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Court in the Act
11 April, 2003  
Tubby's in the firing line

The High Court is a real wheeze these days. The bon mots are flying thick and fast from those droll wags. Well, there were two in two days


The dry sticks of the High Court have recently cast off their glumness and are having a riot of a time. In particular, Smiler Gleeson, who not all that long ago lectured against witticisms in the court, is at the forefront of the japes:

Gillard v The Queen

Transcript of proceedings, Tuesday April 1, 2003

KIRBY J: He did see Mr Preston leave with a gun?

D. PEEK QC (for the appellant): I have to come to that. Your Honour, I wonder if I can come to that in the course of the submissions because that is a not unimportant aspect, but can I say just now in direct answer to your Honour, that was a matter that was postulated by the prosecution but the accused, Gillard, in fact said to the police he did not see a gun.

KIRBY J: How big was the gun?

MR PEEK: We have it in court and I was going to actually give a very brief demonstration of the cocking procedure later. Would it suffice if your Honour looked at it at that time rather than now?

KIRBY J: Is it a big gun or a pistol?

MR PEEK: It is a pistol, I am sorry, your Honour. It is a Luger pistol and not a particularly big pistol. It is an automatic pistol, or a semi-automatic to be quite precise, rather than a bulky revolving cylinder pistol.

GLEESON CJ: If you are going to point it at us would you mind pointing it in the direction of Justice Callinan?

MR PEEK: I see.

Bashford v Information Australia (Newsletters) Pty Ltd

The next day the court was hearing an appeal in a defamation case, concerning qualified privilege and the reciprocity of a publisher’s duty and a reader’s interest:

R. McColl SC (for the appellant): Ö The duty which is the “common convenience and welfare of society” to which regard is had in determining whether a qualified privilege duty arises is one which is imposed by society, namely, what would right-thinking people regard as whether or not there was a duty, not Ö

GUMMOW J: How do we find these creatures?

Ms McCOLL: Well, they are the reasonable people who inhabit the streets of Phillip Street and George Street.

GUMMOW J: Mrs Thatcher said there was no such thing as society, and she had a point. She said there is no such thing as society.

CALLINAN J: Only families, I think.

GUMMOW J: These just get repeated.

GLEESON CJ: Well, “right-thinking people” means people like me.

Ms McCOLL: I have no doubt your Honour is a right-thinking member of society.

What a hoot.