SYDNEY 4.16 PM, MONDAY, 23 APRIL 2012 Copyright in Transcript is owned by the Commonwealth of Australia. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 you are not permitted to reproduce, adapt, re-transmit or distribute the Transcript material in any form or by any means without seeking prior written approval from the Federal Court of Australia.
GRIFFITHS J: Chief Justice, I have the honour to announce that I have received a commission from Her Excellency the Governor-General appointing me a judge of the Federal Court. I present my commission.
KEANE CJ: Mr Registrar, please read the commission.
Commission of appointment of a judge of the Federal Court of Australia: I, Quentin Bryce, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council and under section 72 of the Constitution and subsection 6(1) of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976, appoint John Edward Griffiths of Senior Counsel, learned in law, to be judge of the Federal of Australia, assigned to the Sydney Registry beginning on the 23rd day of April 2012 until he attains the age of 70 years. Signed and sealed with the great seal of Australia on the 19th day of April 2012, Quentin Bryce, Governor-General, by Her Excellency’s command, Nicola Roxon, Commonwealth Attorney-General. KEANE CJ: Justice Griffiths, I now invite you to take the oath of office.
GRIFFITHS J: I, John Edward Griffiths, do swear that I will bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors according to law and that I will well and truly serve her in the office of judge of the Federal Court of Australia and that I will do right to all manner of people according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.
KEANE CJ: Congratulations.
GRIFFITHS J: Thank you, Chief Justice.
KEANE CJ: Mr Registrar, please place this with the records of the Court. May I welcome you all on the occasion of the swearing in of Justice Griffiths as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia. This is a very important occasion in the life of the Court as an institution and it is a very happy occasion for the judges of the Court personally. The importance of the occasion is confirmed by the presence of many distinguished guests. In particular, it’s a pleasure to welcome Justices Gummow, Heydon and Bell of the High Court of Australia and Sir Anthony Mason and Lady Mason, the Honourable Michael McHugh, the Honourable James Spigelman and Professor Leslie Zines, as well as former judges of this court. It is also a source of great satisfaction to note the presence of Chief Justice Bathurst of New South Wales and our colleagues from the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of New South Wales.
I should mention an apology we have received from Justice Allsop, the President of the Court of Appeal of New South Wales and formerly a judge of this court, who would wish to be here but is unable to be here because he’s overseas. It is also very pleasing to note that the Honourable Nicola Roxon, the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, has honoured us by her attendance on this occasion, notwithstanding her brutal schedule. Before I call upon the Attorney-General to address the court, there are two things which I would like to say. First, on behalf of all the judges of the court, may I say how delighted we are that Justice Griffiths – now there’s a Freudian slip, especially from a Queenslander – that Justice Griffiths has been appointed to the court.
Justice Griffiths’ academic attainments are formidable indeed. He has of Master of Laws from Harvard University and a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy from Cambridge University. For four years, he was a fellow of Emmanuel College at Cambridge. Happily, he saw the light and decided to return to Australia’s sunny climes from that damp, cold place in the Fens where there is nothing between the suffering scholar and the North Sea but flatland and a strong easterly breeze. Justice Griffiths’ forensic attainments are even more impressive than his academic achievements. Justice Griffiths has been one of Australia’s most eminent barristers. He has been a leading silk for 11 years. As such, he has appeared regularly in this court. As a result, the judges of the court have come to appreciate very much his forensic skills as much as we have come to value his integrity.
The experience we have of him in his appearances in the court gives us every confidence that he will be very successful in this new stage of his professional life and that his success will be greatly to the advantage of the Australian community. If I may indulge in a personal note, the second thing I wish to say, Justice Griffiths, on behalf of the judges of the court, is that it is the earnest hope of all of us that you will enjoy working with us as much as we are confident that we will enjoy working with you. Attorney-General for the Commonwealth, do you move?
MS N. ROXON: Thank you. May it please the Court, first can I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land that we’re meeting on and pay my respects to their elders both past and present. It is indeed for me a very great pleasure and privilege to be here to present this afternoon representing the Australian Government and it’s particularly in welcoming your Honour, Justice John Edward Griffiths, as a judge for the Federal Court of Australia. I would like to extend my warmest congratulations and note that I think this is the fastest ever announcement and swearing in ceremony and it gives me enormous pleasure. I know all of the judges are very keen to get on with their work with you.
