FEDERAL ATTORNEY-GENERAL Philip Ruddock has hit back at Australian Bar Association criticism of the judicial appointments process.
Ruddock issued a statement last week saying he had no knowledge of Australian Bar Association president, Stephen Estcourt QC, ever having sought a meeting to discuss judicial appointments.
His comments follow a report in The Australian newspaper in which Estcourt accused Ruddock of consistently ignoring the views and knowledge of the professional associations and their members.
Steve Ingram, spokesman for the Attorney-General confirmed to Lawyers Weekly that Estcourt had not approached the A-G’s department.
“We’ve got no knowledge of him seeking a meeting but, were he to seek a meeting, the Attorney-General does have an open door policy. And if it fits in with his diary we are sure meetings could be arranged,” Ingram said.
Estcourt told The Australian that he has met senior Labor advisers to discuss the issue of appointments should Labor win the next election.
“The bar associations and the law societies have valuable information that can have an impact on whether appointments should be made or not — information about the professional standing of individuals and their expertise in relevant areas,” Estcourt told the newspaper.
“We say that the rule of law requires the best appointments to positions, and this requires consultation. In my experience there has been zero consultation since this Attorney-General has taken power, with the exception of vacancies on the High Court,” he said.
Ruddock responded in his statement saying: “The Australian Bar Association has provided suggestions to me for the High Court, and should do so for other courts and tribunals if its members have a view.”
Law Council of Australia president Tim Bugg said Ruddock had expressed a willingness to consult with professional bodies for some time.
“I had an informal discussion with the Attorney-General about this and he made it very clear that he was very willing to consider names that the Law Council might wish to put forward, so to that extent he has shown a willingness to consult,” Bugg said.
Estcourt did not return calls made by Lawyers Weekly.