Letter to the West Australian Bar Association
Aug 10, 2021 | AIJAC
Mr. Martin Cuerden SC
WA Bar Association
10 August 2021
Dear Mr Cuerden
I write to express my personal and professional astonishment, and profound disapproval of the contents of your recent letter to Senator Sarah Henderson.
I am genuinely baffled that, as President of the West Australian Bar Association, you would see it as appropriate to rebuke an Australian Senator for suggesting that a high-profile member of the profession, who makes an undeniably antisemitic comment via social media, should face professional consequences.
That your letter should contain no condemnation of Julian Burnside’s blatantly antisemitic post, but rather seek to defend his actions using the principle of free speech is, at best, disingenuous. Let’s be clear, no one is seeking to limit Julian Burnside’s freedom of speech.
By deleting the tweet, it would seem that even Burnside himself recognised, after the fact, that his comments had crossed the line into antisemitism. A fact that seems to be readily recognised by virtually all public commentators from the far left to the right. The sole exception seems to be the WA Bar Association.
I agree that the WA Bar should have no view on Israeli-Palestinian affairs, as you state in your letter, but it most certainly should have a view on whether it is appropriate for a member of the profession to engage in antisemitism, racism or deeply offensive hate speak of any kind.
As someone who experienced antisemitism some 50 years ago as a young lawyer in this country, it is inconceivable to me that in the year 2021, the president of a State bar association would suggest that a respected member of the Bar spreading antisemitic hate is “a matter of public interest”.
Section 8 of the Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barristers) Rules 2015 specifically provides that a barrister must not engage in conduct which is “likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession or the administration of justice or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute.”
On that basis, I call on you to promptly withdraw the letter, apologise to Senator Henderson and issue an unambiguous condemnation of Julian Burnside’s antisemitism. I also invite you to visit the Holocaust Institute of Western Australia and meet with a Holocaust survivor, who can offer you some much-needed education on this subject.
In the interests of transparency and personal integrity, I intend to make this letter public.
Mark Leibler AC
Arnold Bloch Leibler