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Monday, 10 October 1994
Page: 1312


Senator GARETH EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —I move:

  That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death, on Tuesday, 27 September 1994, of the Hon. Sir Nigel Hubert Bowen AC, KBE, member of the House of Representatives for the division of Parramatta from 1964 to 1973, Attorney-General from 1966 to 1969 and in 1971, Minister for Education and Science from 1969 to 1971, Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1971 to 1972, and former Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia from 1976 to 1990, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

Nigel Hubert Bowen was born on 26 May 1911 at Summerland, British Columbia. He came to Australia as a young boy, was educated at King's School, Parramatta, and studied law at St Paul's College, Sydney University. He was admitted to the New South Wales bar in 1936 and later to the Victorian bar. With the advent of World War II he enlisted in the Australian Military Forces in 1941, before transferring to the Second AIF in 1942. He served in the South Pacific region for two years, then transferred to the Reserves in 1946 with the rank of captain. Sir Nigel resumed his legal career and took silk in 1953. He spent some time as President of the New South Wales Bar Council and from 1957 to 1960 held the post of Vice-President of the Law Council of Australia.

  In 1963, Sir Nigel stood for, and won, the seat of Parramatta, which had been vacated by the resignation of Sir Garfield Barwick. In 1966, building on his already distinguished and successful legal career, he was appointed Attorney-General in the Holt ministry. He served in this portfolio in successive ministries until November 1969, making a brief return to the portfolio in 1971. From 1969 to 1971 he was Minister for Education and Science and from 1971 to 1972 he was Foreign Minister in the McMahon government. His parliamentary record shows that he also led numerous delegations on visits within Australia and overseas.

  Sir Nigel left the parliament in 1973 to take up an appointment as Chief Judge in Equity in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. This was followed by his appointment in 1976 as the first Chief Judge—later Chief Justice—of the then newly created Federal Court of Australia, a position he held with distinction until his retirement in 1990.

  It was in that capacity as Chief Judge of the Federal Court that I had a great deal, personally, to do with Sir Nigel when I was Attorney-General in 1983-84. I have to say that I have nothing but the fondest memories of those encounters. He was a tough advocate for his court, as he had been for his clients at the bar, but he was always a charming, gentlemanly and wholly constructive person to deal with, never losing sight of the public policy goals that we were mutually trying to achieve in judicial administration at that time.

  His appointment to set up and head the new Federal Court was a particularly appropriate culmination to Sir Nigel's public career, as he had long perceived the need for the establishment of a Commonwealth superior court below the High Court. Indeed, it was Sir Nigel who as Attorney-General in 1968 first introduced a bill for the establishment of such a court. Although that bill was not proceeded with, it provided much of the foundation for the Federal Court of Australia Act that was eventually passed in 1976.

  In setting up the Federal Court, Sir Nigel was responsible for much of the procedural innovation for which the court is still highly regarded. He also played a significant part in developing the court's approach to the Commonwealth's administrative law jurisdiction, an area of the law in which Sir Nigel had a great interest. As Attorney-General in 1968, he had initiated the inquiry undertaken by the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee. That committee's report in 1971 formed the basis for the many remarkable developments in administrative law that took place later in the decade: the establishment of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal; the setting up of the Commonwealth Ombudsman; and the passage of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act. A true Australian, it was also Sir Nigel who, with the Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Act 1968, began the process of making the High Court the final court of appeal in Australia.

  Sir Nigel will also be remembered for his chairing of the Committee of Inquiry concerning Public Duty and Private Interest which was established in February 1978 and reported in July 1979. The Bowen committee's report was an extremely thorough piece of work, reflecting Sir Nigel's very sound judgment. Over the years the report has become an authoritative source for dealing with the various ethics and conflict of interest issues which parliamentarians, judicial and statutory office-holders and public servants have to address from time to time.

  Sir Nigel Bowen was a hard working and dedicated man who served the Australian people outstandingly well in both his legal and political careers. In recognition of his great service to Australia, he received a knighthood in 1976 and in 1988 was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia, one of Australia's highest awards, for his services to the law. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him and who admired his contribution to Australian public life. On behalf of the government, I extend to his wife Ermyn and his family our most sincere sympathy in their bereavement.