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Court farewells man for all seasons

Revered retiring Supreme Court Justice Martin Daubney AM was so moved by the “persuasive panegyrics” – speeches of praise – delivered during a ceremony to celebrate his almost 15-years of judicial service to Queensland that he considered ceasing proceedings to rescind his resignation.

His comments came as Queensland’s legal profession flocked to the Brisbane QEII Courts of Law’s ceremonial Banco Court on Friday to farewell him as he prepares to retire from the bench on 31 December.

In response to a series of complimentary speeches, Justice Daubney delivered a witty and engaging oration – which regaled the crowd – as an expression of his “genuine thanks” to the legal profession, rather than sharing a trip down memory lane or his reflections on the rule of law or commentary on issues of law reform.

A well-known jester in the legal community, his Honour even ended his humorous homily with a line from Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music in order to win a $10 bet with a fellow judge he said would remain nameless, but whose initials were Justice “Glenn Charles Martin” AM.

Justice Daubney extended thanks to a myriad of people stretching from his fellow Supreme Court colleagues, Queensland Law Society and the Bar, his colleagues during his four-year stint as Queensland Civil and Administration President, as well as some of his “oldest and dearest friends” and family who attend the ceremony either in person or via videolink.

Queensland Law Society President Elizabeth Shearer paid tribute to his Honour for being the longest serving trial judge of the Supreme Court and a champion and advocate of QCAT by describing him as a “man for all seasons”.

“Both roles (at QCAT and the Supreme Court) touch the lives of countless Queenslanders,” Ms Shearer said.

“Your (QCAT) Presidential role has proven perhaps more challenging than you might have expected when appointed in 2017. This is because for almost half your term at QCAT, you have had the challenge of leading the very high volume but very low tech tribunal … through the pandemic.

“You have remained a great advocate for the vital jurisdictions of QCAT through this time and have written and spoken of the testing of the tribunal’s processes, systems and technology which has occurred.

“Always the effective advocate, you were successful in having significant and much needed additional resources made available to QCAT in this year’s State budget.

“Your legacy championing the improvement of this jurisdiction, so vital to the lives of so many Queenslanders, will continue to bear fruit in the years ahead.

“Queensland Law Society is particularly appreciative of your willingness to consult with our members with expertise in the various jurisdictions of the tribunal about improvements in processes.

“You are indeed a man for all seasons.”

Justice Daubney was also honoured with speeches from Queensland Chief Justice Catherine Holmes AC, Solicitor General Sandy Thompson QC (stepping in for Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman who was unable to attend) and Bar Board President Tom Sullivan QC.

The speeches all touched on his Honour’s stellar career from being admitted as a solicitor in April 1987, admitted to the Bar in 1998 and taking silk in 2000. He was appointed a judge of the Queensland Supreme Court in July 2007 and QCAT President in 2017.

Justice Daubney became a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the law, and to the judiciary, education and the community. His Honour was also Chair of a 2005 Royal Commission into Queensland thoroughbred racing which was charged with investigating allegations that bookmakers offered artificially inflated betting odds on races held in Queensland.

Mr Sullivan even made mention of a 4 June 2012 incident – which remains an oft told legendary tale – during which Justice Daubney remained cool and calm as a prisoner unleashed an amazingly foul and hateful tirade that included 93 swear words and a request that any order made include one for a pizza.

The incident, which received widespread media coverage at the time, occurred during a pre-trial hearing for a man accused of a violent attempted murder who had sacked his second set of lawyers attempting to avoid standing trial the following day.

Throughout the vitriolic spray Justice Daubney remained indifferent to the prisoner’s abhorrent behaviour and concluded the hearing by telling the court: “I was actually called much worse things on the rugby paddock you know?”

Justice Daubney, in thanking the speakers for their kind words, said: “I listened carefully to everything you said and must say that the longer each of you spoke, the less I recognised the person you were describing.

“That is undoubtedly due, in no small part, to the self-effacing modesty and almost crippling humility for which I am so well known, and about which there is so much commentary in the coffee houses of George Street. But you have surpassed yourselves today. Your lyrical encomia painted the picture of a jurist of almost mythical proportions.

“So moved was I by your persuasive panegyrics that, just a few moments ago, I underwent a sort of existential epiphany:  How selfish of me to deprive the Court and the people of this State of the jurisprudential powerhouse you each took such care to describe.

“The only thing – the only right and proper thing for me to do is to ask the Chief Justice to adjourn this sitting immediately so that I may proceed to Government House and tender a withdrawal of my resignation.

“That principled resolution was, however, immediately followed by a more important insight – that by doing so, I would undoubtedly forfeit the right to the morning tea which is waiting for us outside.

“And I think we all know where my priorities lie.”

His oration then launched into words of gratitude to all of the state’s legal fraternity from frontline court and support staff, practitioners, the judiciary – from the lowest ranks to the Chief Justice – and his family and friends.

“You will all be greatly relieved to hear that I have no intention today of sharing my reflections on the rule of law or offering commentary on issues of law reform,” he said. “Nor will I be taking you on a meandering trip down memory lane.

“Today, quite simply, is my opportunity to offer thanks for the last 14½ years.”

He wrapped up his speech, saying: “Thank you all for gathering here today, and for permitting me to indulge in this plenitude of gratitude.”

“The term ‘valedictory’, of course, means words of farewell, and it is in that context that I am able to offer my final expression of thanks.

“You see, some weeks ago a senior judge of this court who will remain nameless, but whose initials are Glenn Charles Martin, bet me a crisp $10 note that I wouldn’t be able to incorporate a line from any song in The Sound of Music in this speech.

“Now, I haven’t been able to monitor the judge from this particular vantage point, but I daresay when I review the video later, I will see that, as my speech has gone on, he has appeared ever more confident that his money is safe, and his family will run to topside mince on the table this weekend.

“So, the final thing I wish to give thanks for is that, from this place at least, I can now say: So long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen and Goodbye.”

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