Thank you for speaking with us Andrew.
10 minutes with … Andrew Philp QC
The editor spoke with Andrew Philp QC:
A pleasure. Hearsay is my specialty
We have known each other for over 40 years. It has been a great ride.
Sure has. You have always said that I was a better rugby player than you, and I have always acknowledged that your vocabulary was outstanding – so we have made each other very happy. Quite apart from not having had a cross-word between us for over 4 decades.
I well remember you as a towering second rower for Queensland University Rugby Club winning the 1979 grand-final against “The Filth” [Brothers Rugby Club].
We don’t call them that any more Richard. Not since my daughter’s partner – a wonderful young man – plays for that club. At least he’s not a back!
Your grandfather Sir Roslyn Philp (see portrait and bibliography below) was a barrister and then a Supreme Court judge. Your father Julian Philp was a highly regarded trial and appellate lawyer. How did that pedigree resonate in you embarking upon and pursuit of a career at the Bar?
I’d like to say it gave me vocational direction and encouragement. And to some extent it did. But I still sort of just fell into it because nothing else really grabbed my attention. It was however, a highly motivating factor in the decision to move to practice in Cairns. I wanted to make my own way.
What do you say to those outside the Bar who would have it that barristers have large egos?
I don’t know whether “large” is the appropriate adjective. I think a healthy ego is almost a prerequisite for the job. And as you have always told me, the barristers with the larger egos generally become judges!!
You were admitted in 1985. From 1993 you practised from chambers in Cairns. You were Cairns’ first Silk in 2003. You are head of Trinity Chambers in Cairns. You are regarded as the “King” of the Bar in regional Queensland, and one of the state’s best trial lawyers and mediators. You smoke excessively. I know that is your professional life summed up in six sentences, but are there any regrets, about career choice or career path?
None whatsoever. Well, I wish I didn’t smoke. Richard, I love the Bar and I have loved living in Cairns, raising a family and controlling my own destiny. Regional life is one of Australia’s best kept secrets – and not for retirement but for a rewarding, satisfying and challenging professional career whilst living in a beautiful part of the world in a far more relaxed community. I better not go on or I’ll have half you city slickers moving up here.
Who is – or was – your favourite judge?
That’s easy. It’s a dead heat between Justice Jim Henry and Judges Morzone QC and Fantin. Special mention to Justice Graeme Crow.
Do you have something coming up before Justice Crow?
And who is the most irritating judge you have appeared before? No, scratch that. You can tell me that privately.
Perhaps we could swap our choices. But as you know Richard, if you tell me something I assume that you want it spread far and wide and as quickly as possible.
Who is – or was – your favourite opposing barrister?
Too hard to say. I always try to get on with my opponents. It is only on very rare occasions that I have come away with any serious ill-feelings about an opponent.
What is your favourite legal movie?
The Verdict with Paul Newman. It shows that every dog has its day.
Mediation has proliferated in the last two decades. What do you say to the view abroad that the advocacy skills of the civil bar have been diminished by the growth and success of mediation?
I understand that view but consider it to be overstated. There are less civil trials now on account of the success of mediation. But barristers have developed new skills in mediation, focused as it is on the persuasion of the opposing lawyers and decision maker on the relative strength of their case. Mediation has also better informed what are the true issues in a case, so as to shorten trial length. Barristers are still providing advices and undertaking appearances, but at the front end rather than the backend of a piece of litigation. Finally, clients have been relieved of the financial burden of litigation running on to the doorstep of the Court only to be settled just before trial, as often used to occur. I am a believer!
In your circa 40 years of practice the regional Bar has grown enormously. Platitudes aside, what do you see as the benefits of a regional Bar in Queensland?
A regional Bar is of great benefit to its regional community. Clients and solicitors like to have easy access to barristers who understand, and live in, the community. They are also necessary in helping to retain young lawyers who wish to go to the Bar without having to move to the city. If those young people can see a future in remaining in the regions then they are more likely to continue to live there.
Is there a city-country divide at the Bar?
Not really. Many city barristers (and remember I used to be one) will not have much interaction with their regional colleagues. I have found that most of those that do enjoy good relationships based on mutual respect and a realisation that they are appearing in the regional barrister’s backyard before a Judge who is likely to have been appointed from that regional Bar.
