On 11 September 2020, the then Attorney-General of Australia, Christian Porter, asked the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to consider whether, and if so what, reforms to the laws relating to impartiality and bias as they apply to the federal judiciary are necessary or desirable.
The inquiry was set against the background of the importance of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice for all Australians, the importance of ensuring that justice is both done and seen to be done, and the fundamental principles of procedural fairness, including that decision makers must be independent and impartial.
The ALRC has made 14 recommendations to promote and protect judicial impartiality and public confidence in the Commonwealth judiciary, including:
- reforms to the procedures Commonwealth judges use to determine whether they should withdraw from a case when a party raises a potential issue of bias;
- publishing guidance on how litigants should raise issues of bias with a judge and how such issues are decided;
- establishing a Federal Judicial Commission as an additional and accessible oversight mechanism to support litigant and public confidence in judicial impartiality; and
- strengthening institutional structures to support judges and address systemic biases, including through changes to appointment procedures, judicial education, and collection of court user feedback and case data in the Commonwealth courts.