Federal ministers facing contempt charges in Melbourne

Three senior Turnbull government ministers are due to face a Melbourne court today to explain why they shouldn’t be charged with contempt over their remarks on Victorian judicial decisions.

Health Minister Greg Hunt, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar have been called to appear at the Supreme Court for remarks about light sentencing of terrorists in NSW and Victoria.

It followed statements made by two judges during a hearing in which the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions had appealed against the seven and a half year non-parole sentence imposed last year on Anzac Day plotter Sevdet Ramadan Besim.


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According to the president of the Judicial Conference of Australia, Justice Robert Beech-Jones, their comments were “unfounded, grossly improper and unfair”.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has thrown his support behind the trio and said it was “very unusual” for ministers to be hauled before a court and that he supported their right as “Victorian citizens” to voice concern.

Mr Turnbull said his government and its ministers respect the independence of the judiciary but criticism of court decisions must be allowed.

He added that there was “real concern about law and order and the failure of the state government and the system to protect people”.

Mr Hunt accused the Victorian court system of becoming a forum for “ideological experiments” as the Court of Appeal considered a federal prosecutor’s appeal over the sentence of a terrorist.

Mr Sukkar told The Australian newspaper the judiciary should focus more on victims and less on terrorists’ rights, while Mr Tudge said some judges were “divorced from reality”.

The ministers are not expected in court today and will be represented by lawyers who are being funded by tax-payers.

Labor slammed the government’s decision to publicly pay for the ministers’ court appearance.