Can I also acknowledge the very large number of judges – chief judges, chief federal magistrate – of course, there are both current and past High Court judges all mentioned already by your Honour, the Chief Justice. Very importantly for today for Justice Griffiths is that he’s joined by his family and friends on this special occasion and I understand here today your wife, Beth, your son, Nye, your sister, Kerry, both your parents, Rory and Patricia, are here and I understand that you have a very sad son William who is unable to be here today but is undoubtedly just as proud of your achievements. Can I say congratulations to them as well as to you for this big announcement and swearing in today.
My announcement of your Honour’s appointment to this court came as no surprise to all of your colleagues. The appointment is fitting recognition of your legal skills, talent and experience – the culmination of many years in the profession. Perhaps some facts that not all in the room might know is that your Honour was born in Narrandera in New South Wales in 1952, spent your childhood in Grong Grong, a small country town just outside Wagga Wagga. At this time, Grong Grong had a population of fewer than 600 people and the local public school that you attended, typical of a small country school of the time, consisted of just a single classroom.
At Wagga Wagga High School, your Honour was known for your outstanding talents in debating, a skill that forecast a promising career in the law but also showed your drive to achieve, being awarded the dux of the school. I understand that the Wagga Wagga community is very excited about your appointment today, indeed is covering it in vast detail in their local newspaper. This drive, of course, continued throughout your academic career. In 1974, your Honour graduated from the Australian National University with a degree in arts and law. On graduating, your Honour was awarded the university medal in law and the ACT Supreme Court judge’s prize.
Your Honour then decided to pursue postgraduate studies with the help of encouragement of your long-time mentor, Professor Leslie Zines, who is here with you today. Professor Zines, your Constitutional Law professor, saw your potential and sought to ensure that your Honour obtained a broad range of academic and practical experience, thereby giving you the excellent foundations for your legal career. In 1976, your Honour completed a Masters of Law at Harvard University and in 1978, you were awarded a three-year scholarship to Cambridge University where you completed a Masters of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy. As if that were not enough, during your time at Cambridge, your Honour was awarded the 1981 York prize for your doctoral thesis, perhaps appropriately entitled Judicial Restraint and Activism in Judicial Review of Administrative Action for Abuse of Discretion.
Your Honour’s short career as a legal academic started in 1978 and ended in 1982, but during this time, your Honour was a fellow of the director of studies of law at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, as well as a lecturer in the faculty of law. On your Honour’s return from England, you were appointed director of the Federal Administrative Review Council in Canberra, where you served until 1985. In this role, your Honour was called upon to provide independent advice to the then Commonwealth Attorney-General on administrative law matters. In 1986, your Honour moved to Sydney and worked as a solicitor and partner at Blake Dawson Waldron until 1993. During this time, your specialities included administrative law, competition law, environmental law and planning law.
Encouraged again by Professor Zines and The Honourable Justice Bill Gummow, then a judge of this court, your Honour was called to the bar in 1994 where your Honour has continued to practise ever since. In 2001, your Honour was appointed to Senior Counsel. It’s very clear from this that your Honour has enjoyed a broad and successful career, both before your time at the bar and at the bar. This included work in administrative law, competition law, environmental and planning law, commercial law and Aboriginal land rights. Your Honour has also practised extensively in other areas of federal jurisdiction. This has included a number of high profile cases such as the animal welfare case involving an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of the Minister’s decision to allow eight Asian elephants to be imported for captivity in Australia zoos.
And really to go from one extreme to another, a matter with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Metcash which concerned a request by the ACCC for injunctive relief to restrain Metcash from completing the majority share sale agreement of the Franklin supermarket chain. In 2009, your Honour became a member of the Judicial Commission of New South Wales and since 2010, you’ve been chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the New South Wales Bar Association. Again, as if this breadth were not enough, your Honour has also authored several articles and papers, including co-writing a chapter on administrative law in Butterworths’ Court Forms, Precedents and Pleadings.
I understand your Honour has drawn support throughout your career not just on your family but from a wide variety of mentors and colleagues, including many who are here today, including Professor Zines that we have mentioned, the late Sir David Williams, former vice-chancellor of Cambridge University and your clerk, Paul Daley, who has given you 18 years of outstanding support. However, I’m sure there are many others. Your friends and colleagues attribute a number of admirable personal qualities to your Honour: humility, empathy and a genuine concern for those less fortunate, all very important attributes for a judge of this court.
