Duncan Kerr

Duncan James Colquhoun Kerr (born 26 February 1952[1]) is a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia and served as President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal from 2012 to 2017.

Duncan Kerr
Duncan Kerr.jpg
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Denison
In office
11 July 1987 (1987-07-11) – 19 July 2010 (2010-07-19)
Preceded byMichael Hodgman
Succeeded byAndrew Wilkie
Attorney-General of Australia
In office
1 April 1993 (1993-04-01) – 27 April 1993 (1993-04-27)
Preceded byMichael Duffy
Succeeded byMichael Lavarch
Minister for Justice
In office
24 March 1993 (1993-03-24) – 11 March 1996 (1996-03-11)
Preceded byMichael Tate
Succeeded byDaryl Williams
Judge of the Federal Court of Australia
Assumed office
10 May 2012 (2012-05-10)
Personal details
Born (1952-02-26) 26 February 1952 (age 68)
Hobart, Tasmania
Alma materUniversity of Tasmania
ProfessionBarrister, Politician, Judge

Kerr was previously a politician, as the Labor member for Denison in the Australian House of Representatives, serving between 1987 and 2010. He was Minister for Justice between 1993 and 1996, and in 1993 briefly also Attorney-General of Australia.

Early life and educationEdit

Born in Hobart, Tasmania, Kerr was educated at the University of Tasmania, where at one stage he was President of the Tasmania University Union. He graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree, and later with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work.



Kerr was the Labor candidate in the Division of Braddon in the 1977 Australian federal election, losing to future Premier of Tasmania Ray Groom. In the Australian federal election in 1987, Kerr defeated the sitting Liberal member, Michael Hodgman QC, for the Hobart-based seat of Denison to become the first Labor member elected from Tasmania since the defeat of the Whitlam Government in 1975.

Kerr served in the Australian House of Representatives as Member for Denison from 11 July 1987 to 19 July 2010. Prior to entering politics, Kerr acted as Crown Counsel in the Tasmanian Solicitor-General's Department, as lecturer in constitutional law and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Papua New Guinea, and as Principal Solicitor for the [[Aboriginal Legal Service of New South Wales|NSW Aboriginal Legal Service]].

Kerr served as Minister for Justice from 1993 to 1996, and briefly also as Attorney-General in 1993. Prime Minister Paul Keating's original choice for Attorney-General in 1993 had been Michael Lavarch, but Lavarch's re-election was delayed by the death of an opposing candidate for the seat of Dickson; Kerr held the portfolio in the interim until Lavarch won the resulting supplementary election. Kerr served as Attorney-General for 26 days.

Kerr was a member of the Opposition Shadow Ministry from 1996 to 2001. He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs in the Rudd Ministry in 2007.

Prior to his appointment to the First Rudd Ministry, Kerr was Co-Convenor of the Australian Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform, a cross-party group that advocates harm minimisation as being more effective, more cost-efficient and less harmful than zero-tolerance when it comes to dealing with drug use.

On 14 December 2009 Kerr resigned his appointment as Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and indicated he intended to return to legal practice. Kerr retired from politics at the 2010 election.[2] Upon Kerr's retirement, the previously-safe Labor seat of Denison was won by Andrew Wilkie, an independent.


Kerr is the author of Annotated Constitution of Papua New Guinea (1985), Essays on the Constitution (1985), Reinventing Socialism (1992) and Elect the Ambassador; Building Democracy in a Globalised World (2001).

Kerr was leading counsel in the High Court case Plaintiff S157 v The Commonwealth, which concerned a privative clause in the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) and the availability of judicial review under section 75 of the Constitution of Australia. In 2010, Michael Kirby described the decision as "one of the most important in recent years for its affirmation of the centrality in [Australian] constitutional law of the rule of law."[3]

Kerr was appointed a Senior Counsel in 2004, and as Adjunct Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology in 2007. Kerr has acted as counsel in the High Court of Australia, Federal Court of Australia, Family Court of Australia, Supreme Court of Tasmania, District Court of New South Wales, Supreme Court of New South Wales, and the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea.

In 2010, Kerr became a founding member of Michael Kirby Chambers in Hobart where he practised as a barrister specialising in public law, constitutional and administrative law, refugee and human rights law and appellate work.

On 12 April 2012 he was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia, taking his seat on the bench on 10 May 2012. In 2015 with the consent of the Australian Government he was appointed by the Independent State of Papua New Guinea as its nominee as an arbitrator in a proceeding in the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Concurrently with his judicial duties, from 2012 to 2017 he served as President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. He was Chair of the Council of Australasian Tribunals (COAT) from 2014 to 2017. He is one of six former federal politicians to have served on the Federal Court, along with Robert Ellicott, Nigel Bowen, Tony Whitlam, Merv Everett and John Reeves.


On 23 August 2011 Kerr was conferred with the insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by the Ambassador of France, his Excellency M. Michel Filhol for defending values dear to France and for his role as Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs in enhancing friendly ties between Australia and France.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Hon Duncan Kerr SC, MP". Senators and Members. Parliament of Australia. 2010. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  2. ^ Duncan Kerr to retire from politics: The Australian 10/9/2009
  3. ^ Kirby, Michael (3 February 2010). Formal opening of Michael Kirby Chambers (Speech). Quoted in Dreyfus, Mark (16 May 2012). Ceremonial Sitting of the Tribunal for the Swearing In and Welcome of the Honourable Justice Kerr (Speech).
  4. ^ Embassy of France in Canberra

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Tate
Minister for Justice
Succeeded by
Daryl Williams
Preceded by
Michael Duffy
Attorney-General of Australia
Succeeded by
Michael Lavarch
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Michael Hodgman
Member for Denison
Succeeded by
Andrew Wilkie
Legal offices
Preceded by
Judge of the Federal Court of Australia