Ceremonial Sitting of the Full Court to Farewell the Honourable Justice Jacobson

Justice Jacobson 12 December 2014

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ALLSOP CJ: May I welcome all present on this occasion of the farewell from the court for our colleague and friend Justice Peter Jacobson. The court is honoured by your attendance to farewell one of its most valued, most valuable and best loved judges.

Justice Jacobson, it is a mark of the respect in which you are held and the affection so many have for you that this courtroom is brimming with those who wish to be present when we farewell you from the Court.

You and I go back some way. You came to the Bar a few years before me but our paths soon crossed in the commercial list run by Andrew Rogers and the company list run by those brilliant and profoundly decent judges of the Equity Division in the eighties and nineties.

Those were the places where your gifts of mimicry and humour first made me laugh. “Betty, don’t take this down,” as you mimicked Andrew Rogers, as we all did, trying to use humour to quell the apprehension. They were also the places where I first saw your brilliant, intuitive mind, your deep and encyclopaedic knowledge of company and commercial law and your charm and strategic cunning.

It was little wonder that you were a favoured junior of the titans of the commercial and company bar at the time such as Tom Hughes, Russell Bainton, Doug Staff, Murray Gleeson and Peter Hely.

When you took silk in 1992 you took the coveted position of the most junior applicant of those appointed. That made you the last person to hold the commission as Queen’s Counsel in and for the state of New South Wales.

You came to the court in 2002 and we have shared a judicial life together for over 12 years. Even if I was downstairs for nearly five we always stayed close and in touch. It has been a privilege beyond measure to share a judicial life with you. You are a natural judge gifted with all the necessary qualities: intellect, calmness, insight into humanity, a deep sense of fairness and the skill and gift of clear expression that flows from your pen as you handwrite your judgments with immediacy and dispatch.

I wish to explain why it has been a privilege to be your colleague and by doing so I hope, in my own inadequate way, to convey to those present the mixed emotions of sadness, respect, friendship, joy and pride that I feel today in recalling your time on the court and in farewelling you. I suspect that those mixed emotions will be found in almost everyone in this room.

First and foremost, you have been a judge of the first order. You have decided a significant body of cases in your time on the court. Many of those were of great legal significance. You have displayed your great legal talents in commercial and company law, competition law, insolvency, intellectual property, industrial law and public law. What marks your work is – with a trademark stamp, is the prompt, businesslike and clearly written nature of your judgments. You have always understood the imperative of dispatch of judicial business and of the need for clear, simple and, if necessary, blunt language. You write beautifully. It flows from the love of your craft.

No better example can be given than your cooperation with Justices Gilmour and Gordon to produce, in three months, a remarkably comprehensive and clear appellate judgment in the massive ABN AMRO appeal this year, in dismissing the appeal form the prodigious judgment of Justice Jagot. The case was huge and complex, involving financial derivative instruments that littered the financial markets before 2008 and that then despoiled them in 2008 and thereafter. Your leadership and work in that appeal reflected the highest capacities and qualities of any appeal judge and of any appeal court.

Your first instance work has been marked by the qualities of practical insight and toughness administered with civility and sometimes, and only where appropriate, humour. If there is a litigant and practitioner who has pulled the wool over your eyes or taken advantage of your good nature she is unknown to the rest of us. Time does not permit the recitation of the important and interesting cases you have decided, from riffs in Men at Work’s Down Under, to the Lehman Brothers’ liquidation, to litigation funding principles in class actions, to censorship in a multicultural community, to the operation of the internet and to the countless important public law cases.

One first instance case should, however, be mentioned: ASIC v Citigroup Global Markets in 2007. This was an important case for the operation of banking houses in a modern commercial context, involving the place of so-called Chinese walls in commercial houses doing business. With the assistance of skilled practitioners, you reduced a case of challenging complexity to one of clarity and simplicity. The world wide general counsel of Citigroup later made a speech at an International Bar Association meeting, in which he said that he had witnessed, in that case, the best run and best managed piece of litigation that he had seen anywhere in the world in his working life or perhaps he was influenced by his company’s victory. Nevertheless, even considering that, it was high praise but praise appropriate for the recognition of your skill.

