A legal Pandora’s box was opened recently when three federal ministers were invited to appear before the Victorian Court of Appeal to answer an allegation that they were in contempt of the same court.
Contempt of court is an unlawful interference with the due operation of our system of justice. It is a crime punishable by a fine or imprisonment.
The three ministers used derogatory language to describe Victorian sentencing decisions and the judges who made them. It was strident political discourse common to the floor of parliament but involving language less common in a legal setting. These comments were reported in The Australian.
If the ministers had been convicted of contempt, they would no longer be eligible under our Constitution to serve in parliament. Given the one-seat majority of our federal government, a conviction of any one of the minsters for contempt could have brought down the government.
Read the rest of the article in The Australian here: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/contempt-of-court-action-against-ministers-was-conflict-best-avoided/news-story/365afca0e19e1e92d3e611fef3dbf080