Queensland’s next chief justice of the Supreme Court Tim Carmody has stared down his critics.
Queensland’s new top judge Tim Carmody wants to prove to the public that his meteoric rise is based on merit, not politics.
Leaders in the judiciary have publicly turned on him, questioning if he’s ready to be chief justice or has enough peer support.
But a more cutting criticism is that he’s too close to the Newman government, which is on a law and order crusade.
The 58-year-old, who was made Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on Thursday, is genuinely stunned by the fallout over some of the choices he made during his short stint as chief magistrate.
One includes directing his 100 magistrates on how to apply the state’s controversial anti-bikie laws.
When perceptions are almost as important as reality, some believed Carmody was doing the government’s bidding at a time when lawyers, civil libertarians and even a serving Supreme Court judge attacked the new regime.
The former policeman and counsel assisting the 1980s Fitzgerald inquiry into corruption says he’s often misunderstood and taken out of context.
Vowing to be “fiercely independent”, he says any opinion he shares with the government is purely coincidental.
In fact, he’s still not sold on the anti-bikie legislation, which toughens bail applications and imposes mandatory sentences.
“I can see pros and cons. Good aspect, harsh aspects,” he told AAP.
“What I’m heartened to hear is that there is a sunset clause for them to be reviewed.
“What I’m not in favour of, is oppressive draconian laws that don’t achieve their purpose.”
When asked if they’re working he replied: “the government has said so.”
A day after his appointment, the Law Society and Police Union congratulated Carmody.
But Supreme Court judges were silent and Bar Association president Peter Davis quit on Friday afternoon.
Mr Davis said it wasn’t a personal criticism of Judge Carmody but a loss of faith in the selection process.
A pragmatist, Carmody won’t apologise for getting along with the government, as a good working relationship is better than none.
“In these positions, you do have to work closely without getting too close,” he said.
After being admitted to the bar 32 years ago, Carmody became a high profile prosecutor and was appointed a Family Court judge in 2003.
He left five years later to return to private practice, worn down from the procession of unhappy endings.
His star, however, rapidly rose under the Newman government.
He was selected to lead the Child Protection Inquiry in mid-2012, and in September 2013 he was recruited from the bar to be chief magistrate.
But his elevation to chief justice of the Supreme Court over long-serving Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judges made him a target, especially when he never served in the Supreme Court.
Several lawyers, including former Crown Solicitor Walter Sofronoff QC, former Supreme Court judge Richard Chesterman QC, and fellow corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald have been critics and had their views splashed across newspapers.
The criticisms hurt coming from people who had been friends and colleagues.
Carmody says Fitzgerald never picked up the phone to offer advice and the two haven’t worked together in decades.
“What does he think, I’m the law clerk and he’s the big boss?,” he told the ABC.
“Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
“Hold fire, see how I go before you give me your report card.
“I’d be doing the wrong thing by my father if I lay down in the corner, because someone said I wasn’t up for it.”
Carmody grew his tough skin and strong backbone through an unorthodox childhood.
His father Joe was a publican, bookmaker and sometimes boarding house contractor at the Katherine Meatworks.
His mother Elizabeth was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour when she was 39, which left her paralysed and in nursing homes.
Roles reversed, a young Carmody spent his formative years dealing with his mother’s emotional development and knew how to cook by 13.
He lived in housing commission accommodation in Inala, west of Brisbane, and was fostered out when he and his three siblings became too much for Joe.
Carmody went to a number of schools, including boarding school at Nudgee, and graduated from year 12 after taking time off to work on the floor of the meatworks.
The disruptive upbringing taught him to be resilient, a trait he says many youth don’t share today.
It also makes him relatable to many who stand before him.
A pet hate is presiding over court cases where people haven’t paid driving fines and rack up state penalty debt or “put it on the taxpayers’ credit card”.
“Our system has to be smarter than that,” he told AAP.
“Kids don’t bounce much these days.
“They have a sense of entitlement, expectation that there will be someone there to pick them up and that there are no consequences for actions.
“I was always mindful of consequences.
“I’m probably a harder marker than most.”
Carmody will take over from outgoing Chief Justice Paul de Jersey on July 8 and says he’ll apply the same work ethic as he has throughout his life to win the public’s trust.
“In the end it (the criticism) was wrong. I can do this job, I will do this job, and I shouldn’t not do this job because someone else says I shouldn’t.”