You took over the administration of the company work in the court in Sydney in 2012 from Justice Emmett. That was a Herculean task not only because of the volume of the work involved but from the intricacy and subtlety of how the list had been administered, an intricacy and subtlety I have come recently to understand that you have not only mastered but improved upon.

As a colleague, you have been a pillar of strength in the court and in this registry. You have always been the quintessential national judge. Your warmth and collegiality infected the whole court. Interstate rivalries and jealousies are impossible in the face of courteous, plain speaking, ingenuous and infectious good humour and calm decency. You have helped embed these qualities in the court as a whole. Long may it last. To the extent it does, it is, in part, your legacy, and one you should be proud of.

Together with your devoted EAs, Sam Goodwin and Robin Delahunty, you have organised much of the social life of the Sydney registry as self-appointed SSPJ – Senior Sydney Puisne Judge. Of course, you have been ably assisted in that by the co-ordinate social secretary and SSPJIW – Senior Sydney Puisne Judge In Waiting, Justice Bennett.

These are, however, not intended as mere light hearted comments. Your work in this regard was and is important. You understood that the bonds of friendship amongst us all, which you have always taken the trouble to strengthen, were vital for a happy and productive court. You felt this, I know, as the court was battered during 2005, from March to October with the untimely deaths of five of its greatest servants: Richard Cooper in March, Brad Selway in April, Bryan Beaumont in June, Graeme Hill in August and then our dear friend Peter Hely on 1 October Sydney time. This, after the loss of John Lehane but four years earlier. The effort you expended in helping raise morale, not only of the Sydney judges, but of the whole court in and after 2005 should be remembered as important in helping to restore the spirit of your colleagues around the country and the spirit of a shaken institution. It was an important contribution to the stability and strength of the court. It should not be forgotten or just assumed to have been conduct illustrative of your good nature.

Then there is your work as Chief Justice of Norfolk Island, which you completed yesterday with a judgment in a will case, and also your tireless and efficient work on the committees of the court.

I hope that I have conveyed the depth of respect and affection that is felt for you. That respect and affection is derived from your qualities as a brilliant and naturally gifted judge and from your warmth, humanity and insight as a person. All the human and technical judicial qualities that you possess coalesce in you to make you a craftsman of the judicial art.

You leave this court in the prime of a vigorous judicial life. I suspect that your judicial career is not over. On 24 January next you will only cease to be permitted to exercise the judicial power of the Commonwealth as a federal judicial officer.

The court and all your colleagues wish you and Marlene the very best for the future and we thank you for your service to the Australian public and for your friendship.

ALLSOP CJ: Mr Attorney.

MR G. BRANDIS QC: May it please the court. It is indeed a pleasure to be here today to acknowledge the distinguished career of the honourable Justice Peter Jacobson and to convey the appreciation of the government and the people of Australia for his many years of dedicated service to this court. It is a testament to the respect with which your Honour is held that so many distinguished current and former members of the judiciary are present here today to farewell you.

May I acknowledge the honourable Justice Patrick Keane of the High Court; the Chief Justice of this court, of course; the honourable Tom Bathurst, Chief Justice of New South Wales; John Pascoe, the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia; the honourable Brian Preston, the Chief Judge of the New South Wales Land and Environment Court; current members of the Federal Court, the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the Federal Circuit Court, the District Court of New South Wales, the Land and Environment Court; Mr Gleeson, the Commonwealth Solicitor General; and former judicial officers, the honourable Dyson Heydon, the honourable Michael Black, of course, the former Chief Justice of this court;  and two former Chief Justices of New South Wales, Laurence Street and the honourable James Spigelman.

