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No place for political attacks on judges

No place for political attacks on judges

By Law Council of Australia

Courts Justice Powers 


The LCA will continue to use its voice to ensure the separation of powers remains. Snapshot The LCA will continue to use its voice to ensure the separation of powers remains and the rule of law is upheld and defended in the face of recent political attacks on the judiciary. Suggestions the appointment of judges and magistrates should be subject to a public ballot is not something the LCA supports. Amendments have been proposed by the federal government for the espionage and foreign interference laws, which would see some of the concerns raised by the legal profession allayed. When justice is denied to some, we are no longer the democracy we want to be, and if the rule of law is eroded, then we are in perilous waters indeed. Australia faces an ongoing battle with executive government to retain rights previously taken for granted. In the face of these challenges we must employ our skill, knowledge, passion and intellect to mount our most articulate arguments. We need to uphold the finest of our legal traditions – to speak not only on behalf of the profession, but on behalf of all Australians. The Law Council of Australia has been compelled to do just that in recently defending the rule of law against vigorous and repeated attack. The criticism of Victorian judges and magistrates for political gain is unhelpful to say the least. Suggestions the appointment of judges and magistrates should be subject to a public ballot is something we, as the peak body representing Australia’s legal profession, will not entertain or support. Ensuring the rule of law is respected and maintained is vital to the strength of Australia’s legal system – there is no place for political attacks on the judiciary undermining the independence of judges and magistrates. To have a healthy, functioning democracy, we must ensure that there is no any blurring between the political and judicial spheres. We have separation of powers for good reason. The LCA will continue to use its voice to ensure the separation of powers remains and the rule of law is upheld and defended. In a similar vein, the LCA has argued for amendments to the espionage and foreign interference laws, proposed by the federal government, which would allay some of the concerns raised by the legal profession. While the proposed amendments do not deal with all of the LCA’s concerns, there appear to be positive steps, narrowing definitions and allowing journalists to defend their reporting on the basis that they “reasonably believe” it was in the public interest. The LCA also believes that the federal government’s response to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory represented a missed opportunity to demonstrate national leadership and deliver a national, comprehensive, intergovernmental response to the recommendations – including raising the age of criminal responsibility. The inquiry has given us clear recommendations, and we must play our part as a profession to help governments act on them. Morry Bailes is president of the Law Council of Australia.

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