The Australian legal industry has welcomed news that former Health Minister Nicola Roxon has replaced Robert McClelland to become the country's first female Attorney-General.
Noting the significant contribution McClelland made to the profession during his tenure as Attorney-General, Law Council of Australia president Alexander Ward said having a female Attorney-General will help the ongoing effort to address the retention of women in the legal profession.
"It's a good appointment. Roxon has been the Shadow Attorney in years gone by and of course in the past was a practising lawyer. We think that's an important aspect of the job that the Attorney-General does have that knowledge of the hands-on legal issues," Ward told Lawyers Weekly.
"It comes at an interesting time for the Law Council with her being the first female Attorney-General because we have an enormous project that we're working on at present, which is the position of women lawyers in the profession. I think it's always good to have role models ... and I think hopefully Nicola Roxon is quite proud of the fact that she'll be a role model."
Congratulating the Victorian lawyer on her appointment, president of the Law Institute of Victoria, Caroline Counsel, said Roxon brings "a great deal of experience" from her years working as a lawyer, mainly in employment law, and as shadow Attorney-General.
"Ms Roxon is very highly regarded within the legal community," said Counsel. "The Victorian legal profession looks forward to working with Ms Roxon in the future on a range of important issues."
Recognising the work he did to help advance the national profession reforms, president of the Law Society of New South Wales, Stuart Westgarth, described McClelland as "an indefatigable champion" of the process.
"Mr McClelland has worked tirelessly to accommodate the interests of a diverse range of stakeholders," said Westgarth. "We look forward to working with Ms Roxon in the implementation phase of these [national profession] reforms."
Appointed yesterday (12 December) by Prime Minister Julia Gillard as part of a Ministry and Cabinet reshuffle, Federal Attorney-General Roxon's focus will be on the Government's plain packaging reforms and ongoing Big Tobacco legal campaign.
"I've asked Nicola Roxon to take on the portfolio Attorney-General, which lies at the heart of good government," said Gillard at a press conference yesterday. "Nicola's first love was the law, she is a Supreme Court prize winner, she is a former High Court judge's associate and she will return to her first love of the law as the Attorney-General.
"She will be the first woman in the nation's history to serve in that role and I know that she will do it with distinction."
Roxon worked as an associate to Justice Mary Gaudron in the High Court of Australia and also as a senior associate with Maurice Blackburn from 1996 to 1998.