Do you see any benefit in having an annual state of origin rugby league match between the city and country Bars?
I can see no benefit for the city Bar.
What is your advice to regional barristers as to the key elements of successful practice?
My advice to regional barristers would be no different from my advice to any barrister. Work hard, prepare well, look after your chambers, don’t burn too many bridges, engage with and contribute to the Bar Association (or your local Association) and maintain some work/life balance.
How could the Bar Association better assist the regional Bars?
It assists in that there are a number of permanent places for the regional Bar on the Council of the Bar Association. At a more practical level it is a matter of keeping us in the loop on more things occurring in legal practice. I note under your editorship of “Hearsay” there is a separate section concerning the regional Bar. That is helpful. Also I think the Association could assist in recommending that various regulatory and statutory bodies – often based in Brisbane – use regional counsel in matters that are heard in the regions.
Thank you for speaking with us.
A pleasure. Can we now go off the record so I can tell you the truthful answers to your questions.
Sure. I am surprised you have made it through this interview without needing a cigarette.
I do feel a bit edgy.
Philp, Sir Roslyn Foster (Ross) (1895–1965)
by James B. Thomas
This article was published in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15 , 2000, online in 2006.
Sir Roslyn Foster Bowie Philp (1895-1965), judge, was born on 27 July 1895 at Double Bay, Sydney, fourth of seven children of James Alexander Philp, a Scottish-born journalist, and his wife Ellen, née Kilgour, who came from New Zealand. ‘Ross’ was educated at South Brisbane State School and (on scholarships) at Brisbane Grammar School where he passed the senior public examination. With a helping hand from (Sir) James Blair, he was appointed a clerk in the Queensland Department of Justice on 16 March 1914. He spent one year as associate to Justice (W. A. B.) Shand at Townsville before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 30 September 1916. At St Alban’s Anglican Church, Leura, New South Wales, on 7 March 1917 he married Marjorie Alice Hewson (‘Peggy’) Ferrier.
In June 1917 Philp sailed for England. Four months later he was sent to the Western Front as a gunner in the 12th Army Brigade, Australian Field Artillery. Gassed on 4 November at Ypres, Belgium, he was treated locally and admitted to hospital in England. As a result of the gassing he suffered a recurrent condition known as ‘effort syndrome’. He remained in Britain until February 1919, then returned to Brisbane and was discharged from the A.I.F. on 24 April 1919. Resuming his career in the Department of Justice, he studied for the Barristers’ Board examinations and was admitted to the Bar on 17 July 1923. That year he was appointed legal-assistant and assistant crown solicitor.
Resigning from the public service in 1926, Philp was State manager of the oil-firm, C. C. Wakefield & Co. Ltd, for two years. From 1928 he developed a large private general practice at the Bar. The Queensland Sugar Millers’ Association retained him for some ten years. In 1931 he represented E. G. Theodore in the Mungana case, heard in the Supreme Court of Queensland, and secured a finding in his client’s favour. He gained a reputation in commercial and industrial law, lectured at the University of Queensland and became a member (1939) of the law faculty.
On 4 May 1939 Philp was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland. The Australian Labor Party government appreciated his work in the Mungana case and Chief Justice Blair doubtless supported him. Although Philp lacked seniority, his abilities and practice justified his elevation to the bench. Initially, he was unsure whether he could carry the burden, but any doubts were quickly dispelled by his talent for and application to judicial work. He was to show his mastery of probate, criminal, matrimonial and commercial law.
Decisive and clear-minded, Philp made a special study of the Queensland criminal code; his reading included judgements by courts in the United States of America. He led Queensland judges in deriving from the criminal code a coherent body of legal principles rather than a disjointed collection of rules. His decisions were often reported in the press: one newspaper article described him as ‘hard on criminals’ but not ‘callous’. In 1962 a senior police officer suggested that detectives’ promotions should depend in part on the number of arrests they made. In a summing-up that year Philp observed that ‘it would be a grave matter if a judge could no longer tell a jury . . . that a police officer, prima facie, had no interest in getting a conviction’. His remark led to a ministerial inquiry and to the police commissioner’s denial that arrest rates had anything to do with promotion.
