Mr Michael Colbran QC President of the Australian Bar Association - 1 May 2013 Sydney
  1. May it please the Court.
  2. I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their Elders, both past and present.
  3. I appear on behalf of the Australian Bar Association, which represents all the members of the independent Bars of each State and Territory.
  4. It is a pleasure to see so many of our former members on the bench today as we celebrate a milestone for the Federal Judiciary.
  5. We have heard the Attorney General explain why the name change – from Federal Magistrates Court to Federal Circuit Court – is not only welcome but overdue.
  6. The ABA respectfully agrees with all that he said. However, we would like to single out the change in status for those who have made the Court’s reputation – its judicial officers.
  7. The title “judge” far better reflects the nature and complexity of the work they do. It also sends an important message to the community concerning judicial independence.
  8. Many of us came into the law at a time when the State magistracy was another branch of the public service. That time thankfully has passed.  But Federal magistrates were never public servants – they were always appointed under Chapter III of the Constitution with the same rights of tenure as other Federal judicial officers.
  9. That factor was critical to the Court’s integrity and reputation from the outset, especially with the Government so frequently being a party to proceedings in the Court.
  10. It is also a reason why this court has gained jurisdiction over military justice.
  11. Your Honours, the creation of the Court was an exciting development in the Federal court system – and also for the law in Australia.
  12. Today marks much more than a re-badging -  it is a rebirth for a Court that can already feel proud of its achievements.
  13. The prediction in 2003 by the former Chief Justice of Australia, Murray Gleeson that “it will become one of Australia's largest courts” has been fulfilled. At that time it had 20 judicial officers; now it has more than 60.
  14. It is bigger than any state Supreme Court and handles more than 70 per cent of all matters in the Federal Court system. And appropriately for a court reaching out to the community, it has a huge geographical spread– with registries from Launceston to Rockhampton.
  15. This reach is matched by commitment to quality of service and by a characteristic focus on the needs of those whom the Court serves. Many come before the Court struggling with the high emotion of domestic distress. Enlightened thought has been given to the creation of a less formal ambience while retaining judicial discipline and rigour.
  16. As Courts go, it is a welcoming place. Wigs and gowns are not, ordinarily, required to ensure respect for the processes and the Judges.  The stresses our clients often feel – especially those involved in family law and immigration matters - are eased by the less formal atmosphere.
  17. Special mention should be made of the leaders of this court. The community has been most fortunate to have Chief Justice Bryant and now Chief Judge Pascoe at the helm. Under such guidance the humanity which sustains the respect for this  Court will never be forgotten.
  18. May it please the Court