The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) welcomes today’s announcement by the Attorney-General of Australia, the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP committing the Government to implementing all three recommendations made to it in Without Fear or Favour: Judicial Impartiality and the Law on Bias (Report 138, 2021).
The Attorney-General confirmed that the Government accepted in principle:
- Recommendation 5 – establishment of a Federal Judicial Commission;
- Recommendation 7 – development of a more transparent process for appointing federal judicial officers on merit involving publication of criteria for appointment and public calls for expressions of interest, and expressed the Government’s commitment to promoting diversity in the judiciary;
- Recommendation 8 – collection and reporting of statistics on judicial diversity.
Implementation of these recommendations by Government, following further consultation, will support litigant and public confidence in judicial impartiality and strengthen institutional structures to support judges and address systemic biases.
President of the ALRC, the Hon Justice SC Derrington, said the Inquiry had found that public confidence in Australian judges was generally high, and that judges took their oath of office to administer impartial justice seriously.
“The implementation of the recommendations will strengthen an already good system. The establishment of a federal judicial commission would build on the successful work of judicial commissions in the states and territories upholding the integrity and independence of the judiciary.”
The Government’s acceptance of the ALRC’s recommendations demonstrates the value of independent evidence-based law reform, and the ALRC’s highly consultative approach. Over the course of the Inquiry, more than 2000 people across Australia contributed their views to the ALRC through surveys and consultations. Those consulted included litigants and other court users, current and former members of the judiciary and tribunals, the legal profession, non-profit legal services, community groups, and academics. The consultations informed the recommendations which will now be implemented.
The Inquiry relates to the law as it applies to judges in the High Court, Federal Court, and Federal Circuit and Family Court. The Inquiry was prompted by decision of a Full Court of the Family Court of Australia in Charisteas v Charisteas concerning personal contact between the trial judge and counsel for one of the parties.
Nadine Davidson-Wall, Communications and Events Co-ordinator