As counsel and at the bar, your Honour has been described as a master of his work, a shear pleasure to work with, gracious, thorough and fair. Again, I know these qualities will stand your Honour in good stead as a member of the federal judiciary that is recognised for its excellence. I do have to note that your Honour has also been described as a feisty and fiery player, not in court, but for the Wentworth Wombats Cricket Club, a club consisting of members of the New South Wales Bar. And although described, not by me, as a geriatric cricket competition, I understand the Wombats have played internationally throughout England and are renowned for their high achievement in sport.
I’m also informed that your Honour is a passionate supporter of the Tigers, an AFL team. I sincerely hope that during your Honour’s time on the bench that those Tigers might be able to recapture the brilliance they displayed in the 1980 grand final and will once again win that elusive premiership. Your Honour possesses other considerable passions and talents outside the law. To name but one, I understand your Honour is a reputable Angus and Murray cattle breeder. Your Honour’s personal skills, qualities, background and experience will bring a valuable and new perspective to the Federal Court. On behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian people, I extend to your Honour my sincerest congratulations and warmest welcome as you take your place on the bench of the Federal Court of Australia as the Honourable Justice John Edward Griffiths. May it please the court.
KEANE CJ: Thank you, Attorney. Mr Solicitor.
MR S. GAGELER SC: The occasion is so important that my usual client found it necessary to obtain more senior representation. As the second law officer of the Commonwealth, displaced by the first law officer of the Commonwealth, I have been driven to rediscover my true identity and my primal instincts as a member of the bar. I wrestled Bernie Coles for another brief. I got three. With the gracious permission of Mr Coles and with only minor abrasions to both of us, I speak today for the New South Wales Bar Association, for the Australian Bar Association and for the Law Council of Australia. For nearly two decades, John Griffiths and I have been members of the same bar, members of the same chambers, practitioners in virtually the same field, professional rivals and good friends.
The appointment of Justice John Griffiths to the Federal Court of Australia is an occasion for celebration amongst those of our kind. I could not stay away and I could not remain silent. To adopt the familiar heartfelt expression of our mutual friend, John Maconachie QC, I wouldn’t miss it for quids. I might have said wild horses wouldn’t keep me away but that would be to ignore the elephants, to which I will return. Your Honour has impeccable credentials.
The Attorney General has spoken eloquently of your Honour’s qualifications and experience. In more of a trajectory than a career, your Honour has been an academic at Cambridge, a public servant performing the important role of the Director of the Administrative Review Council, a solicitor in a national law firm rising to partner in barely a year and, for the longest time, a member of the New South Wales Bar, a member of the Australian Bar and a member of the 11th floor of Selborne Chambers, rising to the level of Senior Counsel at the New South Wales Bar in barely six years and remaining Senior Counsel for nearly 12. Your Honour’s appointment today as a judge and to the Federal Court of Australia to join, amongst others, Justice Alan Robertson, with whom you read, and Justice Arthur Emmett, with whom you shared chambers, is a natural extension of the same trajectory.
Your Honour has arrived at a fitting destination. Your Honour’s arrival was always expected and is greeted with acclamation by the New South Wales Bar Association and by the Australian Bar Association. That so much could be achieved by a boy from Grong Grong near Wagga Wagga is a testament to the fundamentally egalitarian nature of Australian society, the high quality of the Australian education system and the fierce meritocracy of the Australian Bar. There were, doubtless, mentors at every stage but not least of them, Professor Leslie Zines, and one Paul Arthur Daley, both of whom have been great influences on many of us and both of whom do us all the honour of their presence here today.
There were other people who recognised and fostered your Honour’s many talents in a variety of ways. They did so with instructors that allowed those talents to be developed and to come to fruition. That so much could be achieved with humility and good humour is a testament to the personal qualities that have resulted in your Honour being not just highly respected but, equally importantly, well liked within the Australian legal profession. Your Honour, of course, is no pushover. Your Honour is known in Sydney and elsewhere, within both branches of the profession, as a forceful and tenacious advocate, never taking a backward step and capable, it is said – although I’ve never witnessed it – even of hyperbole in the pursuit of a client’s cause.
