Kiribati has no judiciary and Australian lawyers are fired up


The Albanese government has put great effort into repairing relations with Australia’s Pacific neighbours, which might explain its silence over what is happening in Kiribati.

However, the Law Council, the Australian Bar Association and the Australian Judicial Officers Association (AJOA) have been making noise about the small island nation now having no judiciary.

In May, Kiribati President Taneti Maamau suspended Chief Justice William Hastings soon after he made orders supporting the application by High Court justice and Australian citizen David Lambourne to stay in the country.

The government had even tried to force Justice Lambourne onto a plane and out of the country, resulting in a stand-off on the airport tarmac.

This week, the government suspended the three remaining senior judges who also blocked the deportation of Justice Lambourne in a hearing in August. Those Court of Appeal justices – Paul Heath, Peter Blanchard and Rodney Hansen – are retired New Zealand judges.

Law Council president Tass Liveris said the Kiribati government “should refrain from any inappropriate or unwarranted interference with the judicial process”.

The president of the AJOA, Justice Glenn Martin of the Queensland Supreme Court, said there were now “no judges able to perform the functions of the judicial arm of government”.

“The actions of the Kiribati government are misguided and inconsistent with the rule of law.

“The Australian Judicial Officers Association calls on the government of Kiribati to observe the judgments given, to withdraw the suspensions, and to allow the members of the Kiribati courts to exercise their functions according to law, Justice Martin said..