Swearing-in of Justice Duncan McMeekin as a Judge of the Supreme Court
May it please the Court.
It is my privilege on behalf of the Bar to welcome your Honour’s appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court and to congratulate you on that very significant achievement.
The Chief Justice and the Attorney-General have mentioned aspects of your Honour’s career to date which demonstrate that your Honour is well qualified for the demanding role of a Judge of this Court.
It is unnecessary that I repeat those details, but I would emphasise that aspect of your Honour’s qualification for appointment derived from your broad and successful practice at the private Bar for some 30 years, notably including some 9 years as Senior Counsel. On behalf of the Bar I also acknowledge your substantial contributions to professional and community affairs, also evident from the remarks of previous speakers.
Unsurprisingly in light of those qualifications, your Honour’s elevation has been very well received generally. It has been welcomed with particular warmth in Rockhampton, where your Honour lived and practised for so long and where your Honour will be based as the Central Judge.
The senior member of the Rockhampton Bar, Mr Gerard O’Driscoll, has been given a place here at the Bar table to mark the Bar’s acknowledgement of that welcome and of the importance of this appointment to the Central Queensland region.
The bourgeoning economy in Central Queensland, driven in part by the mineral wealth of the interior, may be expected to continue to produce more work, and more demanding work, for the Central Judge. The qualities that you have displayed over a very long time as a barrister at the coalface of litigation amply justifies our confidence in your Honour’s capacity to perform the indispensable work of that important office.
Those qualities include courtesy. That your Honour has been unfailingly courteous, including in the heat of litigation, is well known. That your Honour has been unfailingly considerate of your chamber’s colleagues and staff is something I have been told, repeatedly, since the announcement of your appointment.
That brings me to another apparent qualification for a Central Judge, namely all round sporting ability – or at least unbridled enthusiasm for sport. In that context, I hope that I will be forgiven for here interpolating the Bar’s welcome, in advance of the event, of the return to Brisbane of Justice Dutney, an eminent Justice of this Court.
With his Honour’s example in mind, we expect to see your Honour Justice McMeekin competing regularly in triatholons, traversing the Continent on a bicycle, and enthusiastically flinging bowls down Rockhampton’s verdant lawns.
As it happens, you do have the talent required to fulfil this additional criterion for appointment as the Central Judge.
Amongst your many sporting achievements, you were, for example, a champion runner in your youth, although I understand that Justice Jones, with the benefit of only a very slight handicap, once thrashed you in a sprint.
Furthermore, at age 15, you were a National Swimming champion; and I understand that you achieved that honour in an entirely drug free environment. This is a remarkable achievement, although, to put it into perspective, the only readily available drug was Beetlenut and the well known swimming Nation concerned was not Australia but Papua New Guinea.
Your Honour possesses, I hope, another useful characteristic for a judge, and that is a sense of humour. To illustrate the point, I can do no better than to quote from your Honour’s own description of your earliest encounter with a judge.
Your parents had entered you in an eisteddfod. There were only two competitors. After you had sung your piece and left the stage, the other entrant eventually asked the judge: “Shall I begin now?”.
The judge said: “No. You’ve won.”
We at the Bar hope that you will judge our own performances rather less harshly.
Your wife Elizabeth and your family are of course entitled to share in the pride associated with your Honour’s appointment as a judge of this Court.
On behalf of the Bar, it is my pleasure to wish you very well in this new phase of your legal career.
Hugh Fraser QC