Law enforcers: William Gummow at #2. The longest-serving member of the High Court of Australia is no judicial rock star. He’s rarely mentioned in the press and his biggest Facebook fan club boasts only 162 members compared to Michael Kirby’s 5,244. Yet bald and bespectacled Bill Gummow stands out as one of the most influential judges in recent Australian history.

“He would be number one over the past 10 to 15 years in terms of shaping the direction of the court in key cases,”  constitutional law expert George Williams tells The Power Index. “He wasn’t the chief justice but if you wanted to win some of the big cases then you had to have Gummow on your side because it was extremely rare for him to dissent.”

Gummow’s reputation as the High Court’s bellwether is borne out by the statistics. He has dissented three times this year, more than usual, but his long-term track record is formidable. From 2005-2010, he dissented in only seven out of 240 cases – in other words, only 2.9% of the time (at his peak Kirby reached 48%). — Matthew Knott (read the full story here)

William Gummow vs Robert French. The Power Index today has named the low-profile Justice William Gummow as the High Court’s most powerful judge, ahead of Chief Justice Robert French.

Splitting the pair was an almost impossible call. Both have a prodigious work ethic, almost never dissent and often team up to write joint judgments. It’s also hard to measure influence on the High Court, given deliberations occur behind closed doors and are almost never discussed, even years later, by those involved.

But Gummow’s reputation as the court’s “intellectual powerhouse” over the past 15 years tipped the balance in his favour.

Constitutional law expert Greg Craven told The Power Index that Gummow’s “very wide, expansive view” of judicial power has been influential in expanding the role of the courts vis-a-vis executive government. — Matthew Knott (read the full story here)

ALP president takes on the faceless men. ALP national president Jenny McAllister, who is up for re-election, has hit out at right-wing union heavy Joe de Bruyn for arguing that “moderates” will still control the party even if a left-winger wins the presidency.

There are six candidates – three from the left, two from the right and one unaligned – in the race to be appointed ALP president at the party’s national conference on December 2.

“Factional leaders might want to worry less about a progressive woman winning the presidency and more about the sentiment of thousands of members and supporters who want a party that stands up for its values and moves towards grassroots campaigning,” McAllister writes in today’s Australian. — Matthew Knott (read the full story here)

Steve Jobs dead at 56. Steve Jobs, the talismanic co-founder of Apple, has died today at the age of 56. He was at the forefront of a technology revolution that permanently altered the way people around the world communicate and consume media.

Apple released a statement confirming the news this morning on its website. Apple also published a striking tribute to Jobs, in which it said the company had lost a “visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being”. — Tom Cowie (read the full story here)

Peter Fray

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