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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (25 October) . . Page.. 2036..


MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (3.52), in reply: I thank the Opposition for its support. I think some of Mr Connolly's comments betray, with respect, a lack of understanding of the reason that this Government came to abolish queen's counsel. I would not describe myself as the arch monarchist of this place, Mr Speaker; I would reserve that appellation for you. But I would certainly say that I am a firm monarchist, and it gives me no pleasure to have to remove that link with Australia's historical connection and the historical development of our legal system from the nomenclature of our court and justice system.

The reason this move on the part of the Liberal Government has taken place is that we firmly believe that it is inappropriate for the state or an agent of the state, be that a Minister of the Government or the Cabinet or the Chief Justice appointed by the Government, to be appointing a particular practitioner, a particular worker within the workplace, as being more eminent than other workers. We can acknowledge such people. We can give them awards of various sorts. I suppose that there are all sorts of awards and recognitions that people get in various ways for the jobs they do, but there is simply no equivalent of the systematic approval that goes on with the appointment of queen's counsel in any other area of society's administration of professions and occupations in this community.

Mr Connolly suggested that if I really wanted to preserve the title I could have the Chief Justice make these appointments. If he looks back at my remarks, he will see that I have quite expressly - put it on this basis - warned the Chief Justice that it is not appropriate for the court to be involved at all in substituting itself for the Government in these appointments.

Mr Connolly: But they are doing it.

MR HUMPHRIES: No; that is not true. They are involving themselves in the appointment of senior counsel but not of queen's counsel. The difference is that the name "queen's counsel" quite rightly connotes the concept of the Crown sanctioning or making an appointment, and this Government does not believe that any official of government, whether it is I as a Minister or other members of the Government or the Chief Justice appointed by the Government, should be appointing certain workers to carry that title, which carries with it some connection with government, with approval by government.

I would certainly accept Mr Connolly's point with respect to the retention of that title if it could be carried over to the profession itself and have the profession endow people with that title. I would be quite happy to accept that, except that I think it is wrong in principle to allow ordinary citizens to be endowing themselves with names or titles that carry with them the imprimatur of the Crown. I do not think that is something we should encourage. People should be able to use references to the Crown or the sovereign or the Queen through application to the proper authority, to the Government in Britain or to the ACT Government as the Crown in right of the ACT or whatever, to use those sorts of titles, but not do it by themselves. If they do it through some agency of the ACT Government, they confer on individual practitioners of a particular profession some title that gives them a right and a status in the community that I do not believe that contemporary society ought to allow them to carry.


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