Quote of the week

Although judicial proceedings will generally be bound by the requirements of natural justice to a greater degree than will hearings before administrative tribunals, judicial decision-makers, by virtue of their positions, have nonetheless been granted considerable deference by appellate courts inquiring into the apprehension of bias. This is because judges ‘are assumed to be [people] of conscience and intellectual discipline, capable of judging a particular controversy fairly on the basis of its own circumstances’: The presumption of impartiality carries considerable weight, for as Blackstone opined at p. 361 in Commentaries on the Laws of England III . . . ‘[t]he law will not suppose possibility of bias in a judge, who is already sworn to administer impartial justice, and whose authority greatly depends upon that presumption and idea’. Thus, reviewing courts have been hesitant to make a finding of bias or to perceive a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of a judge, in the absence of convincing evidence to that effect.

L'Heureux-Dube and McLachlin JJ
Livesey v The New South Wales Bar Association [1983] HCA 17; (1983) 151 CLR 288
23 December 2010

Because of the way our constitution is skewed towards the incumbent government, for a lot of the time the press is a de facto form of opposition. New Labourites would routinely refer to the editor of the Daily Mail as ‘the most powerful man in the country’. That was an exaggeration, and it described something whose effects were almost entirely malign; and yet we would miss this countervailing force if it were gone. Governments are constantly accumulating more power: one of the most glaring trends in the last 30 years of political history is that all governments arrogate more power to themselves, even when (it’s tempting to say ‘especially when’) their ideology is overtly right-wing and explicitly anti-government. The press is just about the only force which resists that, and for that reason alone it is now a necessary component of modern democracy. Without it our democracy would head the way that papers themselves risk heading, and become hollowed out, with the external apparatus of democratic machinery but without the informed electorate which the press helps create. And one beauty of the current arrangement is that it functions without the press having to be well-meaning or high-minded. – John Lancchester in the London Review of Books on the UK printed media.

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