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Appointment of Chief Justice

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja

Australian Democrats Deputy Leader and Attorney-General Spokesperson 31 March, 1997 MEDIA RELEASE 98/205

Appointment of Chief Justice

The Australian Democrats have welcomed the appointment of Justice Murray Glees on as Chief Justice of the High Court, but have expressed disappointment that the Government has broken with convention by overlooking the next most senior judge on the Court, Justice Mary Gaudron.

Democrats Deputy Leader, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, said while Justice Gleeson was a good appointment, the overlooking of Justice Gaudron broke a 70 year convention and also was a lost opportunity for appointment of an eminently qualified woman as Chief Justice.

"I think Australia is ready for a woman as Chief Justice, with the majority of law students and first year lawyers around Australia now being women," she said.

"On six of the last eight appointments of a Chief Justices in the last 70 years, the next most senior judges was appointed. It is a very strong convention, broken only for the political appointments of former conservative Attorney-Generals Garfield Barwick and John Latham.

"While Justice Murray Gleeson has been a modernising Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court over the past decade, convention should have favored Justice Mary Gaudron after with twelve years as an innovative and much respected High Court judge.

"I think today's decision shows that growing pool of women lawyers in Australia still face a very firm glass ceiling in reaching the heights of the profession," Senator Stott Despoj a said.

For further information: Senator Stott Despoja on (02) 6277 3645