George Winterton Memorial Lecture 2014: Professor Fiona Wheeler

13 February 2014

To register for this event CLICK HERE


'Judges as Royal Commissioners' Reprised: The Involvement of Australian Judges in Extra-Judicial Work

The late George Winterton, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Sydney, published 'Judges as Royal Commissioners' in the University of New South Wales Law Journal in 1987. In this paper, he claimed there was 'overwhelming' justification for the view 'that judges should generally decline to undertake extra-judicial governmental duties'. This was because the use of judges in such roles 'can endanger public confidence in the independence, impartiality and competence of the judiciary'. At the same time, he argued that the Boilermakers Case'should be overruled' and replaced by a more flexible principle preventing federal courts from exercising functions at odds with their role as repositories of judicial power. Over 25 years later, this lecture reprises the themes - notably the need for judges to avoid controversy arising from contact with political matters - that Winterton explored in this characteristically incisive essay. Drawing on archival research undertaken by the speaker, the lecture will provide a window into the rich - though neglected - history of the involvement of Australian judges in extra-judicial work and explore the reasons why Winterton's arguments remain valid today.

About the Speaker

Fiona Wheeler is a Professor at the Australian National University where she is Deputy Dean, ANU College of Law, and Chair of the ANU Academic Board. Prior to joining ANU, she was an Associate to Justice Mary Gaudron, High Court of Australia. Her research is in the area of constitutional law, with a particular interest in courts and the judicial system, including separation of powers and the history of the High Court, areas in which she has published widely. Her doctorate on the separation of judicial power under the Australian Constitution was awarded the ANU JG Crawford Prize. She has previously served the ANU College of Law as Sub-Dean, Director of Research and Head of School. In the first half of 2009, she was based at the National Library of Australia as an Honorary Harold White Fellow. She has served on the Executive of the Australian Association of Constitutional Law and is a member of the Australian Academy of Law.

About the Lecture

The late George Winterton, Professor of Constitutional Law in the University of Sydney, was one of Australia's foremost experts on the Constitution and constitutional law, with an international reputation. He is remembered as an outstanding scholar and teacher to generations of colleagues, students and the legal profession. His influence on Australian constitutional law and policy has been profound. He was an Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales; a member of the Constitutional Commission 1985-87 and of the Republic Advisory Committee 1993; an Appointed Delegate to the Constitutional Convention 1998; and foundation member of the Council and Trustees of The Constitution Education Fund Australia. He was the founding editor of Constitutional Law and Policy Review and author of the seminal book on executive power, Parliament, the Executive and the Governor-General. He was the lead author of the influential textbook Australian Federal Constitutional Law, currently being carried into its third edition by Professor Winterton's academic colleagues. This lecture series was inaugurated in 2010 to commemorate this outstanding contribution and to maintain this legacy of high and uncompromising standards in constitutional law, of considered and dispassionate reflection on constitutional issues, and of dedicated service to the Academy, the Commonwealth and the Constitution.

Lawyers/barristers: attendance at this seminar is equal to 1.5 MCLE/CPD units.

Immediately following the lecture, The Hon. Thomas Bathurst QC, Chief Justice of NSW, will launch the book Winterton's Australian Federal Constitutional Law: Commentary & Materials 3rd edition(Thomas Reuters, 2013). The launch will take place in in the foyer of the Banco Court. You are invited to proceed there for the launch after the lecture.


Friends and colleagues of the late Professor George Winterton areinvited to make a gift to the Memorial Fund named in his honor. Gifts to the Fund will support activities at Sydney Law School in the area of Constitutional Law in memory of Professor Winterton. For further information or to make your gift, please contact Professor Peter Gerangelos, Convenor of the Winterton Memorial Fund and Winterton Lecture Series on (02) 9351 0200 or

Time: 6 - 7.30pm (registration from 5.45pm)

Location: Banco Court, Supreme Court of NSW, 184 Phillip Street, Sydney

Cost: Free, registration essential

Contact: PLaCE Coordinator

Phone: (02)93510323

Email: 24372e624a11203e271873124b5c39221b4f0f003d65261f