Chris Merritt, Legal affairs editor | April 27, 2009
THE federal Government has been accused of ignoring concerns about the welfare of Australian expatriate judges in Fiji who were sacked by that country’s military Government.
Sacked Fiji High Court judge Thomas Hickie, who returned to Australia on Friday, accused the Government of allowing its political stance against Fiji’s military-backed Government to cause “a lapse in its duty to Australian citizens”.
He said the Australian embassy in Fiji was aware of concerns about the welfare of Australian judges, but took no action to check on the safety of most of them after President Josefa Iloilo sacked the judiciary and tore up the Constitution on April 10.
“The Australian embassy never contacted us to check whether we were OK,” Mr Hickie said.
“They might not have agreed with us being there, but they should have engaged with us.”
Mr Hickie, who accepted judicial office in Fiji in March last year, said the embassy had long been against Australian lawyers taking judicial positions after Frank Bainimarama’s coup of December 2006.