Bar slams Abbott’s court comments following Carmicheal

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The NSW Bar Association president Jane Needham SC has defended the court system after Abbott’s comments on potential court corruption, following the Federal Court’s decision on the  Carmicheal mine development.

The Prime Minister reportedly stated that courts could be used to ‘sabotage’ development projects and that, ‘as a country, we must, in principle, favour projects like this’.

Needham has slammed Abbott’s comments, saying they demonstrate a lack of understanding around the role of the court in a democracy.

“The courts are not the servant of the Executive – any such implication is inimical to the basic principle of the separation of powers, which is fundamental to our Westminster-style system of government,” said Needham.

“The courts exist to make decisions according to the law, not to further the interests of particular individuals or organisations, including government. They are an independent arbiter of disputes, and politicians need to understand and respect their non-partisan role.”

“It is critical that our courts make decisions on the basis of the legislation they are charged to interpret and the facts of each individual case before them.  Legislation imposes strict conditions on developments such as coal mines, and the courts’ task in these circumstances is to scrutinise the Executive’s actions to ensure that any approvals fall within legislative parameters,” Needham added.