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William Collins
27 July, 2005  
Masterplan brutalises the lingo

The Melbourne Legal Precinct Masterplan takes the English language to new and spooky places … The new President of the Court of Appeal gets a decent welcome


The Melbourne Legal Precinct Masterplan, published by the Victorian Department of Justice, reveals the extent of the innovative inroads being made into the English language.

I suppose we should be thankful for small mercies in that the masterplan spares us that maddeningly modish and meaningless abstraction, “the vision statement”.

Chilling as the term “masterplan” might be, at least this one seeks to have objectives, the first of which is pretty exciting:

“Implementation of the Justice Statement consolidation and coordination of court facilities in the legal precinct are essential and integral elements of the successful delivery of Justice Statement output initiatives.”

The bureaucrats might as well have gone the whole hog and “re-badged” the Supreme Court as “The Supreme Victorian Delivery Court of Victorian Justice Statement Output Initiatives”.

I simply cannot bring myself to set out the whole of the second “objective”, entitled “Meeting an Identified Service Need”. The opening and concluding bits say quite enough:

  • “Options address immediate and long-term court services requirements (Service Needs) for consolidated and upgraded court facilities in the precinct based on demonstrated …; and
  • The potential for enhanced court service delivery through precinct-wide synergies.”

    For those want to wallow in the entire body of the masterplan’s verbiage, it can be found “embedded in” the Supreme Court of Victoria’s own web site.

    We can appreciate a little better the resentment of some of the judges, specially as the recently retired Phillips JA reminded us that the Supreme Court is “Business Unit 19” in the Department of Justice.

    I know I’m a fogy, but surely Maxwell P, Warren CJ, Rozenes CJCC and Gray CM, might get in the department’s ear and tell the pen pushers to cut out the mumbo-jumbo and explain what they’re on about, in English.

    Sunshine for the Court of Appeal

    imageWhat should have been the big Yarraside legal news of early July was the announcement by Attorney General Hulls of his appointment of Christopher M. Maxwell QC to succeed Justice John Winneke as President of the Court of Appeal.

    As of July 14, the appointment did not warrant a single paragraph in either of Melbourne’s daily tissues. So much for the attentiveness of the local organs of the Fourth Estate, especially that world famous newspaper of record The Age. David Syme will be turning in his grave.

    Justice Maxwell, aged 52, has a long record of high achievement. A first class honours degree in philosophy and history from the University of Melbourne, the Victorian Rhodes Scholarship in 1975, a B.Phil from Oxford, admission to the English Bar (Lincoln’s Inn), and then back to Melbourne for his LLB while holding down paid employment.

    His Honour was admitted to practise in Victoria in 1979, had a stint at Phillips Fox & Masel, and spent time on the personal staff of Senator Gareth Evans both before and after the ALP’s 1983 federal election victory.

    The new President read with K.M. Hayne and R. McK. Robson and signed the roll of counsel in 1984. He was soon much in demand in commercial law, public law, tax, etc, etc, etc.

    He took silk in 1998 and at the time of his appointment was one of the Victorian Bar’s leading appellate counsel.

    The new judge’s many extracurricular interests included an appointment as the Commonwealth Attorney’s nominee on the (now replaced) Legal Aid Commission of Victoria and a term as president of Liberty Victoria.

    From the beginning, his Honour was actively involved in pro bono work. He had a leading role with Julian Burnside on behalf of Liberty Victoria in the Tampa litigation.

    A recent example of his work for the battlers can be seen in Tankard v Chafer involving the free speech rights of a citizen fighting the Local Laws Manager of the Shire of Melton, in Melbourne’s endlessly expanding western suburbs.

    Maxwell also knows much about public administration having had a role as counsel in the judicial inquiry into the Australian Secret Intelligence Service conducted by Gordon Samuels QC in 1994. More recently, he conducted an inquiry into Victoria’s occupational health and safety legislation and his report resulted in root and branch reform.

    Noted for his prodigious energy, the new President is active in community affairs in Melbourne’s inner southern suburbs where he is also the successful coach of a teenage Australian Rules side. He was also a rugger player at Oxford.

    Maxwell P faces a number of pressing tasks, particularly the reduction of long delays in the Court of Appeal.

    A plain speaker, he made it clear at his welcome on July 25, that the Victorian government will have to think again if it considers that delays can be solved by his cracking the presidential whip on his already over-worked judicial brethren.

    The Court of Appeal is entering a new phase with talk of retirement by two of its inaugural members – Charles and Ormiston.

    Attorney General Hulls has now installed the heads of all the Yarraside courts.