A solicitor, learning of your appointment, was heard to lament that there would be, and I quote, “No more biffo from Griffo.” Yet, your Honour has never let intensity give way to aggression. The gentle jab to the witness and the swift upper cut to the opponent have, on all occasions, been delivered with a smile on the face and a twinkle in the eye. Your Honour has recently written that a welcome trait of any good judge is the ability to laugh at himself. Your Honour as a practitioner, always displayed an endearing even beguiling levity of spirit. Your Honour’s practice at the Bar covered a wide spectrum of cases in the High Court, the Federal Court, Supreme Courts around the country and the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales.
The subject matters of those cases included competition law, commercial law, administrative law, environmental law, revenue law, intellectual property, Aboriginal land rights, and my personal favourite, valuation. In the finest traditions of the Bar, your Honour was a cab off the rank, appearing for the good and the bad, the large and the small, the strong and the weak, the well funded and the penniless for whom you regularly appeared pro bono and without fanfare. You brought to every case, for every client, the same measure of professional competence and integrity. The elephants in the room have already been mentioned in passing by the Attorney General. It was, by no means, a defining moment in your Honour’s career at the Bar. But it was notorious. It occurred in 2005.
Your Honour appeared in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal before your now colleague on your left, Justice Garry Downes, and against your now colleague on your further left, Justice Steven Rares. The hard fought and emotionally charged question was whether, and if so, on what conditions, certain endangered elephants from Thailand would be allowed to be imported into Australia to participate in a breeding program at Taronga Zoo. Your Honour’s penetrating yet sensitive cross-examination of a consultant zoologist on the significance of privacy in the mating habits of the Asian elephant was the stuff of elephants. It was a subject at the time of a feature article in Bar News setting out lengthy quotations from the cross-examination together with carefully sketched illustrations by Jim Poulos QC.
It is still spoken about in hushed and reverent tones in the bars and coffee shops of Phillip Street. Your Honour has done much as a Senior Counsel to preserve and foster the artefacts and the traditions of the Bar. Indeed, it has been said that you refused even to contemplate an appointment until you could be satisfied that the carpet in your room, once owned by the great Frank McAlary QC, would find an adequately caring home once you were gone. Your Honour will be greatly missed. The Bar’s loss is the Federal Court’s and the nation’s gain. What the Federal Court has gained is a learned and exceptionally skilled lawyer of the highest, well deserved repute. Justice Griffiths, the Bar salutes you.
KEANE CJ: Thank you, Mr Solicitor. Mr Dowd, do you move?
MR J. DOWD: May it please the court, if the first two speakers today are the first and second law officers of the Commonwealth, then I feel I need to apologise for being here as I don’t think I would be ranked in the first 2000 and certainly below every other lawyer who has been named and almost every other lawyer present today. While Sydneysiders have waded through puddles and side stepped overflowing gutters in recent weeks, spare a thought for the Riverina township of Grong Grong which recently recorded its highest one day rainfall in more than 100 years. Given its Aboriginal translation is “bad camping ground”, it seems Grong Grong may have been aptly named.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Griffiths family lived in that town in Berembed Street opposite the fire station right in the heart of town. If I could interpose, there really is nothing other than the heart of town. The local headmaster, the late Bill Sullivan, with teachers, Barbara Fenton and Noelene Rush, taught composite classes from a one-roomed school house. One of their star pupils was, of course, your Honour. And today the township of Grong Grong and the solicitors of this state and, particularly, the Riverina region congratulate you on your elevation to the bench of the Federal Court. Your Honour is the first judicial officer to hail from Grong Grong, perhaps not surprisingly, although you were born in neighbouring Narrandera as we have heard.
One of Grong Grong’s long serving residents, Lorraine Gawne, is determined to immortalise you in the May edition of that well known publication, the Grong Grong Gossip. We await that publication with even more than the usual interest. And I note in passing that many of us here had the pleasure recently of attending the swearing in of Justice Philip Taylor as a judge of the District Court from Finley. So the Riverina is doing its bit on the judicial front. And if I may be so bold as to note that those appointments follow a much earlier one of Local Court Magistrate, Michael Dowd, a Leeton resident and practitioner. Many of the locals have fond memories of your father, Roy, who worked for Finemores Transport, and mother Pat’s involvement in the CWA, your escapades with your close friend, the late John Powell, and with your older sister, Kerry.
