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Polly Peck
23 October, 2007  
Capital Offences

A breathtaking 35 legal appointments were announced by Fabulous Phil Ruddock in the weeks before the election was called … ACT judiciary depleted by death of Terry Connolly and retirement of Ken Crispin

imageAttorney General (Fabulous) Phil Ruddock has been almost silent since the federal election was called. Maybe Little Winston is keeping his front-line nasty-boys away from the TV cameras during the campaign.

Of course, there was a bucket-load of judicial and legal job placements unveiled by Phil in the weeks leading to the election announcement. I counted at least 35 appointments, which should cement the Ruddock-era for another generation or so. Let’s start from the top:

  • Susan Kiefel to the High Court.
  • Geoffrey Flick (Sydney), John Logan (Brisbane), Neil McKerracher (Perth) and John Reeves (Darwin), to the Federal Court.
  • Peter Murphy (Brisbane) and Stuart Fowler (Sydney) to the Family Court.
  • Susan Purdon-Sully (Brisbane), Margaret Cassidy (Brisbane) and Jillian Orchiston (Sydney) to the Federal Magistrates Court.
  • Federal Court justices Emmett and Allsop become president and deputy president respectively of the Copyright Tribunal.
  • Recently retired Queensland Court of Appeal judge Bruce McPherson and former Federal Court judge Robert Nicholson to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal as part-time deputy presidents and Steve Karas as a part-time senior member. Also, Julian Block was reappointed for a further stint as an AAT part-time deputy president and Prof. Graham Johnston as a part-time member.
  • Andrew Phelan is to be the new chief executive and principal registrar of the High Court.
  • Liz Broderick from Blake Dawson Waldron takes the reigns as Sex Discrimination Commissioner.
  • Oolya Booya is the new deputy director of the Classification Board.
  • Daniel O’Dea gets another trot as a member of the Native Title Tribunal.
  • Former Judge Advocate General Kevin Duggan is reappointed to the Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal.
  • Federal Court judge Berna Collier from Brisvegas becomes a part-time member of the Australian Law Reform Commission.
  • John Wade replaces Patrick Parkinson as chairman of the Family Law Council, with Justice Garry Watts, Nicola Davies and Clive Price reappointed to further three-year terms with the FLC.
  • Prof. Nadja Alexander goes to the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council, while Josephine Akee, Fabian Dixon SC, Ian Hanger QC, Gaye Sculthorpe and Greg Hansen are all rolled-over for fresh terms.
  • Brigadier Bill Rolfe is to report for duty as a part-time member of the Administrative Review Council. Yes Sir.
  • Oh, I nearly forgot. Chris Craigie SC is the new DPP.


    * * *

    Phil’s job is to keep the government’s terror credentials firmly in the frame.

    To this end he announced on October 14: “Commonwealth supports Tasmanian counter-terrorism exercise.”

    The exercise is on right now “in various regional locations across Tasmania” and is designed to get the Taswegians nice and pumped about terror.

    The Tassie Terror manoeuvre came hard on the heels of Phil accusing Labor of having no plan on national security because all it is proposing is a White Paper on the topic, which won’t be out till the end of 2008.

    But hey, isn’t that the very time the AG has asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to come up a review of the Freedom of Information Act in accordance with some go-nowhere terms of reference?

    If expedient delay is good for the goose, why not the gander?

    Happily, Phil did manage to get his all-important classification law amendments, under which material advocating terrorism will be banned, through the Senate in the final moments before parliament was prorogued. For good measure he also “re-listed” the Kurdistan Workers Party as a terrorist organisation.

    And in an interesting election twist, Phil cast Labor as the party that “slavishly” follows the US:

    “It is Labor who (sic) is all the way with the USA with its idea to simply copy the US-style Department of Homeland Security.”

    There’s a vote winning surprise every day in this campaign.

    * * *

    Canberra’s legal and political circles were dismayed at the sudden death of ACT Supreme Court Judge Terry Connolly, who suffered a heart attack last month while cycling.

    Connolly, appointed in 2003 as the youngest-ever ACT Supreme Court judge, had been a Master of the court from 1996-2003 and ACT Attorney General between 1991 and 1995.

    He was mourned by hundreds, with judges aplenty, at the territory’s first state funeral on October 3.

    Connollys wife, ACT Human Rights Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs, spoke of, “My own Mr Darcy, with those big brown soulful eyes that Colin Firth could never match”.

    She hoped that the donation of his eyes would inspire others to become organ donors.

    ACT Chief Justice Terry Higgins remembered, “a person of admirable character, a judicial officer whose principles never deviated from the expectations of the public whom he served”.

    imageHiggins thought there was one problem with Connolly (pic):

    “At times, his cycling lycra was so bright that sunglasses were needed, even indoors.”

    The CJ remembered Connolly’s inaugural speech in the ACT Legislative Assembly, where he explained why law was his career choice:

    “Law, as well as being an instrument of social control, is the primary weapon in the fight for social justice.”

    As the territory’s Attorney General Connolly initiated the process leading to the ACT’s Bill of Rights, Australia’s first.

    ACT Chief Leaker Jon Stanhope said Connolly, “remained the archetype of the model politician, calm, courteous and always respectful”.

    * * *

    imageJustice Ken Crispin (pic) retired from the ACT Supreme Court on October 10, which means there are now two vacancies on Canberras big bench.

    Crispy’s retirement speech was topical. On Fabulous Phil and his colleagues, he said:

    “Sadly, the Commonwealth government has not been an island of reason in the flood of hysteria over terrorism.

    “Australia has also faced greater dangers from violent enemies. Why then are we now engaging in a panic-stricken rush to jettison our rights and freedoms?”

    Good question, Ken. On he ploughed:

    “The decade in which I have been a judge has seen the law buffeted by fear and knee-jerk responses embraced as though they had been handed down from Mount Sinai.”

    Those “tough on crime” mantras overlooked the underlying causes of drug dependency and mental illness, which often were not addressed “adequately or even sensibly”.

    CJ Higgins called-up a few highlights of Crispy’s career.

    For instance, he’d represented the Chamberlains at the Morling Royal Commission, which led to their exoneration for Azaria’s death. He’d dismissed an action by Aboriginal tent embassy representatives seeking warrants for the arrest of Little Johnny, Deputy PM Tim Fischer, Independent Senator Brain Harradine and One Nationite Pauline Hanson on genocide charges – but not before holding court around the tent embassy campfire.

    More recently, in a protracted house repossession case Crispin commented:

    “The proceedings have been protracted, tortuous and attended by a comedy of errors sufficient to inspire the producers of The Castle to consider making a sequel.”

    Crispy summarised the facts with this description of the first appellant’s struggle:

    “He appeared a small, tired, sick David forced to fight a corporate Goliath without any sling or stones. Yet, unexpectedly, he launched one legal missile. He handed up an historical company extract … that revealed that Citibank Savings Ltd [the respondent] had been de-registered on 13 June 1996.”

    “Rather significant,” Higgins noted, “given these proceedings took place in 2005”.

    And who could possibly forget his jabs in the case of Squadron Leader Vance?

    “It is inescapable that the defendants have already had almost five-and-a-half years to find the documents relevant to the retirement of a single officer. An earlier generation of military officers waged the First World War in substantially less time.”

    Cripsy retires holding the keys to a silver Porsche Boxster.

    Vroom, vroom!