Ceremonial Sitting of the Full Court

To welcome the Honourable Justice Emilios Kyrou AO

Transcript of proceedings

 RTF version - 283 KB



9.30 AM, WEDNESDAY, 28 JUNE 2023


MORTIMER CJ: Call the welcome, please. 

ASSOCIATE: Welcome of the Honourable Justice Kyrou AO.

MORTIMER CJ: Thank you all for taking the time to attend this welcome for Justice Kyrou. I acknowledge the current and former Judges present, many other distinguished guests, as well as members of the legal profession, Court and Tribunal staff, friends and family. 

This ceremony is being held on lands traditionally associated with the people of the Kulin Nation. As I explained at my own welcome earlier this year, there is a Native Title claim over this land, and much of Melbourne and its surrounds, so until it is resolved the Court is unable to invite any First Nations people to speak at a ceremony like this, as we otherwise would. That situation does not prevent me, on behalf of the Court, paying my respects to the people of the Kulin Nation generally, to their Elders past, present and emerging, and to any First Nations people here today. Nor does it prevent me, on behalf of the Court, acknowledging the continuing struggle of First Nations peoples for appropriate recognition of their culture, their languages, laws and customs, and appropriate recognition of their deep connection to the lands and waters they and their ancestors have occupied and looked after for thousands of years.

Justice Kyrou, today marks not only an important milestone in your own distinguished career, but a milestone for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, a body with a pivotal role to play in the fair, independent, and effective administration of the laws of the Commonwealth through its vital merits review work. It is terrific to see so many AAT members here, a testament to the positive way in which your appointment has been received. And I know the Judges of the Federal Court are very pleased to have you as one of our colleagues.

The Court welcomes members of your family, and your friends, who are all proudly joining you here today. These are occasions for celebration, as well as ceremony and tributes, of which I am sure there are many to come. Justice Kyrou, on behalf of the Judges of the Court, I offer you the warmest of welcomes to your new role, which I am confident you will fulfil with distinction. The Attorney-General for the Commonwealth.

MR M. DREYFUS KC MP: May it please the Court. I begin by acknowledging the Wurundjeri People, the traditional owners of the lands on which we are gathered today. I would also like to acknowledge any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples present here today.

On behalf of the Australian Government I congratulate Your Honour on your appointment as a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia. Before I continue, I should acknowledge that Your Honour wrote a book entitled Call Me Emilios, however, with your and Your Honours' indulgence, I am proposing to call you Your Honour for the purposes of this speech. I mean no offence.

While today is about welcoming you as a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, it would be remiss of me not to mention that Your Honour has also been appointed as the President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. In your role as President, Your Honour will lead the AAT through the most significant reform of Australia's system of administrative review in decades, the centrepiece of which is the abolition and replacement of the AAT. It is the Government's intention that Your Honour will be the last President of the AAT and the inaugural President of the Tribunal that will replace it. The inaugural President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Sir Gerard Brennan, had an enormous task ahead of him in 1976 and carried it out with aplomb. I have no doubt that Your Honour will do the same as the inaugural President of the new Tribunal.

Your Honour's appointment to this Court is another success in your distinguished and eminent career. It reflects the high regard in which you are held by so many members of the judiciary and legal profession, including those here today. May I particularly acknowledge Justice of the High Court of Australia, the Honourable Michelle Gordon AC; Former Justice of the High Court of Australia, the Honourable Geoffrey Nettle AC; Chief Justice of the Federal Circuit and Family Court, the Honourable Chief Justice William Alstergren AO; Former Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, the Honourable Michael Black AC KC; President of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Honourable Justice Karin Emerton; Judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, the Honourable Nora Hartnett; Chief Judge of the County Court of Victoria, the Honourable Peter Kidd; Former President of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Honourable Christopher Maxwell AC, and other members of the legal profession, and distinguished guests. May I also acknowledge the presence of your family who proudly share this occasion with you.