We welcome members of your Honour’s family here today including your eldest son, Nye and partner Ally. I understand your youngest son, Will, a paramedic at Dubbo, was unable to attend today’s ceremony. We could also mention the success of the Ganmain-Grong Grong Matong Aussie rules team, which is won the last four premierships in that local competition. That team, in fact, suffered its first loss in two years last weekend to archrivals Coolamon. And if I could add, if there have been giggles in the court at the town name Grong Grong near Wagga Wagga, what would be the reaction to a Grong Grong rival football team known as Mangoplah-Cookardinia United.
A team that was famous for having more letters in its name than players in its team. Perhaps your Honour gained inspiration from the local cricket team in Grong Grong in deciding to become a member of the Wentworth Wombats in later years. I’m reliably informed that the blue and gold striped jacket-clad wombats have enjoyed many social occasions on their regular sojourns to pit their skills against the Oxford and Cambridge fraternities but their successes have been varied. Apparently, one of these efforts inspired the following limerick from teammate and floor colleague, Andrew Bell SC, one of many penned by Mr Bell, some of which have found their way online which also shows the danger of the web. It goes as follows:
A boy from Grong Grong named John dreamt every night of the Don. But the dream was just that as he slashed with his bat, it’s back to the farm from now on. Notwithstanding that, I’m reliably informed that your Honour played a starring role in defeating your old college in Cambridge, Emmanuel College, where you were, indeed, the Don. While I know your Honour will be donning the wombat costume again in July, it should be noted that judicial roads also appear a very natural fit. Wombats aside, your other love is tending to your Honour’s cattle in the southern highlands. These cows were lovingly captured by the artist, Peter Hickey, in a painting which adorns your Honour’s chambers along with a cowhide armchair which happens to be a cowley. Both these will be making the transition to the Federal Court.
As we have heard, your Honour’s career has covered a diversity of public and commercial law and authoring numerous papers and articles. Your Honour was particularly respected in the administrative law area and was regularly briefed to appear on behalf of the Law Society of New South Wales in relation to regulatory and fidelity fund issues. Your Honour’s papers have included those delivered to the Law Society’s Government Solicitors Committee and the New South Wales Young Lawyers. Your Honour’s colleagues on the floor will greatly miss your presence, your lively and personable character, your organisational skills and your considerable support of juniors.
Described to us as a wonderful leader and a great character on the floor, your Honour is also noted for your colourful tie and shirt combinations and the extendable red artist’s pencils used to scrawl all over documents which no one can decipher, apparently including your secretary, Wendy. Your Honour, you have contributed to a very happy and collegiate atmosphere at 11 Wentworth and I’m sure that this will also be the case with your colleagues on the bench. The solicitors of New South Wales congratulate your Honour and wish you well in your new role. If the court pleases.
KEANE CJ: Thank you, Mr Dowd. Justice Griffiths.
GRIFFITHS J: Chief Justice, fellow judges of the Federal Court, distinguished guests and friends, may I also honour the traditional owners of this land, the Eora People. Can I thank the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and Mr Dowd for their very generous words including, on this occasion, all the hyperbole from them and not from me. The attendance of everyone here today including, very notably and perhaps without precedent, both the first and second law officers of the Commonwealth, does great honour to this important court and gives me enormous personal pleasure. It’s an additional honour to see so many present and past Justices of this and other courts here today. They include: Sir Anthony Mason; Gummow, Heydon and Bell JJs; Bathurst CJ and his predecessor, Jim Spigelman. I should record my great pleasure of having had the opportunity to work with both of those state CJs in their capacity as president of the Judicial Commission of this state.
This is indeed a long way from Grong Grong. The solicitor general of all people, would fully understand that. After all, he comes from Sandy Hollow and he too, is the product of an excellent public school education. Grong Grong’s population in my birth year was actually about 200 – excluding cats and dogs. It’s probably a fraction of that now. I believe I was only the second person from the hamlet to have undertaken any tertiary education. Like Mr Dowd, I’m pretty confident I am the first Grongyite to become a judge and I fully accept the submission of the Solicitor-General that it does say a lot about our nation – that people with backgrounds such as his and mine are given such opportunities.
Time is short. Like all good advocates and judges, I will try to avoid duplication. However, I must publicly acknowledge my gratitude to many people for the journey which has brought me here today. That was my start and finish with my extraordinary wife, Beth. I’m the luckiest man alive to have ever met such a remarkable, generous and accomplished woman. She’s both my greatest critic and strongest supporter. I simply adore her. I’m very pleased that my parents can witness this ceremony today, as well as my sister, Kerry and her husband, Bruce. Kerry and I were very lucky to have grown up in a loving and stable family environment provided by our parents in Grong Grong and then later, in Wagga Wagga.
