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.

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.

The Class B records of the Commission contain material mostly relating to the interpretation of section 72 of the Constitution. 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 these records and they were published on the Parliament's website on 19 December 2017.

The Class A records of the Commission contain material relating to the conduct of the Hon Lionel Keith Murphy. On 22 June 2017, the President and the Speaker made statements to the Senate and the House of Representatives about the publication of these records.

Following the completion of processes to prepare the documents for publication (see media release here), the records were tabled in the Senate and the House of Representatives on 14 September 2017 and published under the authority of the standing orders of each House. The records contain some redactions of personal information and other information based on advice.

The Class A records are available to be downloaded in four consolidated ZIP files or individually here. The Class B records are available to be downloaded individually here.

Inquiries regarding the records may be addressed to JusticeMurphyPapers@aph.gov.au.

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