Ceremonial Sitting of the Full Court

To welcome the Honourable Chief Justice Allsop AO

Transcript of proceedings 

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9.31 AM, THURSDAY, 2 MAY 2013

MR R. TRAVES SC: May it please the court. It is a privilege to welcome your Honour the Chief Justice to Queensland in this, your first sittings here on behalf of the members of the Bar Association of Queensland. Your Honour’s appointment has been met with universal approval from the Queensland Bar and I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment and wish you well in the discharge of your office. Your achievements in the law are well known but the highlights bear repeating: a university medal in law from the University of Sydney, associate to the first Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Sir Nigel Bowen, admitted to the bar in 1981, appointed silk in 1994, Justice of the Federal Court from 2001 to 2008, President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal for five years and now Chief Justice of the Federal Court.

Yours was, quite simply, an outstanding professional career and that, together with your exemplary service to the law and to the community on the bench, make your Honour, if I may respectfully submit, an outstanding choice of Chief Justice. It is worthwhile, and perhaps even prudent, on an occasion such as this to attempt to orient your Honour to some features of your surrounds in this, one of your many judicial homes away from home. I should tell you that the court here forms part of one of the truly notable legal precincts in the country; here the Federal Court, across George Street the Queen Elizabeth II Supreme and District Courts building, and the Brisbane Magistrates Court adjacent. Many members of the association have changed in the rather flash Santos House next door and most others have so nearby. There is a plaque which you should visit marking in this very precinct the birthplace of Lord Justice Atkin.

Looking beyond the law, there is a large rock just across North Quay which marks the discovery of the site for the City of Brisbane, and just further afield on Milton Road is a large football stadium where every year those born south of the border take on those born north of it. I would encourage your Honour, should you be sitting in Brisbane in late June, to pop a Maroons State of Origin jersey on when walking on George Street and, in fact, we bought one for your Honour for exactly that purpose. May I tender it? Can I suggest to your Honour that you not wear it brand new ‑ ‑ ‑

ALLSOP CJ: Shall I rule on the tender?

MR TRAVES: May I suggest your Honour not wear it brand new so as not to raise suspicion but, rather, let it fade a little first. And, finally, should you be asked by any member of the legal community to come for a drink at the famous legal landmark the Grosvenor School of Law on the corner of George and Ann Streets I would recommend that your Honour respectfully decline that invitation. Your Honour, those who stand with me today and all of those whom I represent join with me in recognising your significant judicial service to the Australian community. We welcome wholeheartedly your Honour’s appointment of Chief Justice. We look forward to seeing you often in Queensland and we wish you well in the discharge of your new office. May it please the court.

MS A. BRADFIELD: May it please the court. It is with pleasure that I speak on behalf of the solicitor’s branch of the profession to welcome your Honour to Brisbane and to the appointment as Chief Justice of this Federal Court of Australia. I will not restate your Honour’s already significant achievements in the legal profession but, suffice to say, your appointment weaves another golden thread into the rich tapestry of the court’s 37-year tradition. It also marks your return to the Federal Court which you left in 2008 to take up your role as President of the Court of Appeal in New South Wales. So in this regard your recent appointment is part welcome and part welcome back.

Our members who practice in the admiralty division are particularly pleased with your appointment and look forward to the opportunity to appear before your Honour in matters of ship arrest, salvage and, perhaps, a case of drawing the proper distinction between the contracts of bottomry and Roslyn la Tier. Your Honour’s demonstrated thirst for knowledge, extensive experience, academic excellence and impartiality makes it completely fitting that the former Attorney-General Nicola Roxon made your wise appointment. Your Honour is a beacon for the profession. You have guided and nurtured impressionable and enthusiastic legal minds through the sandstone walls of the University of Sydney, and you heralded strong leadership as President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal. I note that you greatly admired the late Peter Hallick QC who has been described as a Delphic oracle, whose every syllable is crystal clear and whose rare sentences are jewellery to the ears.

I believe your appointment is a testament that the profession considers you in the same light. On behalf of the solicitors of Queensland, our litigators, our legal academics and the casual readers of your judgments and literary papers, I would like to celebrate your achievements and express the profession’s admiration for your contribution to the profession, your legal intellect and the humanitarian way you apply it. Finally, I would like to wish your Honour every success in this new role. It will have new challenges and new opportunities but, through application of your exceptional learning, diligence and humanity, I am in no doubt that will be a role at which you will excel. May it please the court.

ALLSOP CJ: Chief Justice de Jersey, Mr Vasta, judges of the Family Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, Mr Traves, Ms Bradfield, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you Mr Traves and Ms Bradfield, for your very kind remarks. Mr Traves, a colleague of mine in Sydney asked me this morning whether I would begin by making a joke about the State of Origin to which I said to her, “The State of Origin is no joke” but I said that given it was a federal occasion and given New South Wales hasn’t won for some time I thought I would desist, except I did wear a blue shirt.

Although it is my natural instinct to be uncomfortable about being an apparent centre of attention like this and being the cause of busy people taking themselves away from dealing with other people’s problems or their own lives, I appreciate the fact that this is an event for the court and for that reason it is important.

What is important, I think, also is not to be portentous on occasions such as this. That is made easy, however, by the warmth and friendliness of the welcome and of the collegiality of my colleagues. In respect of the latter, I have been made to feel welcome by all the judges of the court and, in particular, in Queensland and I appreciate it very much.  I think without it, what I have come to appreciate is an extremely difficult job, would be made impossible. The welcome today, if I may say so, is of the same character, for which I thank you.

Much has changed since the court began its working life 36 years ago. This Court building has been built, the Supreme Court has an outstanding home of great architectural significance in this precinct and Australia has become an influential and significant commercial centre of the Asia-Pacific region. In that context, Brisbane, and Queensland more generally, have grown exponentially, not just in terms of population but also in terms of commercial and economic importance and development. This has been reflected in the growth of legal work in this Court and this Registry in commercial mattes and also in the Supreme Court with its renowned efficient disposition of commercial work.

One of the most significant changes, I think, has been that of the relationship between the courts. When this Court was established, relations with State courts, and I think in this State as well, were less than warmly congenial. That was unfortunate, but it was also, perhaps, understandable in human terms. But if one appreciates the importance of Chapter III of the Constitution, Section 77 in particular, one realises the importance of good co-operative and collegiate arrangements and relationships between the courts of the polities of the Commonwealth of Australia. We are all part of an integrated and federated legal system and judicature. The relationship between the Supreme Court and the Federal Court here in Queensland is a model of that judicial collegiate co-operation. Chief Justice de Jersey in no small part is responsible for that, as are the judges of this Registry.

I look forward to coming to Brisbane as often as I can to enjoy the benefits of the exceptional standard of advocacy and professional preparation that one always receives here, and the collegiality and warmth of the Queensland judiciary, both State and Federal. Thank you all very much for coming. You do the court the honour of doing so. The court will adjourn.