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Media Conference – Sydney CPO

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP


Subjects: Appointment of Federal Court Chief Justice; the Voice to Parliament; INSLM report; TikTok; Whistleblowers.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: Good afternoon. I'm pleased to announce that the Governor-General has accepted the advice of the Government to appoint the Honourable Justice Debra Mortimer as the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia. Justice Mortimer is only the fifth Chief Justice of the Federal Court, and the first woman appointed as Chief Justice since the court was established in 1976. Justice Mortimer has served on the federal court since 2013, and will commence as Chief Justice on the 7th of April 2023 upon the retirement of the Honourable Chief Justice James Allsop AC. The Government congratulate Justice Mortimer on her appointment and looks forward to her distinguished contribution to the justice system as she leads the Federal Court. I consulted extensively on the appointment, including consulting with all state and territory Attorneys-General, with the heads of the Federal Courts, and the heads of the state and territory Supreme Courts, with the Law Council of Australia and the Australian Bar Association. Justice Mortimer is widely recognised for her legal acumen, intellectual capacity and judicial leadership. I also take this opportunity to thank Chief Justice Allsop for his outstanding judicial service. Justice Allsop has served the court with great distinction and on behalf of the Australian Government. I thank Chief Justice Allsop for his dedicated service to the Federal Court and the broader contribution that he has made to the Australian legal system. I wish him all the very best for the future. Happy to take questions

REPORTER: In light of today’s announcement for the new Chief Justice, will the Government be actively looking to appoint more women to the court benches?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I will be appointing on merit and I've made that very, very clear since I became Attorney-General on the 1st of June last year. We will be appointing people to the senior positions because of their distinguished records in the profession. We will be appointing using a merit-based selection process.

REPORTER: On the Voice, would you expect the Parliamentary committee that's been set up to examine the issue of whether executive could be removed from the wording? ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This is a Joint Select Committee of the Australian Parliament consisting of 13 Senators and House of Representatives Members. It has had the Constitution Alteration referred to it by both Houses of the Australian Parliament and as with all Parliamentary committees, this Parliamentary committee is free to examine any aspect of the legislation that's before it. It will call for submissions. It will hold public hearings, and it will be reporting to the Parliament on the 15th of May.

REPORTER: The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor says that Continuing Detention Orders should be scrapped. Is that something you're considering?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This is a report by an independent statutory officeholder. The Government will of course, consider all of the recommendations of this officeholder. The Government will always put the safety and security of Australians first.

REPORTER: Do you share the INSLM’s concerns about the power and has the presence of CDOs made the nation safer?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I've only just received the report and of course have tabled it. We will be considering the report in due course.

REPORTER: On that question of the executive government. So, the Government is open to making changes to the constitutional amendment on the Voice through the Parliamentary committee process?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We've made our position clear. I second read the Constitution Alteration 2023 yesterday in the House of Representatives. It's gone to the committee, but we've been through a very lengthy process to get to the final words that are in the Constitution Alteration Bill. And, of course, it's open to the Parliamentary Committee to make suggestions, but I feel that where we've got to has given certainty and that Australians can have full confidence in what we have announced and what we introduced to the Parliament yesterday.

REPORTER: Has the Government decided to ban TikTok from Government devices? All the other Five Eyes nations have already announced this. Why is Australia so far behind?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The Government is carefully considering advice on this and that is all I'm going to say.

REPORTER: The SA District Court partially lifted a suppression order on the judgment in the case of Richard Boyle yesterday. The judgment says the law is silent on whether whistleblowers should be protected for allegedly criminal acts done while collecting evidence or investigating prior to a disclosure. Do you believe that shows current whistleblower protections are deficient?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This matter is currently before the courts. As you said, there’s a suppression order that has been in part lifted, and, I would add, Mr. Boyle has announced that he's going to appeal. Because the matter is before the courts, that's all I'm going to say.

REPORTER: Do you think the public would find Richard Boyle's prosecution appropriate given the ethical practices in the ATO?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This matter is before the courts. That's all I'm going to say.

Thanks very much