Hearsay ... the Journal of the Bar Association of Queensland
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Issue 15: December 2006
The Prism: Tony Morris QC Print E-mail

Tony Morris QC was born in 1960; the son of a solicitor; grandson of a bank manager and a shop-keeper; great-grandson of (amongst others) a Minister in T.J. Ryan’s Government.

morris_qc.jpgH e was educated at Churchie (matriculating in 1977) and the University of Queensland(graduating as a Bachelor of Laws, with Honours, in 1983). Tony was the part-time research assistant to Callinan QC (as His Honour then was) in 1981, the associate to Justice Tony Fitzgerald (then a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia) in 1982 and was called to the Bar in 1983.

Tony has as appeared in a number of major High Court appeals, and – as junior to Ian Callinan QC and Tony Fitzgerald QC, respectively – in the last two cases which went from Queensland to the Privy Council. Clients have included Bob Hawke (then Prime Minister of Australia), both Federal and State Ministers of the Crown, the Speaker of the Queensland Legislative Assembly, the Liberal Party of Australia, several major trading banks, and numerous other listed public companies.

In 1992, he was appointed as one of Her Majesty’s Counsel at the age of 32, the youngest such appointment in Australia’s legal history, and the youngest QC appointed in any Commonwealth country during the Twentieth Century.

He has served as a director of Queensland Investment Corporation; as a member of the Advisory Council of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music; as a Councillor of the Canine Control Council (Queensland); and as Chair of the Bundaberg Hospital ommission of Inquiry.

Tony is married to Alice Hampson, a Pominent Brisbane architect. Their interests include skiing and travel. Their first child is due in February 2007.

What is your motto?

In advising clients: “A barrister’s first duty is to keep his client out of court.”

Where litigation seems inevitable: “Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.” (“If you want peace, prepare for war.”) – from Epitoma Rei Militaris by Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus.

When litigation actually occurs: “No battle plan survives the first engagement with the enemy” – Generalfeldmarschall Helmuth, Graf von Moltke (known as “Moltke the Elder”).

In life generally: “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate”(“Plurality should not be posited without necessity”) – William of Occam.  This quotation is commonly referred to as “Ockham’s Razor”. However, Bart Simpson’s English version is simpler: “If at first you don’t succeed, give up.”

What is your idea of earthly happiness?

A winter’s day at Point Lookout; light rain falling on the corrugated iron roof; a good book and a mug of hot chocolate; my wife at my side, and Horatio (our loyal Saint Bernard) at my feet.

Alternatively, cross-examining a witness who is telling lies – who is smart enough to know that he is going to be caught out – but who isn’t smart enough to foresee exactly how it is going to happen.

What could you not live without?


What is your greatest fear?

Appearing against Shane Doyle.

What is your greatest indulgence?

Accepting interesting pro bono briefs to the exclusion of wellpaid but boring commercial work.

Which skill or talent would you most like to have?

I am not greedy, so there is no single skill or talent which I covet. Given the choice between the following, I would tick “any of the above”: to bat as well as Matthew Hayden; to play the piano as well as Daniel Barenboim; to play tennis as well as Roger Federer; to play the violin as well as Yasha Heifetz; to be as good an architect and designer as Alvar Aalto; to compose symphonies as well as Josef Haydn; to write as well as William Shakespeare; to know (almost) as much law as Robert Bain.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

I deplore the greed exhibited by those members of our honourable profession who have made lawyers repugnant to the general population – solicitors who steal from their trust accounts; barristers who choose bankruptcy rather than paying tax; members of both branches of the profession whose primary interest is how much money they can extract from a client, rather than how they can achieve a good result for the client.

What is the quality you most admire in a person?


What is your most marked characteristic?

A lack of marked characteristics.

On what occasion do you lie?

Whenever I say to a Judge: “With the greatest respect ...”

What is your greatest regret?

That I never had the opportunity to see Dan Casey in action before a jury – and that I did not take better advantage of the opportunities which I did have to see Shane Herbert in action before a jury.

Which words or expressions do you most over-use?

Generally, I over-use Latinate words to the exclusion of Anglo-Saxon. The specifics change from time to time. Current favourites include: tergiversate, rodomontade, tendentious.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would not be addicted to nicotine.

To what do you aspire?

Admitting to aspirations is an acknowledgement of failure. My own aspirations are hopelessly impracticable: to have Cedric Hampson’s common-sense, Patrick Keane’s legal acumen, Bruce McPherson’s sagacity, Bill Pincus’s ingenuity; to be as effective an advocate as Ian Callinan, as unflappable as David Andrews, as penetrating as John Sheehan, as disarmingly courteous as James Bell; as methodical as Hugh Fraser; as punctilious as Robert Wensley. In short, I aspire to emulate what I most admire in all the great barristers whom I have had the privilege of seeing in action. I aspire, but I fail.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who always did his best, and achieved more good than harm.

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