John Cameron is admitted to practice in the High Court of Australia, the Supreme Court of Western Australia, the High Court of New Zealand, and the High Court of Fiji. He has appeared in administrative law cases in the superior courts of all of those jurisdictions, since 1993 in migration matters involving asylum seekers in Australia.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with John recently to discuss key challenges and opportunities facing the industry today.
You can find the full Q&A below.
Pease tell us about your practice and the types of matters you are currently working on?
The current emphasis is on migration and associated matters in the Federal Court, with some personal injury cases in the District Court. But there is not much that I have not done in over 40 years of practice, from defending in murder, and acting in the licensing of helicopters. I am prepared to look at anything that comes through the door - or these days, over the internet. I appreciate the challenge of something new, whether it originates locally, interstate, or overseas.
The most interesting matter of last 12 months?
An appeal against a decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal affirming a decision of a delegate of the Minister of Immigration and Border Protection refusing a protection visa on the grounds that there were serious reasons for considering that the applicant was complicit in the commission of a crime against humanity. Required venturing into the unexplored field of international criminal law. The appeal will be heard in March.
Why can interpretation be such a difficult area?
I am not sure that it is so difficult. However that comes from someone with a language background, including six years of Latin, and a full year course in statutory interpretation at law school. This was easily the most useful course, and in sceptical moments, the only useful course.
Real difficulties can arise where there is a conflict between statutes, and even the High Court err. In one appeal in which I was involved the High Court allowed the appeal, but rejected my submission on an issue of construction. In a later case, the Court declined to follow the earlier dicta, effectively upholding the original submission. The issue involved the application of the generalia specialibus non derogant rule.
Your presentation will cover “The Citizen Seven and Seven and Subsequent Cases”. Why are these cases so controversial?
It could be that, after being given clear riding instructions by the Prime Minister, the High Court ignored them, and applied the clear words of section 44, as of course it should have done.
Some politicians, present and past, have imagined that, while they were responsible for making laws, they were not subject to the laws made. It has been brought home to them, and to the legislative branch as a whole, that this is not the case.
Are there any Administrative or Constitutional reforms/developments or legislation on the horizon that you think practitioners should keep on their radar?
Perhaps over-optimistically, I detect an increased willingness in the Federal Court, on appeal, to find jurisdictional error where the decision maker has not made explicit findings of fact, linked to the evidence by a clearly expressed reasoning process. The days of ‘near-enough-let’s-not-be-too-critical’ could be behind us.
You can hear more from John at the Statutory and Constitutional Interpretation seminar, being held on Thursday 22 March at the Parmelia Hilton Perth, Perth.