Records of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry

The Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (the commission) was established in May 1986 under the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry Act 1986 (the Act) to inquire into allegations concerning the conduct of then Justice of the High Court, the Hon Lionel Keith Murphy.

Specifically, section 5(1) of the Act required the Commission to inquire, and advise the Parliament, whether any conduct of Justice Murphy had been such as to amount, in its opinion, to 'proved misbehaviour' within the meaning of section 72 of the Constitution.

The ground of 'proved misbehaviour' is one of a limited number of constitutional grounds on which a High Court Justice, on an address from both Houses of the Parliament to the Governor-General in the same session, can be removed from office before the expiry of his or her term.

In September 1986, following Justice Murphy's diagnosis with a terminal illness, the Parliament passed the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (Repeal) Act 1986 (the repeal Act), which had the effect of ceasing the Commission and placing its records into the custody of the Presiding Officers of the Parliament.

Under section 6 of the repeal Act, the Commission's records are divided into Class A and Class B records.

On 13 December 2016, the President of the Senate, Senator the Hon Stephen Parry, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Hon Tony Smith MP, announced that they had authorised the publication of the Class B records of the Commission. These records contain material mostly relating to the interpretation of section 72 of the Constitution.

The Presiding Officers further advised that the Class A records of the Commission, which contain material relating to the conduct of the Hon Lionel Keith Murphy, were under review to determine whether they would be made publicly available.

On 22 June 2017, the President and the Speaker, in statements to the Senate and the House of Representatives, announced that they had authorised the publication of the Class A records of the Commission.

It was intended that the records would be tabled out of session and then published in electronic form on Monday, 24 July 2017, allowing time for, where possible and appropriate, advising persons named in the records, and the closest living relatives or legal representatives of deceased persons, of their forthcoming publication, and for the scanning of documents and redaction of personal information such as signatures and addresses.

As these undertakings are taking longer than expected, the President and the Speaker announced on 20 July 2017 that there will be a short delay in the publication of the Class A records. A new release date will be announced in the near future.

A copy of the media release is available here.

Class B Records

High Court Proceedings, File No.C9

File No.C9 cover


Commission Hearings - Re Section 72 of the Constitution, File No.C59

File No.C59 cover


Pincus J Opinion, Appendix 6(ii), Senate Select Committee on the Conduct of a Judge, Report to the Senate, August 1984.

This is a complete version of the document running from p. 304 to p. 316 in file C59 of the Commission records. The Commission records are missing a page between p. 305 and p. 306.

Reports of Commission, File No.C60

File No.C60 cover