May I also acknowledge the presence of members of your Honour’s family, particularly your wife Marlene, who proudly share this special occasion with you. Your Honour, as we have heard, will retire on 24 January 2015 after 12 years of dedicated and notable service on the Federal Court. It is befitting on this occasion to reflect on your Honour’s legal career as well as your contributions to the law and to the court. Your Honour completed your secondary schooling at Sydney Boys High where you excelled in sport, particularly athletics. You graduated with the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws with Honours from the University of Sydney and it was there that the deep intellect for which your Honour is renowned first came to be noticed by your peers.

Not only were you awarded several academic prizes throughout your courses, you were also awarded a Commonwealth scholarship in your final year to study at the University of Sydney. After being admitted to practice as a solicitor in 1968, your Honour travelled to the United States to undertake further study and graduated with the degree of Master of Laws from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1971. It was also in that year that you married your wife, Marlene.

Your Honour has held academic appointments at the University of Michigan and McGill University in Canada, where you conducted research and lectured widely in criminal law, contract, property law and tort. Returning to Australia in 1976 your Honour practiced for a time as a solicitor at Allen Allen & Hemsley. In 1979 you were called to the bar where you specialised in commercial law, equity and trade practices. In recognition of your high degree of skill, diligence and experience, your Honour was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1992. Your former colleagues at the bar speak very, very highly about your investment in the corporate and collegiate life of the bar.

Commencing in 1990 you served as a board member of the barrister’s superannuation fund. You also served as chairman of the superannuation fund’s policy board from 1994 to 1995. In 1997 you took up a two year appointment as a member of the New South Wales Alternative Dispute Resolution and Arbitration Committee. Your Honour, as we’ve heard, was appointed to this court in 2002. Your service to the court is marked by your carefully reasoned and thorough approach to the determination of the many difficult matters with which you have had to deal. You are, as I said before, renowned for your immense intellect and breadth of knowledge of the law and, in particular, for your expertise in corporations, commercial law and equity.

Those familiar with your Honour’s oversight of proceedings speak highly of your efficiency in dealing with your docket and they speak also of your calm demeanour. Your Honour has also provided valuable support and technical expertise to workshops delivered to judicial officers from Pacific nations throughout – through the Pacific Judicial Capacity Building Program. In addition to your service on the Federal Court, your Honour has served as both judge and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island and in those roles you have ably served the administration of justice in that jurisdiction. One of your Honour’s legacies will undoubtedly be the outstanding contribution you have made in your specialist fields of corporations, commercial law and equity.

As the judge convening the competition and corporations panels within the Sydney registry of the court you have overseen the coordination of a significant case load at a time of immense change in these areas of the law. You have also sat on a number of notable first instance cases and as a member of the Full Court. The matter of ASIC v Citigroup in 2007 drew particular attention both in Australia and in other jurisdictions as well. Another notable case on which your Honour sat was Larrikin Music Publishing v EMI involving rights to a riff appearing in the famous song Down Under by Men at Work. I understand during the course of those proceedings your Honour invited Colin Hay to play the song live on his guitar in the courtroom. Your Honour is regarded by fellow members of the judiciary as a most thoughtful and companionable colleague.

Your friendly and approachable nature, even when under pressure, sets you apart in the eyes of your colleagues. I understand that you are an accomplished mimic. Your impersonations of other judges, I am told, and senior members of the bar attest to your Honour’s great sense of humour. It has even been suggested that you could have been – not should have been – but could have been a comedian by trade. Your Honour, I trust that retirement from the court will enable you to continue to pursue an active social and professional life. I hope your Honour will have ample travel – time to enjoy travel with Marlene and to pursue the perfection of your golf and tennis games.

In conclusion, your Honour, may I say your generous approach to your colleagues, to practitioners and to the community, generally, has been appreciated and noted by all who have dealt with you. The dedication and rigour your Honour has brought to the work of the court is acknowledged by all. So it is a great privilege for me this morning to convey the appreciation of the government and the people of Australia for your long and dedicated service and to wish you many, many happy years both personally and professionally in the future. May it please the court.

