How the Australian High Court Came to be Nauru’s Court of Appeal: A History

The decision of Nauru to bring to an end its relationship with Australia’s High Court, as the ultimate appeals authority for a limited class of cases, marks the end of a 50 year history in which Nauru made strenuous efforts to have access to the Court, only to suffer tepid and lukewarm acceptance, and delays (and on one occasion, defeat) in achieving its aim of having  access to an appeals court of sufficient stature to instil confidence in the judicial proceedings of a small, fledgling nation.

The ten year history of negotiations for an appeals court is detailed in a series of volumes held in the National Archives of Australia. This history is drawn from that rich vein of material. Continue reading “How the Australian High Court Came to be Nauru’s Court of Appeal: A History”

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Numbers of Ministerial Staff in Australia – As at April 2018

Numbers of Ministerial staff drawn from the most recent, most authoritative source publicly available

Numbers reflect what is reported as ministerial staff in each jurisdiction: so if personal support staff, such as administrative assistants or drivers, have been reported, these are included in the figures).

  • Number of Ministers and Office Holders are those numbers reported against staff numbers, where available.
  • Victoria does not have a regular reporting regime for ministerial staff numbers, so I’m still reliant on the numbers in a 2015 FOI return
  • NSW last reported its figures in June 2017, failing to report the figures at 30 December 2017.
  • Northern Territory has a global budget for Executive Support, with 295 employees, but does not have a breakdown to the numbers of personal staff provided to support Ministers.
  • Shout out to Tasmania, which provides staffing numbers regularly and in the clearest format.

Continue reading “Numbers of Ministerial Staff in Australia – As at April 2018”

Forty Year Ombudsman Tradition Trashed by Turnbull

Yesterday’s announcement that the vacant role of Commonwealth Ombudsman would be filled by the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), Michael Manthorpe, brings to an end a forty year bipartisan tradition of appointments not being directly made from the ranks of frontline departmental management.

While the post was reportedly offered to several departmental heads in the early years of the Hawke Government, every previous appointee since the establishment of the Office in 1977 has held a post in academia, consumer advocacy, legal or judicial administration, or oversight and complaints handling immediately prior to appointment. Continue reading “Forty Year Ombudsman Tradition Trashed by Turnbull”

Re Webster: Members of Parliament, Pecuniary Interests and Disqualification – A Background

At the heart of the High Court challenge to Bob Day’s qualification to contest the Double Dissolution election of 2016 lies the case of Senator James Webster in 1975. Contentious at the time in the midst of wider political controversy, and thought potentially capable of opening up to scrutiny all manner of contractual arrangements, including residential leases, held between MPs and the Commonwealth, the relevant clause was narrowly interpreted by a single judge of the High Court and benefit of the legal doubt given to the Senator.

Since then, it has been the subject of criticism, and may well be overturned in the course of current proceedings. In its submissions in the current case, the Commonwealth has argued that, while Bob Day would fall foul even if the case were applied, Re Webster was too narrowly decided. Herewith the background to the original case, and its aftermath. Continue reading “Re Webster: Members of Parliament, Pecuniary Interests and Disqualification – A Background”

A History of the Sir Garfield Barwick Address

The Sir Garfield Barwick Address is a lecture organised by the Legal Professional and Policy Branch of the NSW Liberal Party. Intended to honour the former barrister, Liberal Attorney General, Minister for External Affairs, and Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, it has been held at Sydney’s Castlereagh Hotel since 2010.

Until now, the speakers have largely consisted of lawyer-politicians, who either served with Sir Garfield, or followed in his tradition. Speakers have included the former Prime Minister, John Howard, three Commonwealth Attorneys-General and a Chief Justice of the High Court. Future speakers are said to include former High Court justice, Ian Callinan, and a former associate to Sir Garfield, Garry Downes, a former Federal Court judge and President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Continue reading “A History of the Sir Garfield Barwick Address”

NSW Political Donations Reform – Background and Resources (Updated)

In May 2014, in response to the mounting revelations at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of breaches and circumvention of NSW’s electoral disclosure laws, particularly in respect of donations by prohibited donors, Premier Mike Baird announced a Panel of Experts to review the system of political donations. Continue reading “NSW Political Donations Reform – Background and Resources (Updated)”

The Brandis Canon

Over the past four years, taxpapyers have helped underwrite the cost of George Brandis’ wide ranging tastes in newspapers, periodicals and books to the tune of over $12, 000, with several thousands of dollars potentially spent on subjects previously questioned by the Australian National Audit Office as “at risk of being outside the scope of the entitlement”.

Included in the impressive survey of fine reading are lives of the Popes, Stalin, Trotsky and Christopher Hitchens; biographies of historians ranging from Manning Clark to Hugh Trevor Roper; histories of Byzantium, Berlin and the Spanish Civil War; biographies of FDR, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ and Obama; essays and writings by Orwell and Nietzsche; a collection of Isaiah Berlin’s letters; and a survey of the life and works of a Scottish colourist. A select list is provided at the end. Continue reading “The Brandis Canon”

Two Years, $3.5 Million for Ombudsman Police Internal Affairs Inquiry

The NSW Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, has told a Parliamentary Committee that he anticipates an inquiry into potential serious misconduct in the NSW Police Force, the Crime Commission and the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) involving a 14 year old internal affairs operation will take at least two years and cost at least $3.5 million. Continue reading “Two Years, $3.5 Million for Ombudsman Police Internal Affairs Inquiry”