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Lawyers turned MP returns to the law

For the past 22 years Duncan Kerr, MP has juggled an enviable political career with his first profession, law. _x000D_

user iconOlivia Collings 15 September 2009 The Bar
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For the past 22 years Duncan Kerr, MP has juggled an enviable political career with his first profession, law. 

During his time as member for Denison in Tasmania, Kerr has maintained his presence in the legal community.


“I have been able to continue both pro-bono but also occasionally private work consistently with my principal responsibilities in terms of time and obligation to my electorate during those years,” he said. 

“I’m still fascinated by the intellectual challenge of the law itself. I have never lost that – I know that the path that I have chosen to remain active within the profession as well as parliament is not one that is always followed- perhaps some people who enter politics form a legal background loose that sense of the excitement and the challenge of the law itself- but I never did.”

During his political career Kerr was Attorney General, Minister for Justice and currently Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs. 

“Whilst I am certain that the breadth of my practice that I used to have would be reduced- I have retained a sharp focus on public law issues,” he added.

 Prior to being elected, Kerr was Crown Counsel (Tasmania), Dean, Faculty of Law (University of Papua New Guinea), legal counsel to the Ombudsman Commission (Papua New Guinea) and principal solicitor, at the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW). But even after being elected Kerr continued to succeed in his legal career, earning his silks in 2004 and working on a variety of high profile cases. 

“I’m very fortunate; law is one of the few professionals that can coincide with parliamentary life. 

I’m sure it would have been very difficult if I had been in another profession to maintain consistently with your responsibilities as a parliamentarian,” he said. 

Perhaps the most significant case Kerr has worked on is the landmark High Court case Plaintiff S157/2002 v The Commonwealth (2003), which has been described as one of the seven most far-reaching and influential decisions of the High Court on constitutional matters in the past one hundred years. 

Following his departure from parliament after the next election, Kerr hopes to reestablish himself in the public law field. 

“I purchased chambers in Hobart a few years ago, but they are leased out at the moment. I hope I can work out arrangements with corresponding barristers in Melbourne or Sydney- so that I can work with a wider range of matters, because the volume of work in the areas that I am most competent in is relatively limited in Tasmania.”  

 He added: “I always expected that my political career would enable me to have a third career to go back to the profession. If I had waited any longer I would not have had sufficient time to re-establish myself and re-build my career in the law.” 

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