ALLSOP CJ: Thank you. Ms Needham.

MS J. NEEDHAM SC: May it please the court. The Personalia section of Bar News summer 2002 tells of another heavily attended ceremony at which Justice Jacobson was appointed to the Federal Court. The article begins with a rhetorical flourish, “The last QC ever appointed in New South Wales,” then introduces readers to a self-effacing, distinguished and immensely well liked member of the inner bar. The then president of the New South Wales Bar Association, Brett Walker SC, spoke of your incisive advocacy balanced by civility and professional etiquette. Mr Walker alluded to these qualities when he said, “The velvet covered a particular obdurate material inside what was never really shaped like a fist.”

Justice Jacobson, on behalf of the Australian and the New South Wales Bar Associations, it’s my privilege to farewell your Honour from the Federal Court bench and to recognise your outstanding contribution to the jurisprudence of this court. In doing so I wish also to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which this court stands, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and pay my respects to their elders past and present. Your Honour was appointed to the bench of this court in June 2002 after 23 years spent building a thriving equity and commercial practice at the New South Wales Bar. I in fact remember your Honour as a relatively junior member of the bar appearing on duty lists in the equity division when I was an associate.

On your appointment you had already been a sitting judge for three – I’m sorry, at your swearing in you had already been a sitting judge for three weeks prior to the swearing in, which became an opportunity for you to reflect on the transformation from bar to bench. You noted that the work load of the court is heavy and that you would have to work extremely hard in order to produce consistently high quality judgments in a speedy fashion. With characteristic modesty you expressed a hope that your judicial handicap would be better than your golf handicap and that you wouldn’t score too many eights on easy par threes. After 12 years and at, on my count – which may be, of course, inaccurate, 896 decisions, 124 of which were reported both at first instance and on the bench of the Full Federal Court, your contribution to Federal Law and the administration of justice by the Commonwealth is readily apparent.

Indeed, in the golfing vernacular, you have achieved the status of a scratch player. Among those decisions are Spencer v Commonwealth, Leveraged Equities Limited v Goodridge, Aristocrat Technologies Australia Proprietary Limited v D.A.P. Services and Lehman Brothers Australia v Wingecarribee Shire Council. A number of your judgments have attracted the attention of the Fourth Estate which isn’t always interested in price fixing, collateralised debt obligations or such other intricacies of the court’s jurisdiction. In covered ASIC v Citigroup Global Markets Australia Proprietary Limited, the headline in the Sydney Morning Herald blared, “Conflicts of interest go up in smoke.”

Alan Kohler positively gushed over your succinct definition of a fiduciary relationship while Stephen Bartholomeusz noted your brutally direct judgment which methodically demolished each and every foundation of ASICs case. We’ve heard from the Chief Justice and the Attorney General of the Down Under case, Larrikin Music Publishing v EMI Songs Australia Proprietary Limited and the performance during cross-examination by Mr Hay of the song Down Under to be played without the disputed riff and my informant tells me that the evidentiary weight of that evidence remains unclear.

By all accounts, including that, of course, of the Chief Justice, you have become the honorary coordinator of Federal Court social functions and, having woven yourself into the fabric of the court, your colleagues will miss you terribly so. The restaurateurs of Sydney are too despondent to comment. Your Honour has even emblazoned a T-shirt with SSPJ, Senior Sydney Puisne Judge, which I hear Justice Bennett is eyeing. Your Honour was an enthusiastic supporter and regular participant and the bench and bar and solicitors golf day. An organiser of the tournament said, very judiciously, that, like most members of the team, your performance did not always match the promise.

Of course, no account of your term on the Federal Court bench would be complete without mention of your role as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island. Your Honour took over from Justice Weinberg who had presided over a murder trial. Thankfully for the islanders there have been no reported murders during your term in office. The title was not without status. I’m told that your Honour enjoyed staying in the administrator’s lodge where you were waited upon by a butler. Your Honour developed your customary rapport with court staff on the island, which perhaps is wise, given that a significant proportion of the population are descendants of the Bounty Mutineers.

