The Australian supreme court was founded in 1903. Since then, there have been 42 justices and 13 chief justices. Three members of the court resigned and joined governor-general positions. These members are Sir William Deane, Sir Isaac Isaacs and Sir Ninian Stephen. Currently, the Supreme Court of Australia has seven justices serving in the Australian court. Below are their names and dates of appointments.
The current Chief Justice is Honorable Susan Kiefel and was appointed in January 2017 after serving as supreme court justice since September 2007. The role of Chief justice surpasses that of judges and administrators. The chief justice represents the judiciary and defends it, especially in issues affecting judicial independence.
The other justice in the Australian supreme court is Justice Stephen Gageler, appointed in September 2012. He was admitted into the supreme court barrister in 1989 in South Wales. He also practised as a barrister throughout Australia in commercial law, constitutional law and administrative law. He became a senior counsel in 2000 and later became supreme court justice.
Justice Patrick Keane is part of the Australian supreme court team. He served at the Court of Appeals and Queensland Supreme Court as a judge. He later became the chief justice at the Australian Federal court and was later appointed supreme court justice. Justice Michelle Gordon was also part of the team. She was appointed a judge in Australian Federal Court in April 2007, where she served until April 2007 when she was appointed as a supreme court justice.
Justice James Edelman had also served in the Federal Court from 2015 until 2017 when he joined the Australian supreme court team. However, he has been practising in various capacities since 2005. Justice Simon Harry Peter joined the supreme court in December 2020. Before joining the supreme court, he has practised law in revenue law, Tax Bar Association and Federal Court of Australia.
Lastly, Justice Jacqueline Gleeson lately joined the Australian supreme court in March 2021. She has worked as a federal court judge since 2014. However, she has been practising law since mid-1991. She was a barrister and left bar towards the end of the year 2000. She became a general counsel at the Australian Broadcasting Authority and later returned to the bar in 2007.
Decided in 1983, Australia’s Commonwealth vs Tasmania is one of the most significant High Court rulings in Australian history because of its implications for conservation efforts in this Southern Hemisphere nation.
At issue was a proposed hydroelectric dam that was to be built on the Gordon River by the state government of Tasmania. Because the dam would have flooded a vast and delicate wilderness area downstream, the project was vehemently opposed by environmental groups. The Australian federal government joined the environmentalists in their suit against Tasmania.
At the centre of the action was the Hydro-Electric Commission, an arm of the Tasmanian state government. It proposed the dam be located at a point where the Gordon River had a confluence with the Franklin River. The latter would have essentially been flooded out of existence, including destroying delicate river life. The proposal resulted in numerous protests and occupation of the downstream land by activists. Multiple arrests were made. The incident made frequent national news.
In 1982, UNESCO upped the pressure to nix the dam project by declaring the area a World Heritage Site with the support of the Australian Labor party. The Labor Party won the national election in 1983 and created the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act, 1983. This gave the new Labor government authority to prohibit the construction of the dam.
This prompted the famous Australia vs Tasmania case. The Tasmanian government argued that what the federal Labor Party did was unconstitutional. The claim was accepted for review by the Australian High Court in June of 1983.
Taking on the case involved brought into play a number of constitutional issues, the most significant of which was the authority granted by the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act. The bottom line was that the state of Tasmania argued that the federal government had been overreaching and did not have the authority to regulate how local states enacted public infrastructure projects within their own borders.
In a narrow 4-to-3 victory, the High Court ruled that the federal government had legitimately prevented the construction of the dam. It also deemed that the World Heritage Act was authorized under the federal government’s “external affairs” power. Tasmania had argued that “external affairs” should apply to foreign entities and not Australian state governments.
The lasting significance of the case is the influential new role the Australian federal government could enjoy in protecting national wilderness areas and others issues of environmental concern.