Sir Anthony Mason and The Dismissal

31 August 2012

Professor Anne Twomey comments on revelations by former Chief Justice, Sir Anthony Mason that he advised former Governor-General, Sir John Kerr that he should warn Gough Whitlam of his intention to sack his government in 1975.

Writing on the University of Sydney Blog - Constitutional Critique (Critical constitutional analysis by the CRU) - Professor Twomey believes that reports suggesting Sir Anthony Mason set a precedent during the Dismissal are slightly exaggerated.

"Much hyperbole has been generated by the recent revelations concerning Sir Anthony Mason's involvement in the 1975 dismissal, but for the most part it shows ignorance of the past.

"Not only was it not 'unprecedented' or 'unconventional' for a High Court judge to have advised a vice-regal representative on the extent of his or her powers back in 1975, but it is actually quite hard to find an occasion when judges have not been involved in advising upon the exercise of reserve powers.

"Looking at Sir Anthony Mason's informal advice to Sir John Kerr through post-1975 eyes is unfair.

"In the context of the time, his actions were not inconsistent with those of his predecessors or his colleagues."

View the blog - The judiciousness of advising the Governor-General

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