Letter to the editor of the Daily Telegraph from the Australian Bar Association


Dear Editor,

The Daily Telegraph should be embarrassed of yesterday’s article by Janet Fife-Yeomans (“Judge slams ‘racist sentiment’ and says law will uphold fairness” Feb 2 2017) which unfairly and incorrectly criticises the State’s most senior judicial officer, the Hon Chief Justice Tom Bathurst AC.

While Ms Fife-Yeoman’s has clearly found the time to criticise the Chief Justice, it is abundantly clear by her report of his Honour’s opening of law term address, that she has not found the time to read the address in full and report it accurately.

Despite the misconstrued and inaccurate connection made by Ms Fife-Yeomans, the Chief Justice’s speech does not claim the rule of law in Australia is in danger because of “rampant racism” in our country.

Quite the opposite, the Chief Justice discusses a time in Australia’s history, some 128 years ago, that one of the most serious threats to the rule of law was grounded in xenophobia. Never throughout the address does the Chief Justice refer to a current “racist sentiment” within the Australian community. Rather, His Honour expresses how far we have come by highlighting the diversity in Australia and references the work done by the court to promote inclusivity and participation in the legal system, as well as increasing accessibility and transparency.

Ms Fife-Yeoman’s report was unfair and showed a lack of understanding of the issues addressed. Regrettably, inaccurate reporting such as this by Ms Fife-Yeomans compromises the public’s confidence in the judicial system which is core to the effective administration of justice.

In his time as NSW Chief Justice, the Hon Tom Bathurst has increased accessibility, understanding and transparency of the court’s work. He has introduced judgement summaries to improve community understanding of the court’s work, his communication is contemporary, I.e., the court now tweets and posts court updates on facebook, and His Honour personally participates regularly in media interviews with a range of mainstream press, TV and radio.

I urge anyone who read Ms Fife-Yeomans’ article to take the time to read the Chief Justices’ speech for themselves, because when read correctly, it tells a story of an Australian judiciary striving for increased transparency, accessibility, equality and fairness.

Will Alstergren QC

President, The Australian Bar Association