Richard Fairfax Court AC (born 27 September 1947) is a former Australian politician and diplomat. He served as Premier of Western Australia from 1993 to 2001 and as Australian Ambassador to Japan from 2017 to 2020. A member of the Liberal Party, he represented the Perth-area electorate of Nedlands in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly from 1982 to 2001. His father, Sir Charles Court, also served as state premier.

Richard Court
Australian Ambassador to Japan
In office
11 April 2017 – 2020
Preceded byBruce Miller
Succeeded byJan Adams
26th Premier of Western Australia
In office
16 February 1993 – 10 February 2001
MonarchElizabeth II
GovernorSir Francis Burt
Michael Jeffery
John Sanderson
DeputyHendy Cowan
Preceded byCarmen Lawrence
Succeeded byGeoff Gallop
Leader of the Opposition
in Western Australia
In office
12 May 1992 – 16 February 1993
PremierCarmen Lawrence
DeputyColin Barnett
Preceded byBarry MacKinnon
Succeeded byCarmen Lawrence
Member of the Western Australian Parliament
for Nedlands
In office
13 March 1982 – 27 April 2001
Preceded byCharles Court
Succeeded bySue Walker
Personal details
Richard Fairfax Court

(1947-09-27) 27 September 1947 (age 76)
Nedlands, Western Australia, Australia
Political partyLiberal Party
SpouseJo Court
RelationsCharles Court (father)

Early life


Court was born into a political family. His father, Sir Charles Court, was the previous member for Nedlands (1953–1982) and served as Premier from 1974 to 1982. His older brother Barry Court was president of the Pastoralists' and Graziers' Association, married Margaret Court, and became President of the Liberal Party of Western Australia in March 2008.[1]

Richard Court was educated at Hale School and graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1968. He subsequently spent a year as a management trainee at Ford Motor Company in the United States, and on his return to Western Australia, operated a number of businesses including food retailing and the manufacture, wholesale and retail of marine and boating equipment.

As an 18 Foot Skiff sailor in the mid 1970s, he combined the concepts of trapezing with the sliding plank (as used on the International Canoe) into a sliding rack. This feature increased righting moment, sail carrying power, and ultimately boat speed. The concept was simplified into fixed wings, rapidly adopted by the rest of the 18 ft skiff fleet, and now ubiquitous in sailing skiffs.[2]

Political career


In March 1982, at a by-election upon the retirement of his father from politics, Court was elected to represent his father's seat of Nedlands, located in Perth's wealthy beachside suburbs, in the state legislature. His time as a government backbencher was short-lived, however, as the opposition Labor Party and its charismatic leader, Brian Burke, won the 1983 state election. Court was elevated to the shadow frontbench in 1984, serving as the opposition spokesman for Resources and Industrial Development, Mines and Aboriginal Affairs. He became deputy leader of the Liberal Party in September 1987, serving under Barry MacKinnon, and became leader in 1992.[3] Court ousted MacKinnon as leader by a vote of 20 to 12.[4]

In February 1993, a state election brought the Liberal Party and their coalition partner, the Nationals, to power with a stable majority following revelations from the WA Inc royal commission examining deals made with businessmen such as Alan Bond and Laurie Connell by Labor governments during the 1980s.

The Court government was comfortably re-elected in the 1996 WA State election. The Liberals actually won a majority in their own right (29 seats out of 57) for the first time ever, but Court opted to retain the coalition with the Nationals. However, Court's popularity suffered in his second term as Premier due to scandals, including deals made between the government and the Premier's brother, Ken Court,[5] as well as the finance broking scandal, where many elderly investors lost their savings and an inquiry found the Government ineffective and inefficient in managing the industry.[6][7] Also important was the continued logging of old growth forests in the South West of Western Australia. A rejuvenated Labor Party, led since 1996 by Dr Geoff Gallop, won the state election on 10 February 2001 on a 13-seat, 7-point swing—a shift in voter sympathies not seen since the 1911 state election.[8]

Departure from politics


On 14 February 2001, a few days after losing the election, Court refused to resign and endorse his long-serving deputy leader and factional rival Colin Barnett as Leader of the Opposition—defying media predictions by announcing he would stay for up to eight years. Court was from the conservative wing of the WA Liberals, while Barnett was from the moderate wing. He said he intended to continue in the role as other well-known contenders for party leadership had lost their seats at the election.[9][10][11] Political commentator Matt Price described the decision to stay on as "insanity", although allowed for the possibility Court's main reason for staying on was to thwart the plans of his "barely tolerated deputy" by buying time for another contender.[12] Initially, Barnett did not nominate for any position ahead of 21 February party room ballot, but on 19 February, announced he would stand against Court for the leadership, saying that party renewal was necessary.[13]