Highlighting a full catalogue of Your Honour's accomplishments would occupy more time than permitted and, therefore, I intend to speak of just a few of the qualities that have marked your career to date. Your Honour's story is nothing short of remarkable. You were born in Sfikia, a small village in Northern Greece with a close-knit community of approximately 565 residents. Upon your family's migration to Australia in 1968 you, at the tender age of eight and a half, had not yet acquired fluency in English. Despite the challenges you encountered you achieved outstanding results and ranking as a top student. Your academic excellence continued as you progressed to high school, where you showcased your exceptional ability by achieving the coveted position of Dux. In recognition of your impressive results, you were awarded a Ford Motor Company tertiary scholarship, which went towards funding your completion of a Bachelor of Laws Honours, and a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne.

Throughout your tertiary studies you became inseparable from the library, save for when Your Honour attended lectures. Your brother, Dr Theo Kyrou, who I understand is present today, has told of being dragged to Melbourne University to study before the crack of dawn, "before", as he writes, "the more sensible people would arrive". 

At this point it should come as no surprise that Your Honour graduated with a First-class Honours degree in Law and as a recipient of the Supreme Court Prize, which is awarded to the highest performing law student each year.

In 1983 Your Honour commenced Articles at Corrs Pavey Whiting & Byrne, now Corrs Chambers Westgarth, and was admitted to practice in April 1984. A mere five years later you became a partner in that firm. In 1990, after Your Honour joined Mallesons as a Partner, you worked in the Litigation Division, where you stayed for nearly two decades.

Your Honour has been acknowledged as a leader in a range of areas of the law, including Administrative Law, Freedom of Information, Legal Professional Privilege, Directors' and Officers' Insurance, Professional Negligence and Professional Ethics and Discipline. Colleagues speak highly of your intellect, integrity, meticulous care, thoroughness, and courtesy. Throughout your career Your Honour has also demonstrated a willingness to mentor and guide junior lawyers. In addition to your legal work Your Honour has also undertaken committee work for the Law Institute of Victoria, the Law Council of Australia, the Mallesons Charities Committee and the Mallesons Pro Bono Committee. You also served eight years on the Board of the Royal Women's Hospital.

Your Honour served as a Trial Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria between 2008 and 2014. Subsequently you served on the Court of Appeal. Among a lifetime of distinguished achievements, it is noteworthy that when you were appointed to the Supreme Court of Victoria you were one of only three Solicitors to have received a judicial appointment. As a Judge Your Honour demonstrated expertise across the law, and notably in Human Rights Law, Torts, Commercial Law and Administrative Law. And I understand your judicial colleagues often sought your unique perspective as a former Solicitor on a range of matters relating to the Court's functions.

Your Honour now comes to the Federal Court with considerable judicial experience. Your Honour holds the record for presiding over the longest civil trial in Victoria that involved an unrepresented litigant, a staggering 115 days. The length of your judgment totalled 655 pages with transcript spanning 16,166 pages. The case I refer to is, of course, Slaveski v State of Victoria. You provided the plaintiff with comprehensive explanations of the relevant issues, and those acquainted with the case will attest to the fact that your Honour managed the challenging matter with patience and grace.

Your judicial colleague and current president of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Justice Emerton, spoke fondly of your generosity to your colleagues, continually providing support and guidance with compassion and wisdom drawn from your broad life experience. Colleagues have said that your diligence, expertise and presence at the Victorian Court of Appeal will be missed enormously.

I now turn to speak of a few of the personal qualities that have led to your appointment at this court. Friends and colleagues have noted that you are incredibly modest despite your many achievements. Juan Martinez, managing partner of HWL Ebsworth and your best friend since secondary school, has noted that your Honour's achievements have not rendered you pretentious nor arrogant. Your Honour is also described as extremely hard working and diligent.

