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ABA tackles judicial selection options

A DEBATE over the appropriateness of Australia’s judicial appointment system has erupted in the media, prompting the Australian Bar Association (ABA) to host a public forum on the issue in…

A DEBATE over the appropriateness of Australia’s judicial appointment system has erupted in the media, prompting the Australian Bar Association (ABA) to host a public forum on the issue in Sydney today.

The forum aims to address the current methods used in Australia to appoint judicial and quasi-judicial officers, and whether any changes can or should be made to those methods, with speeches being made by politicians, academics and judges.

“There has been some disquiet expressed recently about appointments at both Commonwealth and State levels. Any debate on this topic should be informed and can best be achieved through an open discussion about the appointment system currently being used,” Glenn Martin SC, president of ABA said.

Some former judges and commentators have argued that the current system is not working and that there needs to be a change by the introduction of judicial appointment commissions, which either advise the Attorney-General or offer a few names from which the Attorney must choose.

“We though it could be very useful if there were an examination of the current system and possible alternatives. So for that reason we have brought together a number of people who represent a relatively broad spectrum of opinions. And we hope that it will cause some further discussion to be had, and hopefully some more informed discussion,” Martin told Lawyers Weekly.

The forum will be addressed by associate professor Elizabeth Handsley, of Flinders University; professor Jim Allan, of the University of Queensland; the previous president of the Australian Women Lawyers, Caroline Kirton; and the Honourable Geoff Davies AO and Justice Ronald Sackville.

Speeches will also be made by the federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, and his political opposite, Nicola Roxon.

“The ABA is developing a number of models for consideration,” Martin said.

“This is one of the reasons we are having the forum, so that we can bring this information together and the ABA will be considering that information at its next meeting in December with a view to forming a policy.

“Australia is not the only jurisdiction in which this debate has taken place recently. Some countries with a similar legal system have moved away from the method used here and we should give careful thought to whether we can be better served by adopting a new approach.”

Judicial commissions operate throughout the world, in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Israel, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and numerous states in the USA.

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