Official opening of the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association conference
The President of Trinidad and Tobago, Her Excellency Ms Paula-Mae Weeks ORTT; Chief Justices – national and State; Your Honours – of whom I am pleased to see there are many joining us from both Australia and beyond; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
May I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we gather, the Turrbul and Jagera peoples, with my expression of respect for their Elders past and present, and my expression of encouragement for their young emerging leaders.
Thank you, Uncle Albert, for your characteristically thoughtful Welcome to Country. I admired your reference to the resilience and determination of the Indigenous people of this nation, qualities which will continue to be important as our unified nation progresses.
Those qualities are these days raised also in a different but defining context, and that is our persisting drought, with 100 per cent of the State of New South Wales drought declared, and 57 per cent of Queensland.
This crippling drought has persisted now for as long as seven years.
Our empathy lies particularly with our pastoralists, as they exhibit extraordinary resilience and determination.
I congratulate the boys of Brisbane Grammar School, for the parade of Commonwealth flags, and master Exodus Lale for his rendition of the National Anthem: both of them most moving experiences.
After earlier this year having the privilege of attending the highly successful Commonwealth Games – centred on our Gold Coast but extending throughout this vast State – I am so pleased to be associated with another, though rather different, Commonwealth initiative.
While we eschew smugness, we are in truth the most grateful beneficiaries of systems of law which are about the best there could be; and I have in mind Winston Churchill’s comment on the democratic system.
The Commonwealth of Nations is a remarkable phenomenon, and one of which Her Majesty is justly proud; and to have spawned legal systems marked by independence, predictability and for the most part stability, is a quite extraordinary hallmark.
I won’t say any more about the legal systems, because today I am speaking to the converted, but I do want to comment on two aspects of your being here.
The first is to proclaim the wonders of the location, already no doubt self-evident to the many visitors joining us for this international conference – the first held in Australia since 1991.
This State is a gem, and its capital city surpasses the semi-precious. During your stay I hope you all have the opportunity to trespass beyond the conference venue into Brisbane, into Queensland.
Second, I applaud the concept of this long-standing conference.
When I joined the Supreme Court of Queensland in 1985, my wife and I – to that point regular overseas travellers, were reconciled to ‘staying-put’ – itself an attractive position.
But then within a couple of years Queensland judges were given a monetary travelling allowance, and the broadening of all of our horizons soon became apparent. Sharing experiences and views away from home can be immensely valuable in improving the local product.
The development of outward looking judiciaries is to be strongly encouraged.
I did not as a Judge have the opportunity to attend this important conference, though over about 11 years I chaired the Lawasia-affiliated Conference of Chief Justices of Asia and the Pacific.
And so I need no persuading of the high value of conferences like this, especially for the collegiality they engender.
By way of formally opening the conference may I warmly welcome you all to Queensland, and wish you the very best during your visit here – may it be engaging, informative, and entertaining.
Thank you, and welcome.