Philp’s failure to become chief justice stemmed from what he regarded as a matter of principle. When Premier William Forgan Smith had offered him the position of senior puisne judge in 1940, he had declined it, even after Forgan Smith intimated that the promotion would probably ensure his selection as the next chief justice. Philp felt that he should not be appointed to the position over E. A. Douglas who had found against E. M. Hanlon in the Ithaca election case. Neal Macrossan accepted the post and was appointed chief justice in 1946.
Macrossan’s elevation left the position of senior puisne judge vacant. Hanlon was by then premier. Douglas was again overlooked. A falling out ensued after Philp’s friend (Sir) Alan Mansfield took the post in March 1947. Philp claimed that Mansfield had agreed not to accept it; Mansfield declared that he had made no such promise. They avoided a public rift, though Philp’s disapproval was well known. Douglas died in August that year. In 1956, when Mansfield was appointed chief justice, Philp succeeded him as senior puisne judge. He held that office until his death. While his actions had inhibited his advancement, they considerably enhanced his reputation. In 1958 he was appointed K.B.E.
Never a stranger to controversy, Philp had given evidence in 1956 to the royal commission (conducted by K. R. Townley, another Supreme Court judge) into alleged corrupt conduct by T. A. Foley, secretary for public lands. Philp stated that F. M. Bell, a grazier, had told him in 1949 that Foley had demanded £1000 for A.L.P. funds in exchange for granting him a crown lease. During criminal proceedings against Foley in April-May 1956, the magistrate M. J. Hickey ruled Philp’s evidence inadmissible and dismissed the charge. Townley, however, found in June that Foley had been guilty of corrupt conduct. Foley resigned his portfolio, but remained in parliament and from the back-benches vilified both Philp and Townley.
At the request of the Federal government, Philp chaired (1939-45) the Queensland advisory committee on aliens, investigated (1945) the loss of a Stinson aircraft in Victoria and headed (1961) a committee of inquiry into the marketing of wool. In 1954-55 he was a member of the Commonwealth royal commission on espionage which found evidence that the Soviet Union was conducting clandestine activities in Australia.
Philp was a trustee (1940-47) of his old school, a member (1955-61) of the Queensland committee for selecting Rhodes scholars, and a patron of the Twelfth Night Theatre Company. He presided over the Queensland Club (1957-58), the State division of the National Heart Foundation of Australia (1959-64) and the trustees of the Queensland Art Gallery (1959-65). A keen golfer and a noted club-man who enjoyed company, conversation, food and wine, he had strong features and an impressive bearing.
In 1964 Philp fell fatally ill. He bore his condition with patience and courage. When he was unable to attend court he delivered reserved judgements from his Wickham Terrace home. Survived by his wife and one of his three sons, he died of cancer on 19 March 1965 at St Martin’s Private Hospital, Brisbane; he was accorded a state funeral and was cremated. His son Ross had been killed over Denmark in 1944 while serving in the Royal Australian Air Force.
Sir Owen Dixon called Philp’s death a ‘great loss’. (Sir) Joseph Sheehy described him as a ‘man of the highest principles’. Sir Harry Gibbs recalled him as ‘even-tempered, good humoured, quick to grasp the point of an argument and expeditious in giving judgment’. The Bar Association of Queensland holds J. T. Rigby’s portrait (1959) of Sir Roslyn.
- R. Johnston, History of the Queensland Bar (Brisb, 1979)
- B. H. McPherson, The Supreme Court of Queensland 1859-1960 (Brisb, 1989)
- Parliamentary Papers (Commonwealth), 1954-55, 3, p 187
- Parliamentary Papers (Queensland), 1956-57 and 1957, 2, p 733
- State Reports, Queensland, 1939, p 90, 1941, p 56, 1942, p 40, 1943, p 137
- Queensland Reports, 1965, memoranda of 1965
- Australian Bar Review, July 1990, p 181
- Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 24-25 Aug 1940, 1 Jan 1958, 27 Sept 1962, 20, 30 Mar, 23 June 1965
- Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 14 July 1957, 30 Sept 1962.