Jet­set judges off again on ‘se­cret’ NZ trip

The Courier-Mail - - NEWS - EX­CLU­SIVE MATTHEW KILLORAN

JET­SET­TING judges and mag­is­trates are fly­ing across the ditch for a week for another con­fer­ence just a few weeks af­ter com­ing back from in­ter­na­tional travel as part of their an­nual “win­ter break”.

But de­tails of the tax­payer­funded so­journ to Welling­ton, New Zealand, are se­cret amid a de­sire to keep con­tro­versy from the trou­bled Queens­land courts.

As well as le­gal lec­tures on ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence and manda­tory sen­tenc­ing, the Com­mon­wealth Mag­is­trates and Judges As­so­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence prom­ises “an in­ter­est­ing pro­gram ... which will in­clude a tour of Welling­ton City pro­vid­ing in­sight into the cul­tural and artis­tic vi­brancy”.

The pro­gram for guests ac­com­pa­ny­ing the ju­di­ciary, which is paid for sep­a­rately, in­cludes a tour of Lord of the Rings film lo­ca­tions and a trip out­side Welling­ton to “show off the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side”.

Jus­tice Mar- garet McMurdo (pic­tured), while still act­ing Chief Jus­tice last week, blocked re­quests for in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the trip, in­clud­ing how many were at­tend­ing and the cost, claim­ing “pri­vacy and se­cu­rity”.

But The Courier-Mail can re­veal at least four trial di­vi­sion Supreme Court judges are listed as not sit­ting next week due to pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment oc­cur­ring at the same time as the con­fer­ence.

And Chief Mag­is­trate Ray Rin­audo is chair­ing a panel on “Use of ex­pert ev­i­dence” at the event, while Fed­eral Court judge John Lo­gan is speak­ing at a pane l dubbed “Clos­ing the Borders: Cur- rent De­vel­op­ments Refugee/Asy­lum Law”.

Based on reg­is­tra­tion fees, ac­com­mo­da­tion and busi­ness class flights, it would cost about $3000 per judge.

The Com­mon­wealth Mag­is­trates and Judges As­so­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence be­gan yesterday and runs un­til Thurs­day, with speak­ers com­ing from the UK, Jersey, Canada, Uganda and Kenya.

It is be­ing held at the mul­ti­pur­pose Michael Fowler Cen­tre in the heart of New Zealand’s cap­i­tal.

In the 2013-14 fi­nan­cial year, Supreme and Dis­trict Court judges spent $1.3 mil­lion on in­ter­na­tional travel and con­fer­ences.

Jus­tice McMurdo, who flew to Cam­bridge for a le­gal con­fer­ence dur­ing the win­ter break in July, de­nied re­quests for in­for­ma­tion.

“For pri­vacy and se­cu­rity rea­sons, the de­tails re­quested will not be pro­vided at this time,” she said.

“The in­for­ma­tion will be pub­lished on the Queens­land Courts web­site at the end of the fi­nan­cial year in ac­cor­dance with es­tab­lished prac­tice.”

But this means it will be more than 12 months be­fore the de­tails are re­vealed.

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