As was then possible in small country towns, our parents gave us great latitude in finding our own ways in life. That strong sense of independence will be valuable in my new role. It’s wonderful that my eldest son, Nye and his partner, Ally, are here to share today’s celebration. I’m very proud of them as well as my other son, Will, and his family, Libby and Anton. You’ve heard that Will is a paramedic in Dubbo and couldn’t get here today. I now have three effervescent grandsons – two of them are here today, Auryn and Julius – Julius is the 12 month old who has been seeking leave to be heard throughout the whole proceeding. I suspect that 5 year old Auryn would also prefer to be sitting up here with me rather than down there.
I’m delighted that so many of my friends and professional colleagues are present. Time prevents me from identifying them all but I appreciate that some have travelled some distance including from Canberra, Melbourne, Bowral and even my neighbours have ventured all the way from Manly. Sadly, there’s no one here from Grong Grong – that’s probably because there’s no one left. Unfortunately, some people were unable to attend. They include Sir Gerard Brennan, Allsop J, Michael Kirby, Jane Matthews AJ, Michael Codd and Fiona Howarth, Sarah Pritchard – who is in Borneo. My dear French friend from Harvard days, Jacques Henrot and the infamous Bullfry QC.
Bullfry QC claims to be in Hong Kong. Whether that is true or not is known only to him and his partner who I am pleased to see here today. Professor Leslie Zines says that I am the sixth ANU law graduate to become a judge of this court – seven, if you include Paul Finn J – I think we should, because he lectured at ANU. Two ANU law graduates have recently been appointed to the Supreme Court of New South Wales – we are all members of the Zines Club. Leslie Zines has had an enormous influence on both my career and my life. He was the most effective lecturer I ever had, counting the many wonderful lecturers at both Harvard and Cambridge.
Many other members of the Zines Club are here today. They will all recall Leslie’s notorious use of Socratic method of teaching. His high expectations terrified students. I can still remember each of the questions he asked me during our Constitutional Law course 38 years ago – I can’t remember my bumbling answers. If a student was questioned and hadn’t done the necessary preparation, he or she was met with a fixed glare and through pursed lips, Professor Zines would say, “Mr Dodds, see me after class.” I didn’t appreciate it at the time but the experience was good training for the grillings to come in the High Court and some other courts.
Leslie taught me a lot about the law and also about life generally. One of his harshest lessons was the well-directed rebuke I received from him when I stupidly arranged for a typed letter to be sent to him, congratulating him on being made a Member of the Order of Australia. My letter finished by saying, “Dictated and signed in his absence” – that’ never happened again. May I also thank Professors Dennis Pearce and David Handley for their key roles in my legal training at ANU. Sadly, my other great mentor in the Law cannot be here. The late Professor Sir David Williams had a profound effect on my life. David and his wife, Sally were great friends of both my then wife, Pip, and myself in Cambridge.
David supervised my PhD. We then became close colleagues at Emmanuel College. He went on to become president of Wolfson College and was then appointed the first executive vice-chancellor of Cambridge University. Being a dyed-in-the-wool Welshman, David had a soft spot for other aliens in the foreign land of England – particularly Australians. Many of his friends are here today. David was a true amicus of the Federal Court. Many judges of both this and other courts enjoyed his generosity while spending their sabbaticals in Cambridge – usually at Wolfson College. I was very pleased, this week, to receive a warm message of congratulations from Sally Williams.
Anyone in my position looks back on their life, striving to understand how things have come to this point. My reflections have identified a trajectory pointing to this court. Some of its elements are as follows. First, my admission to the New South Wales bar in 1994 was moved by that legal colossus, Peter Hely QC, later to become a distinguished judge of this court, albeit cut abruptly short. Secondly, I was fortunate enough to read with two legal luminaries: James Allsop and Alan Robertson – both destined to become members of this court. Thirdly, I was fortunate to have worked closely with or against many senior barristers who then joined the court.
They include, in no particular order, Conti, Gyles, Lindgren, Emmett, Downes, Jacobson, Whitlam, Rares, Foster, Perram, Katzmann and Jagot JJ’s. I’ve had the privilege of appearing before most of the current members of the court, including my good friend Paul Finn. There are too many others to all name but there are two of whom I would like to mention. The first is Bryan Beaumont who played a leading role, together of course, with Sir Nigel Bowen, in establishing this court and building its excellent reputation. I’m delighted that Jeanette Beaumont is here today. Also, in attendance, is Nick Beaumont – their son, who read with me when he first came to the bar.
