exports.  And he wants harsher penalties for animal cruelty.

On Dying with Dignity, the party believes that voluntary euthanasia should be legal nationally. Apparently, Hinch co-sponsored a motion to remove the Howard/Kevin Andrews legislation blocking voluntary euthanasia in the Northern Territory, the ACT and Norfolk Island.

Under Equal Rights, there is only a single sentence, but they make it count.

Senator Hinch was a co-sponsor of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017. This Act amended the Marriage Act 1961 to redefine marriage as ‘the union of 2 people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’.

It’s the little black dress of policies – simple, elegant, and always appropriate.

Under Domestic Violence Law Reform, they start by stating simply that domestic violence is a crime.  They point out that there have been a lot of reviews and raising of awareness – but no real money put into fighting domestic violence, and indeed, some services have been cut.  The DHJP wants action, not just words!

Of course, Hinch’s main area of interest is crime and justice, and here the policies get a little longer.

An honest barrister recently admitted: ‘We don’t have a justice system in this country. We have a legal system’.

Hinch wants sentencing to reflect community views, which is to say, he wants sentences to be longer.  He is frustrated by the fact that maximum sentences are rarely imposed, due to legal precedents.   He is concerned that these short sentences just give people more opportunities to commit crimes once released.

While I agree with him to a point, I note that this view assumes that prisoners never reform.  It’s rather Javert-like, really. “I have hunted you across the years / A man like you can never change…”

Hinch has policies on both Bail Reform and Parole Reform, both of which amount to ‘if we took these seriously, Jill Meagher wouldn’t be dead and the Lindt Café seige couldn’t have happened.

Our bail system is supposedly there to protect our community against alleged criminals pending trial. While we support the premise that ‘every man is innocent until proven guilty’, we argue that in cases where a person has been charged with committing an indictable (serious) offence involving an act of violence, there should be no right to bail. Particularly if the alleged offender is already on bail for other offences or has a history of violence and/or threats of violence.

Basically, he wants to tighten both bail and parole requirements for violent criminals.

I’ve always understood that the intention of prison is three-fold – to punish the perpetrator, to protect society from the perpetrator, and, ideally, to provide prisoners with an opportunity to change, reform, and become productive members of society on release.  Now, historically, we haven’t been particularly good at this, but it can be done (or at least, it works in Norway).  Do I think everyone is capable of change?  Well, I think it depends a lot on whether they want to, and some people certainly don’t.  But there is a lot to be said for giving people the opportunity to try, and then seeing where we stand and whether they are safe to re-enter society.

I suppose it wouldn’t be practical to just… not give sentences, but rather say, ‘prison for you, until you’ve convinced us that you won’t do it again’.  And maybe that’s five years or maybe that’s 25 years, but it’s about the specific person who committed the crime, not the nature of the crime committed.

So yes, I’d like to see our bail system reformed – I agree that people suspected of violent crimes shouldn’t get bail.  And yes, there are certainly crimes where I’d like to see tougher sentencing.  Minimum sentences should be served, barring extraordinary circumstances.  But what I’d really like to see is an intensive effort at re-education and rehabilitation for people who are imprisoned for crimes, and a parole system that monitors their progress rigorously while they are in prison, before making decisions about whether to let them out early.

Do you know what I don’t think would help with this?  Creating a public register of convicted sex offenders.  Which is, of course, Hinch’s flagship policy, and one about which he writes very passionately.

We want a public register because sexual predators rely on anonymity. It is one of their most powerful weapons — especially against children. In many child abuse cases, the child victim is told ‘this is a secret’. Anyone could be a sexual predator, which makes it extremely hard to protect yourself and your family.

Sexual offences often result in suppression orders unlike other violent crimes. These suppression orders are often introduced under the guise of ‘it’s to protect the victim’ but, in fact, it is aimed at protecting the identity of the offender.

When sexual assault victims do come forward — and suffer reliving the ordeal under the glare of our court system — they do it not just for justice for themselves.  They don’t want the person who attacked them to be able to do it again to someone else. If the community is not allowed to know who the offender is, that objective fails.

Yes, but I don’t think this is the way to fix the problem.  For one thing, it’s really hard to reveal the identity of the offender without making it possible for people to figure out the identity of the victim, especially in higher-profile cases.  For another, it really is begging for vigilante justice.  For a third… where exactly do these people wind up living?  Because I don’t think anyone wants them next door…

Once again, it comes down to a belief that as soon as someone comes out of prison they are going to offend again.  If that’s the case, that is a problem with our prison system.  If that’s not the case… we shouldn’t be setting them up to be unable to integrate in society.  Frankly, if we think particular people are going to re-offend, the responsible thing to do is give them a life sentence, not let them out to be marginalised to the point where offending again looks like a fine form of revenge as well as appealing in its own right.

Basically, if we think someone is reformed enough to be out of prison, by all means, let’s keep them away from working with children or living near schools.  By all means, make sure the police know who and where they are.  But beyond that – we have to leave them alone.  Otherwise, we might as well have never let them out.

And I can’t believe I’m making this argument, because frankly, I really would like to see rapists and child molesters get long sentences.  They are not a class of prisoner that tends to reform.  I think it’s just that… if you are basically saying ‘the punishment for this crime is that you will always be treated as a criminal’, then you might as well own this, and give them life.  And if you are not saying that… then you have to give them a chance to not reoffend.

Bleargh.  I’m pretty sure I’m getting tangled up now.  So I’m going to stop – but I’ll just leave you with one final thought, which is that I remember reading Hinch’s policies a few years ago and being pleasantly surprised, and even quite impressed, with some of the insights he had into things like domestic violence and abuse.  And none of that is there anymore.  There is no nuance, and no background.

I know I said it was a pleasure to read policies that were both clear and concise, but I think these are maybe a bit too concise.  And I’m a little disappointed, because I feel as though Hinch used to be better than this.

He’s looking like a solid contender for the middle of the ballot.  He hasn’t done any harm in Parliament, and he has done some good, and he’ll be a strong voice on domestic violence.  But please, don’t anyone put him in charge of any criminal registers, OK?

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2 thoughts on “Victorian State Election 2018: Meet Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party!

  1. As a survivor of child sexual abuse I want to like the DHJP but I honestly don’t think such a comprehensive and public register would work. All it would do is further alienate the offender from society and push them towards recidivism. Should people be informed of potential danger to them or their children? Most definitely. But I don’t know if forcing people away from schools and playgrounds would actually be helpful and I don’t think harsher sentencing will ever deter people from committing crimes, we need to fix the underlying socio-economic problems for a chance of that happening. Though I suppose that is the lefty coming out in me haha.

    I must say I have been impressed by Derryn Hinch in Parliament even if I don’t fully agree with him, he votes far more reasonably than I expected him too. They’ll definitely be somewhere in the middle of my preferences.

    Though when I attended the Southern Metro forum their candidate constantly referred to Derryn in a hero-worship like manner and what he would do, she did not talk about herself and her values, though I suppose that is expected when the party has his name in the title.

    Thanks for your piece, it’s always a delight to read something so eloquently put together.

    • Yes, it’s odd – he is much more reasonable in parliament than his policies would suggest.
      I’m sorry to hear about your experience, and agree with your thoughts about recidivism.

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