25 Sep. 2007


What a splendid farce the funeral of Bob Collins has become. Collins was offered a state memorial service by the Federal Government, but today's lurid details of child sexual abuse had even Joe Hockey gagging. Under growing public pressure, and after talks with Collins's family, John Howard has canceled the funeral arrangements.

It's not like the whole thing was unforeseeable. When Collins' court case was deferred in March, it was the third time his case was heard in the ACT Magistrates Court since September 2006. Collins was facing 21 charges of child sex abuse dating back at least three decades, including allegations that he buggered young children in his Senate office while watching porn on TV. And nobody knew about this???

Under the circumstances, why on earth did Canberra offer Collins' family a state funeral? Sure, innocent until proven guilty, but...! They could have had a quiet family affair, now the whole thing has become a circus. And while that may be regrettable, it is far more regrettable that such cases are routinely delayed through the court system with the acquiescence of media and politicians.

Something is rotten to the core in Canberra. Both sides of politics will be running from this story as fast as they can, but this is a story that should not be swept under the carpet.

Brian Toohey's story in the Bulletin describes how youngsters molested by Collins many years ago have served (or are serving) jail terms on child-sex charges. And this sort of story seems to recur regularly in the corridors of power. Why?

Collins' defenders may claim that this is all part of a slander campaign, but that seems unlikely at this late stage. Such claims, however, should remind us of the dangers inherent in slanderous political campaigning. Those who drag down the offices of government are undermining the foundations of the democracy they purport to represent.

As the latest protests in Myanmar (or is it Burma?) remind us, democracy derives from the Greek word DEMOS, meaning "people". When the people have utterly lost faith in their political representatives, it's time for a new system of government.