Friday, August 06, 2010

For judicial transparency

Yesterday the Greens put a number of new bills in the ballot. Among them was Kennedy Graham's Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill [PDF], which would force members of the judiciary to disclose their interests and hence their potential conflicts of interest.

This is a good idea. We already have one judge before a Judicial Conduct Panel over a conflict of interest. This bill will hopefully prevent any repeats (and if it doesn't, allow the erring judges to be sacked for failing to provide full disclosure).

Some people will protest that this is an intrusion into judges' privacy, and that we should trust them to behave honourably. These people are fools. Quite apart from Justice Wilson's empirical disproof, trust is for suckers. In a democratic society we should not have to trust public officials to behave properly. Instead, we should be able to know. But that requires the ability to scrutinize their actions - hence, disclosure, registers, freedom of information laws, and the public justification of decisions. These things ensure that power is used properly and that it is not (or at least less) abused. And that makes us a better, more just society.