Watch the Attorney-General deliver the Australian Government’s response to the ALRC’s final report and recommendations in the Judicial Impartiality Inquiry, followed by reflections on different aspects of the report by three members of the Inquiry’s Advisory Committee.
The Hon Justice SC Derrington opened the webinar by giving a brief overview of the Inquiry before introducing keynote speaker, Commonwealth Attorney-General the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP.
In his presentation, the Attorney-General formally welcomed the ALRC’s report Without Fear or Favour: Judicial Impartiality and the Law on Bias (Report 138, 2021), and committed the Government to implementing all three recommendations directed to it for consideration. 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; and
- Recommendation 8 – collection and reporting of statistics on judicial diversity.
The Attorney-General also noted the 11 recommendations directed at the federal courts, Council of Chief Justices of Australia and New Zealand and the Law Council of Australia, and committed to undertaking broad consultations to support relevant entities to consider and implement the recommendations where appropriate to do so. He acknowledged that the implementation of some recommendations may have financial, resourcing, or other operational impacts for the courts and committed the Government to engaging with the courts in relation to these impacts.
The Attorney-General’s address was followed by a panel discussion between three members of the Inquiry’s advisory committee moderated by Sarah Fulton, Principal Legal Officer for the Inquiry. Panellists gave brief reflections on a cross-section of topics covered by the report:
- The Hon Robert French AC, former Chief Justice, High Court of Australia, reflected on the nature of judicial impartiality, and its importance to the judicial function;
- Professor Gabrielle Appleby, UNSW Faculty of Law and Director of the Judiciary Project at the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, discussed procedural reforms and the establishment of a Federal Judicial Commission recommended by the Inquiry; and
- Mr Anthony McAvoy SC, barrister and Chair of the Indigenous Legal Issues Committee of the Law Council of Australia, spoke about the report’s focus on institutional and systemic aspects of bias in judicial decision-making, and responses to them.
The webinar was rounded off by panellists responding to questions from the audience on topics including:
- practical steps to enhance litigant confidence in judicial impartiality;
- the potential for a federal judicial commission to consider complaints about past cases;
- the potential role of any federal judicial commission in responding to mental and physical health challenges faced by judges; and
- the benefits of a more transparent and structured judicial appointments process.
- The Hon Justice SC Derrington AM, President, ALRC and Judge, Federal Court of Australia
- The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP, Attorney-General of Australia
- Sarah Fulton, Principal Legal Officer (A/g), ALRC
- The Hon Robert French AC, former Chief Justice of Australia, High Court of Australia
- Professor Gabrielle Appleby, Director, The Judiciary Project, Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, University of New South Wales
- Mr Anthony McAvoy SC, Barrister, Frederick Jordan Chambers