Hearsay ... the Journal of the Bar Association of Queensland
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Issue 19: August 2007
Valedictory Ceremony for the Honourable Justice Callinan Print E-mail

The Honourable Justice Daubney delivered an address in his then capacity as President of the Bar Association of Queensland at the Valedictory Ceremony for the Honourable Justice Callinan at the High Court of Australia, Brisbane on 21 June 2007. Hearsay wishes to draw your particular attention to the final sentence of this address.

We gather this morning to mark Your Honour’s final sitting in Brisbane as a Justice of the High Court of Australia, and to extend our congratulations and thanks to you for your years of service.

It seems only yesterday that Your Honour, the sixth Queenslander to join this bench, was sworn in.  But in fact that happened almost 9 ½ years ago, on 3 February 1998.

Two particular themes permeated the speeches delivered on that occasion, and it’s appropriate to reprise them briefly today.

callinanj.jpg One theme, particularly addressed by representatives of the profession (including Mr Gotterson QC, the then holder of offices you yourself had held, namely President of the Australian Bar Association and Bar Association of Queensland) was the significance of your appointment to the High Court direct from the ranks of practising barristers, and Your Honour on that occasion also highlighted the importance of the independent Bar and its place in the profession.  That is a topic which has remained close to your heart throughout your tenure on this Court.  The advantages of having someone come straight from the coalface into the rarified atmosphere of this place have been clear on so many occasions during your time on the Court.  You understood, from close and recent personal experience, the pressures under which practitioners are required to operate in the modern world.  And you brought the incalculable benefit of many years experience of advising and acting for clients across a broad spectrum of legal issues, both civil and criminal, and indeed the benefit of a true transnational practice.  Now that we have the luxury of hindsight, we can affirm that the perspective Your Honour brought to this Court has only served to enhance this as the Court for all Australians.

The other theme also concerned the qualities Your Honour brought to the Court.  The following observations by the then Attorney-General at your swearing-in bear recounting:

Like most appointments to the High Court, your Honour’s appointment has been the subject of considerable scrutiny.  In fact, it has excited a modicum of controversy.  You have been labelled by some in the media as a “conservative”.  However, experience has shown that it is simplistic to typecast appointees to the Court as either “conservative” or “progressive”, “centralist” or “States Rightist”.  I question whether those who have sought to typecast you in that way were in fact aware of the extent of your achievements in the law and in other fields.  They would certainly not be able to forecast how your Honour or, for that matter, any member of the Court, will decide any particular case in a few years time.

 Every judge brings to his or her office a range of individual life experiences which temper the way he or she views things.  I have no doubt that your Honour will consider every matter that comes before you on its merits, based on the facts and arguments that are presented to you.  You will deal with these matters in a fair and impartial manner. 

The Attorney-General’s confidence in you was well-placed, as our experience of you over the last 9½ years has amply shown.  The scholarship you have brought to your judgments is undoubted.  But just as importantly – perhaps even more so – you have been eminently fair, sensible, proper and pragmatic in your application of the law to the real-life situations with which you have been confronted on a daily basis.  One of your gifts has been to combine rigorous jurisprudence with common-sense and humanity.

Now we hear the clock ticking towards 31 August – Your Honour’s statutory use-by date.  Perhaps your mind is turning already to life in retirement.  Will the literary Callinan re-emerge – a memoir, a brace of plays, or a clutch of novels?  Or will you be persuaded by those close to you to engage in horticultural pursuits – pottering with potting mix, or tending the verdant green acres mounted high on your ride-on mower?

We suspect Your Honour will resist the latter on the undisputed basis that the pen remains mightier than the sward. 


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