Next election important for composition of the High Court

Kenneth Nguyen’s analysis in The Age about the importance, from the point of view of the composition of the High Court, of the next election, is worth reading. He says the next federal election is expected some time after September this year, the same month Callinan J must retire by. The Chief Justice must retire by August 2008, and Kirby J by March 2009. Kirby and Gummow JJ are the only two Labor government-appointed judges on the Court at the moment.

Mind you, sometimes these discussions suggest too close a correlation between the likely decision making of appointees and the predilections of the governments appointing them. Deane and Wilson JJ, both champions of indigenous issues, were Fraser Government appointments, for example, and both were powerful voices on social justice during Liberal Governments. Ron Wilson published the stolen generation report “Bringing Them Home” while Howard was prime minister, and William Deane was openly critical of the Howard Government after he was freed of the constraints of the office of Governor General. On the other hand “Liberal government” means something very different today from what it meant in the 1970’s: Malcolm Fraser has been a strident critic of John Howard, as has John Hewson more recently (though he thought Howard’s IR reforms did not go far enough…).

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