Soon after you arrived on Norfolk Island, during a visit to the island’s supermarket your Honour was recognised by one of the locals. The fact that your fame preceded you was said to be a source of great satisfaction to you. You returned the favour by knowing the nicknames of all the court staff. Apparently everyone on Norfolk Island has a nickname. I wonder what your Honour’s might have been. Justice Jacobson, you have served the legal profession with distinction over many years. You brought to this bench a tremendous depth and breadth of experience in commercial litigation. The bar congratulates you and wishes you well in your future endeavours. May it please the court.

HIS HONOUR: Thank you. Ms Everett.

MS R. EVERETT: May it please the court. I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet here today, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and I pay my respects to their elders both past and present. It is indeed and honour and a privilege to add my remarks on behalf of the solicitors of New South Wales and also the Law Council of Australia. Today we’re farewelling an esteemed member of the judiciary who has earned our highest respect and whose intellect, work ethos and personal characteristics have endeared him to so many.

Your Honour has always treated everyone with the utmost respect, warmth and friendliness and it’s a quality that drew many people to you and made you a much loved member of chambers, particularly, those who worked very closely with you. Your wife, Marlene has – you and your wife, Marlene, have warmly welcomed many friends from the court into your lives and indeed have adopted the children of former associates to whom you fondly refer to as your grand-associates. Your Honour is a man of many talents and with many interests – a dedicated film buff.

Prospective associates fronting up for an interview would often find themselves quizzed extensively on their knowledge of movies and their preferences. You’re an apparent enthusiast for modern music and as also duly noted in chambers and in the court and as we’ve heard today many anecdotes about the famous case from the song Down Under from Men at Work. I’m told that this hearing involved putting various witnesses to hear comparable songs which contained instances of sampling. In preparing the judgment your Honour seems to have taken great delight in subjecting chambers to repeat performance of Rihanna, Paris Hilton, Rogue Traders, Eminem and others.

And given that your Honour likes to write your first drafts in long hand I suspect the assault on the ears may have continued for some time. One former associate described your Honour as a good friend, mentor and role model who has not only taught her about the law but also how to maintain friendships, to treat every person with patience and kindness and how to balance hard work with fun and humour. That sense of fun sometimes extended to the courtroom. On one of the many occasions as corporations duty judge your Honour heard an application involving the possible winding up of a company that owned the rights to the stage show, Dirty Dancing. After hearing from Senior Counsel your Honour appropriately quipped, “Well, counsel, nobody puts baby in a corner.”

Some years ago, Tom Bathurst QC, as he then was, came to the Federal Court, obviously, directly from New South Wales Supreme Court and commenced his application. “Thank you for dressing up for today, Mr Bathurst,” your Honour said at the time to Mr Bathurst, who quickly removed his wig. Your Honour has the quick ability to quickly to get to the heart of issues, dealing with each in its turn neatly and cleanly and always producing a sensible outcome.

On the rare occasions that judgment was overturned, I’m told you would simple wink and say, “Oh well, sometimes they get it wrong.” Your Honour could always be approached to discuss legal matters and current cases. You were also renowned for your amazing memory. I think of all the too younger generation of lawyers today using search engines such as AustLII or LexisNexis. You would always remember the location of cases and the CLRs, the volume and the page number. In addition, your Honour remembers the names of everyone you meet and never forgets a birthday. As we heard, your Honour has many interests outside the law, and your yoga skills would put the rest of us to shame.

Although I believe the appeals registrar wished you had refrained from trying your first headstand prior to the commencement of the C7 appeal, shortly after which your Honour was admitted to a hospital for emergency spinal surgery. Your Honour, we are not oblivious to the fact that your retirement coincides with the exit of David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz after 30 years at the helm of At The Movies. Some people anticipate that your Honour and former EA, Sam Goodwin, may pop up as fresh new talent in the near future. Your Honour, whatever your plans may be, the solicitors of New South Wales and Australia wish you well in your retirement, happiness and good health. May it please the court.

