[NOTE: an edited version of this letter was published in the Courier Mail on 16 March 2022]
14 March 2022
Peter Gleeson – in his article “Court of Comrades” – suggests that the fact that persons who have had some connection with a political party have been appointed to a court should give rise to some concern. Mr Gleeson casts a very wide net in his attempt to show that there is some perception that the line which separates the judiciary from the executive is somehow blurred. He seeks to drag in judicial officers with the most tenuous connections to a political party – people who are cousins or sisters-in-law of politicians. But the integrity of a judge or magistrate is not measured by whether they supported a particular party before appointment but how they perform their duties after appointment.
The support for, or affiliation with, a political party before appointment has never been a disqualification for judicial office in Australia. Sir Samuel Griffith, a giant of Australia’s early judiciary, had been Premier of Queensland before becoming Chief Justice.
One of the most precious aspects of our democracy is that the community can have confidence in the judiciary. That confidence has been hard earned over centuries. Articles like this damage that confidence for no reason. Mr Gleeson, relying on an “explosive dossier” (is there any other kind?), creates an atmosphere of distrust but without any evidence. He lists 17 appointments, made over the last 20 years, and says that they show that the “Queensland Labor Party has been active within the State’s judiciary for more than two decades”. He cites not one instance of any such activity. He provides nothing to support this slur on the independence of Queensland’s judicial officers. Indeed, he contradicts himself in the very last paragraph of his article where he says that no one suggests that these “Labor connections” affected any judicial decision-making. He also makes no suggestion that any of the appointments were made other than on the merit of the appointee.
So, we have 17 appointees whose merits are not disputed and who have complied with their solemn undertakings to do equal justice according to law. In other words, these judicial officers have done exactly what the community deserves and expects.
The Australian Judicial Officers Association is the professional association of judges and magistrates in Australia. For further information, contact Karen Sloan, Australian Judicial Officers Association Secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org | 02 6125 5763.
The President of the AJOA is not available for broadcast or television interviews on this matter.