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.