Judge Megan Latham Supreme Court Appointment

About this Item
SubjectsLaw Courts; Judges; Sentencing and Parole
SpeakersSpeaker; Tink Mr Andrew; Carr Mr Bob
BusinessQuestions Without Notice

Page: 15308

    Mr ANDREW TINK: My question is to the Premier. Given that three years ago he attacked District Court Judge Megan Latham over the manifestly inadequate non-parole sentences of 4 years and 3½ years given to two violent pack rapists, will he now discontinue his appointment of her to the Supreme Court?

    Mr BOB CARR: What a disgraceful attack! Not content with attacking the police commissioner, not content with attacking senior public servants at every opportunity, members opposite now start attacking judges. It ought to shame every female member of the Coalition. Under the Coalition Government the appointment of women to judicial posts was so rare as to be a public holiday event. In the entire period of the Coalition Government one female was appointed to the Supreme Court and three to the District Court.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Willoughby will come to order.

    Mr BOB CARR: I am proud to say that this Government has increased the proportion of female judicial appointments from 12 per cent under the previous Government to 30 per cent under Labor, including the appointment of 11 female judges to the District Court.

    Mr John Brogden: Who cares? We want good judges.

    Mr BOB CARR: The Leader of the Opposition says, "Who cares?" Let that be reported in Hansard. We do care. Clearly the same attitudes that led to the Coalition's disgraceful record are still held by those opposite who are saying, "What we would accept in the behaviour of a male judicial officer we will not accept in a woman. We will make an issue out of a woman being appointed to a senior judicial appointment."

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for East Hills will come to order.

    Mr BOB CARR: There is no doubt that Judge Latham is a person of the highest legal training and academic record. Her personal integrity has never been questioned.

    Mr Andrew Tink: Point of order: The words I used in the question are the words from the Premier, taken from Hansard. You attacked Judge Latham, I did not.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Epping will resume his seat.

    Mr BOB CARR: Calm down, Andrew! Deep breathing, Andrew! Otherwise nurse will be here again with her trolley and her big needle, and you will be calmed by another means. Judge Latham is a person of the highest integrity. Are Opposition members positing that no judge who has ever had a decision overturned on appeal or whose decision has been criticised can ever be appointed to a higher judicial post? In other words, they are putting forward the proposition that no judge who has had a decision overturned on appeal or who has been criticised by the government of the day can be elevated to a higher court. What an extraordinary proposition! Either that is the position or it is that they just do not like women being appointed to the bench. Certainly your objective here would appear to confirm it.

    I look at Judge Latham's record. She is a former Crown Advocate, a Crown Prosecutor, and an executive officer of the New South Wales Child Sexual Assault Task Force. She has served on the District Court bench since 1998 and has carried a heavy load with, as I understand, relatively few appeals against her decisions. The most recent appeal of which I am aware was an appeal against what was alleged to have been an unduly harsh sentence on Wollongong identity Neville Hilton. Her appointment from the District Court to the Supreme Court was undertaken in full consultation with the Chief Justice and with the relevant professional bodies. She has been involved in controversial cases. Criminal work is, of its nature, heated and controversial.

    Her decisions are subject to the scrutiny of higher courts, as are the decisions of all judges. That is what is called the judicial system. It is one of the bastions of the liberties of our system of government—an independent judiciary not subject to government saying, "Because you have taken a decision that does not please us in one or two cases we are going to put a bar on your ever serving on a higher court." The honourable member for Epping, hostile to women being appointed to the bench, is now seeking to throw her on the scrap heap on the basis of one controversial decision in the enormously difficult area of the criminal justice. It indicates why the Coalition has made no progress whatsoever in getting more women in prominent positions in the law.

    Mr Carl Scully: Point of order: Following the use by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday of sexist language, today he has used words which are an affront to all women in this Parliament. His reflection on who cares if a woman gets promoted to the bench is unparliamentary and should be withdrawn by him.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! All members should use language that uplifts the standards of the House.