November 28

High Court justice attacked

The New South Wales NSW Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, recently strongly criticised the High Court judge Justice Michael Kirby.

He was referring the judge's support for a charter of rights and his argument that the tenure of judges should be limited to 10 years (“A-G sees red over judge's opinions,” report by Michael Pelly, The Australian ,  22 November, 2008.)


In the meantime the NSW Attorney described Justice Kirby’s comments as “unnecessarily provocative” and “profoundly wrong”.

"Justice Kirby has said a lot of things in recent time that I don't agree with… I think it is important for judges to be able to make contributions to public discourse," Mr Hatzistergos said.

"They have tremendous capacity to be able to provoke debate on issues that are important to us as a society.

"But I think — particularly if they are serving judges — that entry into debates that might lead to criticism of themselves may also reflect adversely on the court.

“ I think people need to be circumspect and be sure the balance is properly struck. "I don't agree with the views of His Honour in regard to a use-by date for judges. I think that was unnecessarily provocative.

"I think there are a number of judges who have been outstanding and who have served the court for a very long period of time and if I may say so, with respect, that he is probably one of them."

Where precisely the balance to which the Attorney refers is not clear.

But it would be entirely unacceptable, for example, for a High Court judge to be seen to be involved in a campaign for, say, the abolition of the states , or the removal of the Crown.




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