Royal Commission an eye-opener

Justin Greggery KC has spoken of his experiences at the bar with The Callover podcast.

Justin Greggery KC came to national prominence in 2022 when Robodebt hit the headlines.

His legal sparring with former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, along with comments from Commissioner Catherine Holmes AC, dominated media coverage at the time.

Being appointed Senior Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme in 2022 was a long way from his school days in Gayndah in the North Burnett.

Justin shared his journey to the Bar and key learnings from the Royal Commission during the latest The Callover podcast.

So how did the boy from Gayndah find himself in the legal profession?

“I sort of fell into it actually,” he said. “No one in the family had any association with the law – good or bad.


“I grew up in a small country town and didn’t know what to do at the end of high school so there was a range of university options and they were varied options.

“I think one was agricultural science at Gatton College – my grandfather had a modest cattle property but ended up studying law and then second guessed that for a number of years.

“I landed a job as clerk at the DPP. So that’s where it started.”

Although not initially excited by his university legal studies, his interest in the law was sparked when he received a jury service note and sat on two juries.

“I got to watch two criminal trials unfold which looked fascinating; people looked a little stressed,” Justin shared on the podcast.

“But it was fascinating. being in the jury room was fascinating as well so I had that understanding when I started as a clerk and then it was just in the deep end.


“So that’s how it started. And then work at the DPP – in a rural or regional area like Townsville – was a small office and there’s an expectation do can do a lot of things, and you do much more than say, if you were in a larger office, where you might have a more confined role.”

The workload for the Royal Commission was not confined. The Commission took evidence from 115 witnesses across four public hearings. Thousands of exhibits were tendered and the final report was produced by the Commissioner on 7 July 2023.

Key lessons for the legal profession were the importance of prepared to give frank and fearless advice in a political climate, and maintaining objectivity and independence.

“It (frank and fearless advice) means basically being prepared to upset your client is the bottom line. And that’s the job,” he said.

“Often if I’m going to tell a client I think it’s a bad position that they’re in, I’ll say ‘look, the reason you’ve asked me for the advice is because you want to know an answer to question which you can’t search out for yourself which relies on our experience or expertise in the area and I’m not here to tell you what you want to hear’. That sort of sets the framework.”

So after more than 20 years in the profession, looking back, what advice would he give to the younger man who was unsure about his career path?


“You need all the advice you can get. You find yourself in challenging times. I experienced some very challenging times early on in my career when I was first admitted and appearing in courts. I remember a tough run from a particular judge which went for some months and it started me thinking maybe there was a better way to earn an living. Would have been good to know that tough times run their course and it’s not always going to be like that,” Justin said.

“Another thing is that there is this sense of expectation to be like others, and perform like others when we come into the law because we see people are doing great things and are being held up as doing great thing and we say we have to be like that.

“I think if I was telling myself 20 years ago, it would be find a way of practising the law that suits you, your ethics, your values and your personality. I thrive in litigation but it’s not because I like conflict; I find a way to do it which suits me.”

You can listen to the full The Callover episode.

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