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22 September, 2005  
Meet Mr Justice Crennan

The new High Court person has loads and loads of “merit”. This is the “best person for the job” who “stood out in a very talented field”. Fabulous Phil spins hard to downplay the “woman” factor. Why?

imageWhen Fabulous Phil Ruddock called a press conference on Tuesday (September 20) to announce the appointment of Susan Crennan to the High Court more than half the time was actually taken up with the attorney waxing on about how various commonwealth court buildings would be named in honour of servants to the conservative cause: Sir G. Barwick, Sir N. Bowen, Sir O. Dixon, Sir H. Gibbs, Peter Durack, etc.

Maybe this is the message. If the new appointee does the “right thing” she might get the High Court rebadged as the “Sir” Susan Crennan Building.

We understand that the Mr Justice Crennan preferred the blokey moniker of “chairman” when she led the Victorian Bar n’ Lounge.

Various of the tissues yesterday dug up evidence that the judge is opposed to affirmative action and feminism.

Fabulous Phil also was at pains to play down “the woman” thing. Crennan was variously described by him as “the new judge … the judge … a person … the best person”.

The emphasis was on a “merit” appointment with nothing to do with the woman thing, although as Phil explained in his inimitable way:

“It has been my view over a period of time that I should appoint the best person for the job, and sometimes that best person happens to be a woman.”

He was pressed by a reptile:

“Nonetheless, are you pleased to be able to appoint a woman?”

His reply:

“I simply make the point I’m pleased to be able to appoint the best person for the job.”

Thank God that’s cleared-up.

Phil certainly seems to have a “thing” about this “person”. He appointed it to the Federal Court 20 months ago, in February 2004 – just three months after he took over as attorney general.

Now he’s successfully persuaded cabinet that it gets the High Court vacancy although, quaintly, the attorney says it’s only being “recommended” as the 45th “person” to be appointed to the High Court. It still has to be approved by that tiresome old leftie at Yarralumla, Colonel Jeffrey Blimp.

We’ve hunted high and low for some of the amusing qualities we are assured the “new judge” possesses. There’s little to go on.

She greets guests at her St Patrick’s Day parties by beating an Irish drum, she once leant against an emergency stop button at a factory while on a view and inadvertently shut down the entire plant, and she had such a stressful time running VicBar that someone gave her a bottle of Grecian 2000.

Those were the hilarious highlights that got a run at her Federal Court swearing-in. It just seems rather lean for someone who’s as Irish as Paddy’s pigs and looks like quite a fun “person”.

Justice Crennan’s entry in the skite sheet Who’s Who is full of the usual worthy service on endless bar and law committees. The bar committee for this, the bar committee for that. Bar, bar, bar.

While getting behind the lounge’s pro bono scheme, nonetheless she was steadfast in seeing that the club ran the profession and fought that idea that barristers function under the supervision of the Trade Practices Act.

There was a glimmer of the wider world on the CV – she was a member of the board of the Australian Book Review. and she’s still on the council of Melbourne Uni. Apart from that it looks like a dry old time in committee land.

We’ll sign off with her enigmatic closing words at her Federal Court swearing-in. Referring to Smiler Gleeson’s observation that we live in a “rights-conscious age”, Justice Crennan said:

“I intend no condescension toward the past when I say such an age obliges judges to be especially attentive to the relationship between the authority of the law, continuity and change.”