Your Honour's contemporaries from the University of Melbourne noted that they knew of no one who worked as hard as you. In fact, your brother notes that you were the original Lincoln Lawyer in that your wife, Peris, would often drive when you went anywhere together so that you could continue working in the car. I'm told your Honour is dedicated to your family, and this has been apparent all your life exemplified by your efforts to translate documents and interactions for your parents despite your own at the time limited fluency in English. Your brother described one notable occasion when you put him on the back of your bicycle and rode to the nearest GP after he was injured in primary school. Those closest to you know that despite your extremely busy schedule, you set aside time to spend with friends and family. Your Honour has been affectionately described as a doting grandfather marvelling at your grandchildren's achievements and showing photos of them to anyone who will listen.

As an adolescent, I'm told your Honour was an accomplished tennis player but found yourself often unable to practice due to study commitments. I'm told that your Honour also had a brief stint playing Aussie rules and was labelled "the human tank". Apparently despite being unable to kick or mark, you presented the opposition with a significant obstacle for defence purposes. I'm also told your Honour has always enjoyed writing. Initially, your Honour wrote short fictional stories in secondary school, but nowadays, your Honour sticks to non-fiction. Your writing skills have enabled you to contribute to legal education through two excellent works, namely, Lewis & Kyrou's Handy Hints on Legal Practice, now in its fourth edition, and most notably given your new role as president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, as an editor of Victorian Administrative Law.

I understand your Honour has an interest in handiwork; however, I'm also told that based on the results, your skills are perhaps better suited to the judiciary. Your Honour's wealth of accomplishments and admirable character is a testament to your suitability as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia. On behalf of the Australian Government, I extend to you my sincere congratulations and welcome to the Federal Court of Australia. May it please the court.

MORTIMER CJ: Mr Dunning, president of the Australian Bar Association.

SpeakerMR P. DUNNING KC: Chief Justice Mortimer, Justice Gordon, Chief Justice Alstergren and judges of the Federal Court, retired judges, distinguished guests but, more importantly, Justice Kyrou, it's my privilege and pleasure on behalf of the Bar nationally to offer our congratulations and welcome to your Honour to this important national court and as president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

It is a well-deserved appointment that has understandably been met with wide acclaim. By the time your Honour was 10, you had arrived in Australia speaking little English. By the time your Honour was 20, you were well on your way to the esteemed career of which today is just another distinguished chapter. Your Honour's success and those things that the Commonwealth Attorney has spoken of your character are a testament to the value of hard work and the benefit of the support of those around you to see you succeed in the way that your Honour did.

Justice Kyrou, it's always a pleasure when I get to address in respect of somebody who came to the court as a solicitor rather than from the Bar, and I realise that's a long time ago for your Honour now. But there's a special relationship that exists between solicitors and barristers, and it's appropriate that somebody in my position acknowledge on a day like today the grand contribution solicitors appointed to this court and other courts have made to the jurisprudence in Australia and the balance and insight they give to the disposition of legal disputes.

Can I turn, then, to the other task that arises today, and that is that your Honour will become president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in the short term and the successor tribunal to it. It is, I might respectfully suggest, the mark – indeed, the emblem – of a civil society that a citizen can, in significant respects, take a decision of the government to an independent tribunal and have it tested. The transparency that comes from that process and confidence in government decision-making cannot be understated.

In that regard, it's appropriate that I recognise on behalf of the Bar nationally the First Nations People on whose land we meet and who have since time immemorial been the custodians of this land as an exemplar of those people in our society who do need the protection of institutions, such as the AAT, for their proper recognition and advancement. Your Honour is well suited to the task which you have been given by the government. Your Honour spent a decade and a half on the Supreme Court of Victoria, including in notable matters regarding administrative law. Your Honour brings intellect, decency, compassion and humility to the task, all hallmarks of great judicial accomplishment.

