The Law Council of Australia has voiced support for the Federal Government decision to seek community input on the model and key features of a proposed federal judicial commission.
The Federal Government yesterday released a discussion paper of the establishment of a national judicial commission in line with recommendations made by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) last year.
The ALRC report, ‘Without Fear of Favour: Judicial Impartiality and the Law of Bias’, was tabled in Federal Parliament on 2 August 2022 and made 14 recommendations to promote and protect judicial impartiality and public confidence in the Commonwealth judiciary.
The Federal Government has given its ‘in principle’ support to the report recommendations and yesterday said feedback on its discussion paper would be crucial to the establishment of any potential commission model.
The Law Council of Australia (LCA) has welcomed the release of the paper, saying it is a very positive step forward toward setting up the commission.
Newly minted LCA President and respected Queensland solicitor Luke Murphy said: “We have been calling for a standalone federal judicial commission since 2006 because we believe having a means to fairly address complaints about the judiciary is essential to the promotion of the rule of law.
“While we will be considering and responding to each of the questions raised in the discussion paper, the Law Council has already established a number of principles it believes should underpin a federal judicial commission.”
The LCA has called for a federal judicial commission to be underpinned by four key features: independence, coherence, accessibility and transparency.
“We are very pleased that both the federal judicial commission and National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) are being progressed,” Mr Murphy said. “It is our very strong view that the federal judicial commission should be established at arm’s length from the executive government and separate from the NACC.
“The final commission model must be endorsed by the federal judiciary and adequately resourced to carry out its remit, which should include the fair and impartial handling of allegations of lack of competency, serious misconduct or corruption within the federal judiciary, as well as providing training, education and support to judicial officers.
“While the commission’s membership should include heads of jurisdictions, the Law Council has recommended the majority of members be community representatives of high standing who reflect the diversity of our community. In fact, we believe consideration should be given to proactively appointing people from significantly underrepresented groups, including First Nations people and people with disability.
“We look forward to considering the issues outlined in the discussion paper and providing a response on behalf of the legal profession.”
Mr Murphy, Queensland Law Society 2020 President, was last year elected as LCA’s 2023 President and took over the role from eminent Northern Territory barrister Tass Liveris.
The Government has invited all stakeholders to make submissions and created a webpage for members of the public to have their say. Submissions close on 21 February.