Federal Court Justice Michelle Gordon has been appointed a judge of the High Court, replacing her husband, Justice Ken Hayne, who retires in June.
Federal Court judge Michelle Gordon has been appointed to the High Court.
In an Australian first, she'll replace her husband, Justice Kenneth Hayne, who's been on the High Court bench since 1997 and reaches the compulsory retirement age of 70 on June 5.
Her appointment means there will be three women on the seven-member bench, the most ever.
Attorney-General George Brandis said on Tuesday Justice Gordon had enjoyed an illustrious career as a lawyer, barrister and judge.
She was born and educated in Perth before working in Perth and Melbourne where she was called to the bar in 1992. She took silk in 2003 and has been on the Federal Court bench in Melbourne since 2007.
"Justice Gordon has had a very extensive practice, primarily concentrating on major commercial litigation and she will bring great strength to the High Court," Senator Brandis told reporters.
She turns 51 later this year so can expect a near two-decade tenure.
Senator Brandis said it would be outrageous for an otherwise well-qualified candidate to be disqualified on account of who they were married to.
For this appointment, he said, he consulted widely among state and territory attorney-generals and other judges but not Justice Hayne.
"The overwhelming view was that she was an outstandingly well-qualified candidate," he said.
Although the government would like Australian workers to remain in the workforce longer, it's not pressing for High Court judges, who must retire at 70, to do so.
Senator Brandis said that was legacy of the Fraser government's 1977 referendum which amended the Australian Constitution to require judges to retire at 70. Previously judges had life tenure.
"Getting a constitutional referendum up is an enormous undertaking. The government is not considering reopening that question," he said.
Senator Brandis said he remembered the debate for that rare constitutional change and voted no.
"It just goes to show how far our views about age and ageing have comes since the 1977 referendum," he said.
The next judge to be replaced will be chief Justice Robert French who reaches 70 in March 2017.