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PM defends High Court comments

PM defends High Court comments

Prime Minister Julia Gillard today stands by her comments about the High Court's rejection of the Government's Malaysian solution.

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard today stands by her comments about the High Court's rejection of the Government's Malaysian solution. 

Gillard yesterday said Chief Justice Robert French had "considered comparable legal questions when he was a judge of the Federal Court and made different decisions to the one that the High Court made". 

Today she said she did not withdraw her comments, and said the public is entitled to the facts about the shift in the law that flowed from the judgement. 

"What I did was point out matters of fact, and I think Australians are entitled to those facts and I don't resile from one word of what I said," she told Sky News. 

Gillard did not blame the court for throwing the Government's refugee policy into "limbo", as some media reports claim, nor did she criticise the High Court. She commented on the matter of precedents on which legal advice to the government rested on. 

The Law Council of Australia has, however, expressed disappointment at was it labelled "the Government’s criticism" of the High Court decision.

Law Council president Alexander Ward said High Court decisions must be given respect.

“Under the separation of powers in Australia, it’s the High Court’s role to interpret and rule on the laws passed by the Parliament,” Ward said.

“As the Law Council has previously stated, the High Court decision did not depart from any previous binding authority on the interpretation of the provision of the Migration Act relating to the declaration of a country to which offshore entry asylum seekers could be taken.

“The High Court gave due consideration to a number of authorities, including from lower courts, which it was argued were relevant to the interpretation of the provision but ultimately did not accept those arguments.

“The decision of the Court was entirely consistent with the usual practice of the Court," Ward said. 

Ward suggested Gillard had singled out the Chief Justice for particular criticism, and said this was "highly inappropriate". 

"His Honour was one of six judges who were in the majority in this case and the legal principles established by the case are very clear."

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