The second former judge of this court who has had a big influence and who is present is Daryl Davies. I’ve known Daryl and Jeanne since 1982, when I first met them in London. Daryl was asked to interview me for the position of Director of Research of the Administrative Review Council, to succeed the then Dr Flick. I will recall our meeting at Browns Hotel in London. Daryl was held up at the council on tribunals, so his very capable wife took the reins and we had a delightful chat over afternoon tea when Daryl ultimately returned, Jeanne greeted him with the words, “Of course, you should give him the job.” As you have heard, after my time at the ARC in Canberra, I joined Dawson Waldron – as I still prefer to call them.
My dear friend and fellow wombat, Richard Bunting, was instrumental in that move. I’m delighted he’s here along with his wife, Susie. There are many other colleagues from Dawson Waldron in court. There are too many to name individually but I deeply appreciate their presence along with all the other solicitors who briefed me during my time at the bar. After Dawson Waldron came the bar, another Zines Club member played a pivotal role in that move. That is Alan Sullivan QC whom I have known since our law school days starting in 1970. Alan knew that I was interested in coming to the bar and indeed, that I had discussed the topic with Sir Anthony Mason and also with Justice Gummow around that time.
Alan rang me in 1993 and asked me to lunch. He said he would bring a mystery guest. That turned out to be Michael McHugh – then, a Justice of the High Court. Both urged me to make the leap. How could a naive boy from Grong Grong resist two of the country’s most persuasive advocates? That led to 18 thoroughly enjoyable years on the 11th Floor. I’ve loved every moment and have formed many enduring friendships. I will have the opportunity of private floor functions to pay tribute to all my professional colleagues and friends there but I take this opportunity publicly to acknowledge the enormous assistance and support provided by the inimitable, Paul Daley – a legend in his own lifetime and his loyal staff who include: Anne, Mary, Melinda, Mandy, Jennifer, and Janelle.
I also wish to thank very much, my dedicated and industrious secretary, Wendy Stock, who has worked with me for the last decade. I must also acknowledge the numerous gifted juniors with whom I have worked and learned so much. It would be invidious to name them publicly. They include many talented barristers on my floor – some of whom have now taken silk or some of whom soon will. There are also many juniors from other chambers who gave me enormous assistance. I sincerely thank them all. My last ten years on the 11th floor have seen me as only the second occupant of a hallowed set of chambers in Phillip Street. For over 50 years, my chambers were occupied by that giant of a man, Frank McAlary QC.
Frank needs no introduction to lawyers. The non-lawyers will all know him as the famous dancing man – photographed dancing in Martin Place and rejoicing at the end of Word War II. His presence, in spirit, still fills those chambers and will continue to do so under the stewardship of John Maconachie QC, who will fully honour Frank’s legacy. Another person who played an important role in my life is Professor John Ritchie – editor of the National Dictionary of Biography and distinguished historian. He and his wife Joan, who is here in court, took me under their wing when I arrived at ANU in 1970 as a very green country bumpkin.
We became close friends notwithstanding the tension created by the fact that Ritchie was a mad Carlton supporter; Joan always barracks for Geelong; and I support the hapless Richmond. I have taken too long. I should finish now by saying that it’s a huge honour to be appointed to this illustrious court. All the more so, I might say, having given a fierce roasting to the Chief Justice when I was Mr Senior at last year’s bar bench dinner. I feared he might take his revenge by telling me that I would have the workload of three judges – instead, it seems, I have been allocated the dockets of only two judges. Seriously though, I’ve been touched by the very warm welcome I have received from all the judges of the court and its staff.
That warmth and collegiality will go a long way towards assuaging my sadness at leaving the 11th floor. Finally, with your leave, Chief Justice, may I take the opportunity to correct the court record? At his swearing in, almost a year ago to this day, Robertson J claimed that while I was a solicitor at Dawson Waldron, I confused him with another barrister and briefed him by mistake. Since he and I will occupy adjoining chambers, I cannot allow that statement to pass without comment. So may I assure Robertson J, Geoffrey – there was no error. Thank you, one and all, for sharing this important day.
KEANE CJ: Thank you, Justice Griffiths. The court will now adjourn.