Susan Kiefel Appointed First Woman Chief Justice Of High Court; James Edelman Fills Vacancy

The Turnbull government has appointed Justice Susan Kiefel as the Chief Justice of the High Court.

KiefelKiefel was first appointed to the High Court in 2007 by the Howard government. She is the longest-serving member of the court and will become the 13th Chief Justice, the first woman Chief Justice and the fourth Chief Justice from Queensland. She will replace Chief Justice Robert French, who was appointed by the Rudd government in 2008.

Kiefel’s appointment means that all three arms – parliament, executive and judicial – of the Australian political system will now have been led by a woman.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General Senator George Brandis also announced that James Edelman will fill the vacant position on the court. Edelman, has been a judge of the Federal Court since 2015, after serving as a Justice of the Western Australian Supreme Court since 2011. He is a former Professor of Law at Oxford University.

Edelman is 42. He turns 43 on January 9. When he is sworn in on January 30, he will become the fourth youngest Justice of the Court, just behind Sir Owen Dixon, who was 42 years, 9 months and 7 days old when he was appointed in 1929. [Read more…]


High Court Unanimously Dismisses Challenge To Senate Voting Changes

The High Court has unanimously dismissed a challenge to the recently legislated Senate voting changes.

The seven Justices dismissed two applications, including one by South Australian Family First Senator Bob Day.

The changes abolished group voting tickets and introduced optional preferential voting above and below the line.

The court held that the term “method” in Section 9 of the Constitution “is to be considered broadly, allowing for more than one way of indicating choice within a single uniform electoral system”. [Read more…]


High Court To Hear Challenge To Senate Voting Reforms On May 2

The High Court will hear the constitutional challenge to the Senate voting reforms on May 2.

The Chief Justice, Robert French, fixed the hearing date during a directions hearing today.

The challenge has been brought by South Australian Family First Senator Bob Day. His barrister is Peter King, the former Liberal MP who was defeated by Malcolm Turnbull in a 2004 preselection battle in Wentworth.

During the 22-minute hearing, it was agreed that an affidavit by Malcolm Mackerras, the election expert and psephologist, would not be used in the hearing.

The May 2 hearing is the day before the Federal Budget is delivered. It is nine days before the May 11 deadline for the calling of a double dissolution election.

The transcript of today’s hearing appears below. [Read more…]


Written Submissions Lodged For High Court Challenge To Senate Voting Reforms

These are the written submissions lodged with the High Court by Senator Bob Day and the Commonwealth, as part of the hearing of a challenge to the Senate voting reforms.

Day, a Family First senator, has brought the challenge. The matter is listed at 10.00am today for the Court to make directions as to referral to a Full Court. [Read more…]


High Court Rejects Refugee Challenge To Offshore Processing And Resettlement

The High Court has rejected an attempt to strike down Australia’s policy of offshore processing, detention and resettlement.

In essence, the High Court has found that the asylum seeker arrangements with Nauru are legal. Asylum-seekers now face deportation to Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

The court found that the Bangladeshi woman who brought the case had standing but rejected her substantive argument. [Read more…]


High Court Formally Voids WA Senate Result; No Date Yet On New Poll

The High Court’s Justice Kenneth Hayne, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, today formally declared the Western Australian Senate election void, paving the way for a new election in April or May.

The Court ruled that the loss of 1370 ballot papers during the second count meant that those electors had been denied a vote. It rejected arguments that it should endorse either of the two counts, as well as arguments that it should substitute a “patchwork” of results from both counts.

A writ for the Senate election now needs to be issued by the Governor of Western Australia. By convention, state Governors accept the advice of the Governor-General on when to call Senate elections. This means that the election date, as usual, will be decided by the Abbott government.

The election must be held by May at the latest, in order to allow time for the votes to be counted and a result declared so that new senators can take their place on July 1. [Read more…]


High Court Voids Western Australian Senate Election; New Poll Looms

The High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, has declared void last year’s Senate election in Western Australia, necessitating a new election by May.

Justice Hayne ruled that 1,370 electors were denied a vote as a consequence of the Australian Electoral Commission losing their ballot papers.

The Court ruled that it was precluded by the Commonwealth Electoral Act from considering the results of earlier scrutinies of the lost ballot papers. It found that it was inevitable that the loss probably affected the result of the election since the number of ballot papers lost far exceeded the margin between the candidates at the crucial stages in the count.

“The only relief appropriate is for the election to be declared void,” the Court said.

It is now up to the federal government to decide when the new election will be held. Whilst the writs for Senate elections are issued by state Governors, this is usually done on the advice of the Governor-General.

There must be 33 days between the issue of the writ and polling day which means an election will be held between late-March and mid-May. The government may not desire a Senate election around the time of the May Budget so April seems most likely.

Statement from the High Court.

THE AUSTRALIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION v JOHNSTON & ORS

WANG v JOHNSTON & ORS

MEAD v JOHNSTON & ORS

[2014] HCA 5

Today the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, answered questions of law arising in three petitions which dispute the election of six senators for the State of Western Australia to serve in the Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. [Read more…]