Jetset judges off again on ‘secret’ NZ trip
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.