In your new role in the tribunal that will replace the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, I can assure you the Bar nationally will support your Honour in your endeavours as you give effect to the government's mandate to change the manner in which the review of administrative decisions occurs in this country. Your Honour, we also recognise your arrival at this large and important national court as a justice of this court. One does not arrive at a day like today with the accomplishments that your Honour has received not only today but in the years in the past without the love and the support of those around you, and that is reflected in your Honour's own life. Your wife, Peris, your children, John, William, Stephen and Catherine, and your grandchildren, Luke and Demi, should have justifiable pride in your Honour's achievement today and your Honour's many achievements in the past. The Bar is confident that your Honour will discharge your role with distinction, and it is here to assist in any way it can. I wish you many happy years in your position. May it please the court.

MORTIMER CJ: Mr Hay, president of the Victorian Bar Association.

MR S. HAY KC: May it please the court, I appear on behalf of the Victorian Bar to congratulate your Honour on your appointment to this court. I also acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we are meeting, the Peoples of the Kulin Nation, and pay my respects to their elders past and present. I also acknowledge the distinguished guests who have been referred to.

In announcing your appointment to this court and to head the new administrative review system, the federal government highlighted that you were widely recognised for your integrity, legal excellence, independence and intellectual capacity. Your Honour has already set a very solid pace in your new role. It's a five-year appointment that will no doubt bring with it many challenges. The expert advisory group headed by former High Court justice the Honourable Patrick Keane AC KC has started its work, and the government has said that your Honour's appointment was a vital step in its reform of Australia's system of administrative review.

Your Honour's dedication to every challenge you accept cannot be questioned. On Australia Day this year, you were made an Officer of the Order of Australia for your distinguished service to the judiciary and to the law and to professional associations and to the community. The citation should have added that your Honour has always been a wise and caring mentor. While you were a partner at Mallesons, a young student from Canberra emailed you seeking employment. You granted him an interview and then a job, although he suggests that his grades were not quite at the level normally expected of Mallesons. Your Honour had a hunch about him, and your Honour's hunch was dead right. Emrys Nekvapil SC today speaks in glowing terms of the experience, confidence and connections he gained through your Honour to end up thriving as a barrister at the Victorian Bar. 

Your Honour's reputation for hard work, dedication and diligence is well known as is the story of your early life, which, I suppose, is not too surprising given that you wrote a book about it. Call Me Emilios, as we've heard, is very interesting reading. Through its pages, your Honour recounts your early years in a small, poor and predominantly self-sufficient farming village called Sfikia in northern Greece. Your Honour's father Yiannis left school at eight to work as a shepherd. Your mother Stergiani, known as Stella, left school at nine to work on the family farm. Your parents were accustomed to living without electricity, gas or running water in a very small village. They knew very little outside a few kilometres from that village.

You were born in 1959, and your brother Theo, who is a doctor, was born in 1963. When a migration agreement was reached with Greece following civil unrest, your parents applied for assisted migration to Australia along with 10 other families from the village. There were multiple mistakes in the paperwork, including the spelling of your family name, but on April 5, 1968, you arrived in Melbourne on the Ellinis passenger liner. Initially, you were accommodated at the Broadmeadows Migrant Hostel and then a succession of share houses with other Greek families.

You arrived in Australia not able to speak very much English but quickly overcame that drawback as you were educated at three different primary schools and then Upfield High School where you were dux. 

You encountered racism and bullying on countless occasions along that journey, but you persevered. Books and reading remained a form of escapism at school and even at the University of Melbourne where you fell into law. You took refuge in the law library. You won a Ford Motor Company scholarship – both your parents worked for that company – and retained it for five years during your combined law/commerce course. It was in the library that you bonded with four other students. Three of them were from migrant backgrounds like yourself and the fourth was a much taller blond Anglo-Saxon Aussie. They are Juan Martinez from Spain, who is now managing partner of HWL Ebsworth; Mike Ferraro, who has an Italian heritage and is now CEO and managing director of the ASX-listed company Alumina Limited following a long and successful career with BHP; Joe Tsalanidis, whose family is from Greece and is one of Melbourne's leading commercial barristers and assisted me to try and pronounce some of these names; Dan Brearley, the blond Anglo-Saxon who was educated at Haileybury and didn't speak a word of Spanish, Italian or Greek. After a successful career at Freehills, he has retired to a life of fly-fishing, expensive whisky and cigars. 

