Interview with Mr Gerry Murphy AM
In celebration of the Law Council of Australia’s 90th Anniversary, the Law Council is celebrating this significant milestone by highlighting its rich history and key achievements throughout the years. As part of this campaign, the Law Council had the privilege to interview a selection of past Presidents, gaining a unique perspective on their time in the role.
Reflecting on your time as Law Council President, what were the three key policy priorities within your term?
The key policy priority during my presidency of the Law Council of Australia was the issue of Legal Aid fees. The Council developed a national policy on this issue and strenuously opposed any reduction in the fees set out in Statutory Scales which applied to Legal Aid work. The submissions were followed by personal meetings with the relevant Commonwealth officials, which certainly influenced the Governments approach to Legal Aid costs. The other significant policy priority was preserving common law rights to claim damages for personal injuries. The proposal was to introduce a scheme similar to the New Zealand scheme which abolished completely all common law rights. It commenced on the 1 April 1973.
What do you believe was your greatest achievement as Law Council President and why?
I was chairman of the Law Council's Personal Injuries and Compensation Committee from 1973, and as such was involved in the national debate on the proposal to introduce a similar scheme in Australia. I appeared before the Woodhouse Committee of Inquiry appointed by the Commonwealth Government to consider the introduction of such a scheme in Australia. The committee was chaired by the Honorable Mr. Justice Woodhouse (A Justice of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand). He had chaired the New Zealand Royal Commissions that recommended the introduction of the Scheme in New Zealand. The debate on the introduction of such a scheme continued for many years – right up to the period of my Presidency of the Law Council – and beyond that. The last public consideration of this proposal was a seminar held in Canberra in August 1984. I was a participant at that seminar. No such scheme was ever introduced in Australia on a Federal Basis. I consider dealing with these two issues my greatest achievements during my time on the Law Council.
What was your most memorable Law Council moment and why?
The most memorable moment of my Presidency was opening the conference of the Law Council of Australia in Brisbane in 1983. Other memorable moments were representing the Law Council of Australia at the Annual General Meetings of the Canadian Bar Association (Toronto), the American Bar Association (Atlanta) and the Law Society of England and Wales (London).
Based on your unique perspective as a Law Council President, how has the role of the Law Council been important over the last 90 years and how is the role relevant today?
In my view, the role of the Law Council of Australia has been very significant in providing a voice for all Australian lawyers over the 90 years of its existence and ensuring that the views of its members on all relevant issues were heard. Its role today is to continue that – though the demographics have changed dramatically – in that Asia now also requires considerable attention.
Mr Gerald (Gerry) Murphy AM
Gerry Murphy was born in Maryborough (Queensland) in 1936. Mr Murphy was educated at Holy Angels Convent and St Mary's School (Toowoomba) (4years), and St Joseph's College, Gregory Terrace (Brisbane) (8 years). He served five years articles at the legal firm of Bergin, Papi and Finn (1956 to 1961). Mr Murphy was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland on 9 May 1961. He was married in 1963 to Patricia Geary and had five children. Mr Murphy practiced as a solicitor in Brisbane for over 60 years. He was elected to the Council of the Law Society of Queensland in 1972 and was President of the Society in 1978 – 1980. Mr Murphy was President of the Law Council of Australia in 1982 – 1983. At the request of the Law Council of Australia, Mr Murphy stood for the committee of the Australian Council of Professionals and was President of that body in 1987.