ALLSOP CJ: Thank you, Ms Everett. Justice Jacobson.

JACOBSON J: Mr Attorney, justices and former justices – the singular includes the plural on this occasion – chief justices and former chief justices, judges and former judges, Mr Solicitor, colleagues, family and friends. Sometimes, on occasions such as this, untruths are told about the retiring judge. I hope that at least some of what has been said today is true. Chief Justice, Mr Attorney, Ms Needham and Ms Everett, thank you for the compliments you have paid me. I’m not sure that I deserve them all, but I do very much appreciate everything that you’ve said. I leave the court reluctantly. It’s been the high point of my professional life, and I’ve loved everything about it or at least almost everything.

Being uncertain as to whether I want to go, I consulted former Justice Ken Handley, an expert on extending the age of retirement. He told me that the referendum which introduced the constitutional retirement age of 70 was invalid, but R J Ellicott says it is, and I think he would know. I also asked Justice Gordon if there was anything I could do to escape the constitutional guillotine. She said, “Jewish people don’t know their real birthdates,” and so the details on my birth certificate are probably inaccurate. That was true with earlier generations, but not in mine. My mother’s birth certificate was probably quite inaccurate. Her parents came from an area of Eastern Europe which was then thought to be part of Russia. On one view it still is.

My mother told me that my grandfather spoke five languages but they didn’t include English. My grandfather was notoriously unreliable when it came to registering the details of his children’s birth. My father’s history is even more obscure. He was born in a small town in Poland. He moved to Berlin at a young age and was lucky to come to Australia before World War II. He died when I was only young, leaving my mother, in today’s parlance, as a single mum. But it had no adverse affect on my upbringing. I owe almost everything that I’ve achieved to the love and devotion of my mother, my maternal grandmother and also to my aunts and uncles on both sides of my family.

They helped me to understand the value of humour and the importance of a good education. I wasn’t an easy child to raise. I tended to be cheeky to persons in authority and to spend a good deal of time doing lifelike impersonations of relatives, teachers and even persons who tried, unsuccessfully, to give me some religious education. All that must explain the success, such as it was, that I had in the commercial division of the Supreme Court. In those days, the commercial division was known in some circles as the Killing Fields. They were exciting and very dangerous times. Others have paid tribute to Andrew Rogers for the reforms he introduced. I would like to add my name to that list.

He educated a whole generation of lawyers, judges and future judges to a new and more ruthlessly efficient approach to the conduct of litigation. Although I learnt much from the jocular brutality of practising in the commercial list, I’m also indebted to many other judges of that era for their patience in putting up with me, particularly the judges of the equity division and the judges of the Federal Court. I learnt from them that patience and courtesy are important virtues. There are too many to mention by name, but I would like to pay special tribute to John Kearney and Malcolm McLelland of the equity division and John Lockhart and Ian Sheppard of the Federal Court.

I have been extremely privileged to have been given entrance to institutions and appointments to positions I never expected to attain. Those opportunities started with my schooling at Sydney Boys High School and they extended to the appointments, jobs and other positions about which you’ve heard today including, of course, my appointment as Chief Justice of Norfolk Island. No one has a right to be appointed to any position, especially as judge of the Federal Court or any other court. I thank my lucky stars almost daily for putting me here. I also thank some more terrestrial beings, although some are not here on earth to receive my expressions of gratitude. Those persons include the late Bryan Beaumont and my good friend and colleague Peter Hely.