On the morning of the ballot, Liberal MPs and the public learned of a reported "backroom deal" brokered by Western Australian party president David Johnston to install federal MP Julie Bishop as state Liberal leader. Under this plan, Barnett and Court would both resign their seats. Barnett would have been offered Bishop's seat of Curtin, the safest federal seat in the Perth area. Bishop would contest the resulting by-election in either Nedlands or Barnett's seat of Cottesloe (both of which were within Curtin's boundaries, and are reckoned as comfortably safe Liberal seats). Court would hand over the party leadership to Bishop once she was safely in state parliament.[14][15] The plan was announced on the front page of The West Australian in a story by editor Brian Rogers, which reported that Barnett had been "sounded out about the plan".[16] However, Barnett stated he "choked on his Weet-Bix" as he read details of the plan in the newspaper, describing it as "an act of treachery". Many other Liberal MPs had also not heard of the plan before the story.[17][18][19] Despite this, Court won the ballot 17–13 against Barnett during a four-hour party-room meeting, with Dan Sullivan being elected as his deputy.[20] By 23 February, the plan had to be scrapped when Bishop, who had never formally committed to the plan, rejected it.[21] Court was now in an untenable position, and was forced to retire from politics the next day, with Barnett taking the leadership in the ensuing party room ballot in which he defeated Rod Sweetman.[11][22][23] Court had disputes with the Keating Government over Mabo.[24]

Post-political life


On 9 June 2003, Richard Court was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC). The award cited "[his] service to the Western Australian Parliament and to the community, particularly the Indigenous community, and in the areas of child health research and cultural heritage and to economic development through negotiating major resource projects including the export of gas to China furthering the interests of the nation as a whole."[25]

In November 2016, Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop announced that Court would be appointed as Australian Ambassador to Japan in "early 2017".[26] On 11 April 2017, he presented credentials to Emperor Akihito at Imperial Palace in Tokyo.[27] In October 2020 it was announced that Jan Adams would replace Court as Ambassador to Japan.[28]

See also



  1. ^ "Moral High Ground For New Liberal President". Stateline Western Australia. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 14 March 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  2. ^ Bethwaite, Frank (2008). Higher Performance Sailing. London: Adlard Coles Nautical. pp. 167–168. ISBN 978-1-4081-0126-1.
  3. ^ H.R. Nicholls Society (17 April 1994). "A Matter of Choice - Proceedings of the XVth Conference (Contributors)". Archived from the original on 10 July 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
  4. ^ "14 May 1992 - Libs lob new leader on cynical public - Trove". Canberra Times. 14 May 1992.
  5. ^ ABC (22 March 2000). "WA Premier in hot water over native title funding". The World Today. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
  6. ^ ABC (6 September 2000). "Damning report on W.A finance broking scandal". AM. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
  7. ^ ABC (8 December 2000). "WA Govt resists calls for inquiry into finance brokers' scandal". 7:30 Report. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
  8. ^ Black, David (December 2001). "The Western Australian election of 10 February 2001: Coalition demolition". Australian Journal of Political Science. 36 (2): 355–362. doi:10.1080/10361140120078871. ISSN 1036-1146. S2CID 153571399.
  9. ^ Reardon, David (14 February 2001). "Challenge ahead as Court stays put". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 6. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  10. ^ Martin, Roger (14 February 2001). "Court staggers Libs with plea for 8 more years". The Australian. p. 1.
  11. ^ a b "New WA Liberals leader takes on divided party". 7.30 Report (ABC). 26 February 2001. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  12. ^ Price, Matt (14 February 2001). "Read our lips, Richard – it's time to go". The Australian. p. 4.
  13. ^ Ruse, Ben (19 February 2001). "Time to go - Barnett calls on Court to step down with dignity". The West Australian. p. 1.
  14. ^ Price, Matt (21 February 2001). "Court plots MP trade with Howard". The Australian. p. 6.
  15. ^ "WA Liberal MPs shocked at backroom leadership deal". Australian Associated Press. 21 February 2001.
  16. ^ Rogers, Brian (21 February 2001). "Liberal WA SHOCK, WA party calls in woman MP to take charge". The West Australian. p. 1.
  17. ^ Southwell, Michael (22 February 2001). "News had Barnett choking on Weet-Bix". p. 7.
  18. ^ Price, Matt (22 February 2001). "Arrogant scheme splits bitter Libs". The Australian. p. 6.
  19. ^ "The Bishop gambit". The Sydney Morning Herald. 23 February 2001. p. 12. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  20. ^ Reardon, David (22 February 2001). "Court thwarts deputy and anoints backbencher". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 4. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  21. ^ Shanahan, Dennis (23 February 2001). "Divided Libs sink Court's MP swap". The Australian. p. 1.
  22. ^ Reardon, David (24 February 2001). "Court's humiliation complete". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 11. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  23. ^ Black, David; Phillips, Harry (December 2001). "Australian Political Chronicle: January–June 2001". Australian Journal of Politics and History. 47 (4): 564. ISSN 0004-9522.
  24. ^ "Subscribe to The Australian | Newspaper home delivery, website, iPad, iPhone & Android apps". Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  25. ^ Australian Government (9 June 2003). "It's an Honour - COURT, Richard Fairfax". Retrieved 9 February 2008.
  26. ^ "Former WA premier Richard Court named as ambassador to Japan". ABC News. 22 November 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  27. ^ New Australian Ambassador presents credentials to His Majesty the Emperor - 11 April 2017
  28. ^ "Executive Briefing | Japan at the Crossroads with H.E. Jan Adams AO PSM". Asia Society. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
Political offices
Preceded by Opposition Leader
Succeeded by
Preceded by Premier of Western Australia
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Tourism
Succeeded by
Preceded by Opposition Leader
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of the Liberal Party in Western Australia
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Australian Ambassador to Japan
Succeeded by