The Courier-Mail

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.


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