Peter’s third rule of litigation is deeply embedded in my soul. I mentioned that principle at his funeral, although I was constrained by that occasion, as I am today, to state only its general effect. That is to say, don’t you mess it up. But I still feel the full force of it when I enter the court room or attempt to render judgment. 2005, as the Chief Justice has said, was a horrendous year for the Federal Court. But the deaths of the judges who have been mentioned strengthened the bond between those of us who remained, as well as those in other courts and the members of the profession who knew them well. I’ve had some marvellous cases during my twelve and a half years on the court. Most of them have been mentioned.

I should say, of course, I had my share of unpleasant ones, including the case from hell that, with respect, a misguided Full Court thought fit to send back to me. My favourite cases included one that has been mentioned a few times: Citigroup and also another, Chameleon. Citibank, as you’ve heard, was a claim for insider trading, and I was fortunate that counsel on both sides of the record got to the heart of it very quickly and efficiently. They showed that a case that had the potential to be drawn out and convoluted could be presented in a way that enabled it to be heard well within the timeframe that was initially contemplated. Of course I played no part in achieving that result. Chameleon was a case about extensive breaches of duty by persons in control of what used to be called a penny mining stock.

It comprised a cast of characters who resembled the villains in a B-grade Hollywood movie. Almost every witness had a criminal record and those who did not were probably using false identities. I issued more certificates under section 128 of the Evidence Act in that case than I have in the rest of my judicial career. And, of course, there’s the case for which I suppose I will always be remembered, for better or for worse, Down Under. It was a unique privilege to preside over a private concert by Colin Hay of a song that is something of a pop national anthem. I know that Mr Hay and many others think I got it wrong, but you call it as you see it, and as one of our favourite former judges, Justice Richard Conti, used to say, “You make no comment about the evidence in stronger terms than are required to disclose your reasons for judgment.”

I have many more people to thank for my success. First and foremost, I want to thank Marlene for putting up with the idiosyncrasies in my character that have been revealed today and also some – those that have not. Second, I have been very fortunate to have served under three chief justices who have supported my work in the court. They are: Michael Black, Pat Keane and my good friend and the present Chief Justice, James Allsop. Each has put a special stamp on the court and has encouraged me to display the spirit of independence which is at the heart of the system of administration of justice. Third, I want to thank my associates who have helped me to see things from their own youthful and extraordinarily enthusiastic perspectives. I hope the video link is working well for those who are watching overseas.

Fourth and finally, I’ve been blessed to have two amazing executive assistants. The first has already been mentioned: Leanor Elizabeth Goodwin, known to everybody as Sam. She helped to make it a pleasure for me to come to work every morning. Where else could you find someone of a certain age with spiky blonde hair, droopy earrings and New York sense of humour? She was something like a cross between the musician Annie Lennox and the comedian Joan Rivers. When I interviewed her for the job, she said, “If you hire me, I come with my own set of dishes.” How could I refuse? Sam has been on leave for some time, but she still manages to make cameo appearances on important occasions looking a bit like an actress from the golden era of Hollywood. But I do think, Sam, that you and I would make a good replacement for David and Margaret.

Sam has been succeeded by Robin Delahunty. Robin is a treasure from an era in Australian life that I fear we may soon lose. She is a devoted and loyal employee who will stay at work until midnight if she has to. Robin is much loved in the court for her dedication, her perceptive nature and for her CJ Dennis style sense of humour. An example of this is her deep regard for Chapter III of the Constitution, which, as every lawyer knows, is the foundation of the Federal Court. On one occasion, I left my chambers to attend court to hear a migration appeal. The appellant, a litigant in person, did not appear at the hearing, and I returned very quickly to chambers. “What happened?” Robin asked. “The appellant didn’t show,” I said. “Crikey,” Robin replied. “Are we or are we not a Chapter III court?”

I thank everyone for coming today. You’ve honoured me by doing so. There are many present who I would like to thank for their support, assistance and encouragement during my career, but I’ve been unable to mention you given the short amount of time that was allocated to me by the Chief Justice. I hope I have a chance to do so at the morning tea to which everyone is invited. Thank you very much.

ALLSOP CJ: The court will now adjourn.