Cunneen slams bar association

Margaret Cunneen SC has sent a letter to NSW Bar Association members asking for support in preventing the 'disintegration' of the 'association’s credibility'.

High-profile barrister Margaret Cunneen SC has sent a letter to NSW Bar Association members asking for support in preventing the 'disintegration' of the 'association’s credibility'.

She accused the association of “highly partisan forays into the public arena”, the ABC reported.

“I do not believe it is in the interests of the profession for our peak body to maintain an overtly ideological and partial stance,” the letter stated.

Among other examples, Cunneen’s letter cites an association press release, saying it accused then-PM Tony Abbott of racial hatred and describing him as patronising, not in line with the association’s role of looking after barristers.

“The organisation has a role as a sensible and constructive participant in law reform.  It has never been, and should not be, a soap box for senior members of Bar Council,” the letter said.

“In this last year the NSW Bar Association has made a number of highly partisan forays into the public arena.  For an organisation that relies on being taken seriously by incumbent governments, I would describe them as imprudent.”

Cunneen points out what she deems to be inconsistencies, where the Bar Association issued scathing comments about the Abbott’s reaction to the Federal Court’s decision on the Carmichael mine case but did not criticise opposition leader Bill Shorten for his attack on Dyson Heydon, a Bar Association member.

“Without being too prescriptive, I suggest a media protocol should be introduced, and amendments made to the constitution of the Bar Association,” said the letter.

“The purpose of this would be to ensure that neither the Presidency of the Bar Association (nor any other position in the organisation) can be used as a platform for the unilateral expression of ideological and personal views, as distinct from policies that have been adopted by the entire Bar Council in properly convened meetings of Bar Council.”

She concluded the letter calling for supporters of her views to come forward to make changes.

The NSW Bar Association said it would not provide comment at this time when contacted by Australasian Lawyer.

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