The five of you remain close friends, and we are assured that your Honour is quietly grateful for all the valuable advice that they have given you over the years. While studying in 1982, you took a vacation job as a research assistant to Gordon Lewis, later Judge Lewis, at the Law Institute. Together, you researched and wrote Handy Hints on Legal Practice, which is now in its fourth edition. At university, you obtained honours in all 16 law subjects and exhibitions in 11 and won the Supreme Court prize. As far as the commerce course was concerned, you obtained honours in all nine subjects and won the exhibition in six of them. From university, you ventured to Corr & Corr where you shared an office with the Honourable Bernard Teague AO, who was then a partner and later joined the Supreme Court. You became a partner at Corrs, but after seven years, you moved to Mallesons where you were a partner for 17 years before joining the Supreme Court.

Feedback from the criminal appellate bar of your performance on the bench has been most complimentary. This is just a sample:

Despite not having a background in criminal law, Justice Kyrou took to this new subject area like a duck to water due to his keen intellect, intellectual curiosity and sense of justice. His Honour has also developed a reputation for being courteous and respectful to every person in the courtroom.

Other members of the Bar describe your time on the bench as obsessive:

He has read every page of the case before opening remarks as well as any background he can devour. He is formidable.

In fact, "formidable" is a word often used to describe your Honour. At Mallesons, you often hit the office at 5.30 am. Certainly, you were on the first train and sat in solitude on the journey in so that you could read. Driving would be a waste of valuable reading time, as we've heard, so that not even heading off on family holidays would see you in the driver's seat. Your arrival on the bench changed your habits. You now arrive at work at around 6.30 am much to the chagrin of support staff, other members of the bench and especially the security staff. Your fitness regime is legendary. Each Saturday, you walk to the newsagent for your copy of Neos Kosmos and then straight back home to keep working. Other exercise comes from your range of steel power tools. There's the whippersnipper, the leaf blower, the hedge clipper and the lawnmower. I'm told that all remain in showroom condition. And you are reluctant to take your immaculate Mercedes Benz out if there is any chance of rain. But then again, you don't really drive it even if it's in fine weather.

From all the years in the law, there is only praise for you apart from those who can't keep pace. Of course, your Honour has many, many other supporters and admirers. They are your wife Peris, who is also known as your chauffeur, and your children, John, William and the twins, Stephen and Catherine. Your two biggest fans are Stephen's children, Luke, who is five, and Demi, who is two. Like us, they feel you are a wise and wonderful man. Another admirer is your niece back in Sfikia. Last year, you journeyed back to that tiny village with a wedding present for her. That present was the deeds to the home that you and your parents left back in 1968 for the challenges that Australia offered. You have given her and her husband a fantastic start in life. On behalf of the Victoria Bar, I wish your Honour every success in your new role and a long and satisfying period of service on this court. May it please the court.

MORTIMER CJ: Mr Murphy, president of the Law Council and representing the Law Institute of Victoria.

MR L. MURPHY: May it please the court. I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and waterways on which we gather this morning, the Peoples of the Kulin Nation, and pay my respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nation elders who are here with us.

The Honourable Mark Dreyfus KC MP, the Honourable Chief Justice, the Honourable Justice Kyrou AO, distinguished members of the judiciary and legal profession, family and friends of your Honour, it is a great privilege for me to have this opportunity to welcome and congratulate your Honour on your appointment as a judge of the Federal Court and, in particular, to congratulate you on your appointment as president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The president of the Law Institute of Victoria, Ms Tania Wolff, has asked me to extend her warmest congratulations to you and her apologies for not being able to attend this morning.

