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Spring 2002 cover

National Observer Home > No. 54 - Spring 2002 > Legal Notes

The Unlamented Departure of Justice Gaudron

I.C.F. Spry Q.C.

The retirement of Justice Mary Gaudron from the High Court has been announced. Appointed in 1987 to the High Court by the government of Mr. Bob Hawke, and having previously been appointed the Solicitor-General of New South Wales by the government of Mr. Neville Wran, Justice Gaudron was regarded as one of the least outstanding members of the High Court.

The appointment of a suitable person to replace Justice Gaudron is a matter of importance. Unfortunately in Australia women judges and women barristers have generally been less than impressive. Recently Justice Roderick Meagher commented of women barristers, "There are so many bad ones that people may say that women can't be good barristers and are hopeless by nature, but that is not so. It's a pity the able people don't come."

Justice Meagher (of the Court of Appeal of new South Wales) was merely saying what many legal observers had long concluded. In fact, far from suffering adverse discrimination, many women barristers have relied upon positive discrimination in their favour in order to survive.

Above all, justices of the High Court must be appointed wholly on merit. They should not be ex-politicians or have past political associations, and they should not be appointed to "represent" minorities or other groups. Such appointees have been unsuccessful in the past. The High Court is too important to be the object of political preference or of the attempted purchase of goodwill by sectional interests.

I.C.F. Spry Q.C.

National Observer No. 54 - Spring 2002