The Law Institute of Victoria particularly wishes to acknowledge your Honour's long involvement with and support of the Victorian profession. Your Honour worked at the Law Institute at the beginning of your career as a research assistant and later as a significant contributor to the policy work. As we have heard, your Honour's co-authorship of Handy Hints on Legal Practice is a must-read guide for practitioners. The Law Institute was proud to recognise your Honour's contribution to the profession by awarding you the Law Institute Rogers Legal Writing Award and the Paul Baker Award for outstanding contribution to administrative law.

As we have heard, your Honour was one of very few solicitors to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Victoria and, I understand, the only Greek-born judge to have been appointed to a superior court in Australia. Your Honour is, therefore, an example of diversity, and the Law Council strongly supports the importance of a judiciary which reflects the diversity of the community itself. This is a key to promoting public trust in the administration of justice. Trust in the administration of justice and Australia's system of merits review has never been more important. An effective and efficient merits review system is a cornerstone of Australia's administrative law. It promotes the observance of the rule of law. The current restructure of our nation's administrative law framework is an undertaking with critical and serious consequences for the securing of administrative justice for those affected by the exercise of power, and your Honour's appointment as president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal comes at a critical juncture and will provide the solid reliable leadership needed to restore public confidence in the system of review.

Decisions of the Federal Government play a significant role in the regulation of public life, and the administrative law system provides the critical ability to test the correctness and appropriateness of administrative decisions. Merits review also has a broader, longer-term objective of improving the quality and consistency of the decisions of primary decision-makers and ensures that the openness and accountability of decisions made by government are enhanced. Following the creation of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in 1976 under the leadership of the Honourable Sir Gerard Brennan AC KBE, the Australian system of review was described as the most comprehensive in the world, which involved a national independent tribunal which, in most cases, may substitute its opinion of the correct or preferable decision of the primary official even if that be an elected minister.

It represented an innovative jurisdiction. That new institution, notwithstanding its innovative jurisdiction, earnt the community's respect. It did so in no small part due to the initial inspired, balanced and considered leadership. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal at a dinner held in Old Parliament House in Canberra, Sir Gerard Brennan said this of the tribunal:

I am pleased to see that under the AAT Act, the president of the AAT must be a judge of the Federal Court. An essential characteristic of the AAT is that it is independent of the executive branch of government. It must be independent in its thinking, independent in its procedure, independent in its interpretation of the law. Not only does independence give authority to the AAT and its decisions, independence is essential to the AAT's very survival. If it were not and were not seen to be independent of sponsoring departments, its existence would be a costly charade.

Your Honour, I am very confident that I speak on behalf of the entire Australian legal profession in saying that we have the utmost confidence that under your leadership the new framework, whatever that may be, will steadfastly maintain the essential independence described by Sir Gerard and, as a result, will earn the same respect that the AAT enjoyed. The Law Council welcomes your Honour's appointment. Your standing, authority and leadership will be vital for the success of the new tribunal. Your Honour's steady hand of experience provides reassurance to us all. And if I may paraphrase Plato, I think the following embodies your Honour's commitment and dedication to the rule of law.

Of all the things of a person's soul which they have within them, justice is the greatest good.

On behalf of the Australian Legal Profession and, in particular, the Law Institute of Victoria, I congratulate Your Honour on your appointment to the Federal Court and as President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and I express the profession's gratitude for your continued service to our community. May it please the Court.

MORTIMER CJ: Justice Kyrou, I invite you to reply. 

KYROU J AO: Chief Justice, fellow Judicial Officers, Attorney-General, distinguished guests, friends, family, and legal practitioners, thank you for your attendance. In particular I thank the Attorney-General, Mr Dunning, Mr Hay and Mr Murphy for their kind words.

I wish to place on record my deep respect for all of our First Nations People and to acknowledge the vital role of their Elders.

I am in a small minority of Judges who have been spoilt by having two welcomes. I remember well my first welcome on 22 May 2008 in the Banco Court. Then, my wife Peris, children John, William, Stephen and Catherine, my parents John and Stella, my brother Theo, his wife Nadene, and my nieces Stephanie and Elise sat proudly in the jury box. Today my family has expanded to include two daughters-in-law, Renee and Janine, a son-in-law, Nik, and two grandchildren, Luke and Demi. Ta mikra vlepoun ton pappou tous apo to spiti. Roughly translated, that means the little ones are watching their grandfather from home. Sadly, both my parents have passed away.

I am very eclectic about the Greek customs and practices that I follow. One that I passionately embrace is the centrality of family in one's life. If I say too much about my family I will probably get sentimental, so all I will say is that I love all members of my family dearly and I am extremely grateful for their ongoing patience, tolerance and support.

This morning's welcome also doubles as a farewell, in the sense that it gives me the opportunity to thank my erstwhile colleagues at the Supreme Court of Victoria. I thoroughly enjoyed my 15 years as a Judge of the Court. I had the good fortune of working with four exceptional judicial leaders, Marilyn Warren, Anne Ferguson, Chris Maxwell, and Karin Emerton. I also had the good fortune, back in 2008, of being allocated two judicial mentors, David Ashley and Stephen Kaye. They helped me enormously and became good friends.

I also want to acknowledge two mentors who have advised and guided me for over 40 years, Bernie Teague and Gordon Lewis. Bernie is now 85 years of age and continues to give freely of his time to assist the legal profession. Sadly, Gordon passed away last year. I am pleased that his wife Rhonda is here today.

In the past 15 years I was made to look good by 10 diverse and brilliant associates, Howard Choo, Shaun Gladman, Georgina Dimopoulos, Katherine Cooke, Nuwan Dias, Caitlin Brown, Lucy Radowicz, Corinna Virtanen, Lydia Taylor-Moss and Duncan Willis. I was also kept in line by three wonderful personal assistants, Yve Williams, Olivia Nicola and Anne Daish. I am very grateful that Duncan and Anne have joined me at the AAT.

And, so, my Supreme Court chapter has come to an end. That chapter has been replaced by two parallel chapters: the Federal Court chapter and the AAT chapter. I very much look forward to working with my new colleagues at the Court and the AAT. Both institutions are of fundamental importance to our system of justice at the national level. It is a great honour and privilege for me to be a member of both of them. I also look forward to working with the profession. Both branches of the profession play a vital role in assisting our Courts and Tribunals to advance the administration of justice.

I must say that the selection process for President of the AAT was very rigorous. Applicants were vetted by a selection committee comprising the Secretary of the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department, James Allsop, and Ray Finkelstein. In the early 1990s, as a solicitor, I used to brief Ray and paid him well to cross-examine people. I never thought that three decades later he would be cross-examining me.

When my proposed appointment was announced on 24 May this year I had a rather awkward conversation with a friend who is very commercially minded and focused. He was curious as to why I had decided to swap my role as a Judge of Appeal for that of a Federal Court Judge and President of the AAT. Our conversation went something like this:

Will you get paid more?

No. I will get paid less.

Will you be more senior?

No. I will be the most junior Judge on the Federal Court.

Will you get more leave?


Do you hate your current job?

No. I love it, particularly the collegiality of the Court of Appeal.

Then why are you moving?

My answer to the last question involved more than one sentence. I explained to my friend that the AAT's function of reviewing administrative decisions on their merits is fundamental to ensuring fairness, transparency, and accountability in the exercise of Governmental power that affects the community. I told him that the Federal Government proposes to improve the current system by introducing legislation to replace the AAT with a new body, and that I will be given the opportunity to contribute to the reform process and lead the new body.

I said that, at 63 years of age, the new role presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to serve the Australian community by helping to shape the new system of merits review. I acknowledged that the job would present significant challenges, and that the community, through the Government, would be entrusting me with enormous responsibilities. I said that I was prepared to work tirelessly, and had confidence that, with support and teamwork, that trust would be honoured.

I ended the conversation by saying that I believe personal and institutional renewal is very important for the health of both the individual and the institution, and that I was keen to make a difference in my new roles.

Thank you once again for your attendance this morning.

MORTIMER CJ: The Court will now adjourn.