Mark Robinson
Monday, August 1, 2011
Justinian in Mark Robinson, On the Couch

Sydney barrister Mark Robinson, fresh from important triumphs in the High and full Federal Courts, flops onto our couch, shuts his eyes, and tells all ... There's more to this administrative lawyer than administrative law ... The stuffed zucchini side of his nature is soon apparent 

Think administrative law ... think Mark Robinson.

The Sydney barrister is the author of the famous two-volume loose-leaf doorstop New South Wales Administrative Law

For seven years he was a part-time judicial member of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, hearing cases on privacy and FOI. 

For 16 years he lectured in admin law at the Universities of Sydney and New South Wales. 

He has argued everything from covert search warrants, bastardisation at the ADFC, domestic slavery, prisoners' rights, to the validity of notices suspending drivers' licences. 

In quick succession he's had two recent, stunning victories. 

He persuaded the High Court to bin former NSW attorney general John Hatzistergos' bikie laws ... and he successfully argued in the full Federal Court that adverse findings against doctors by Medicare tribunals were invalid. 

We found him in a suitably exhilarated state to lure him onto Justinian's couch ... 

Describe yourself in three words. 

Driven. Driven. Driven.

What are you currently reading? 

I am reading "Crooked House" (The Bush Capital Series - Vol 1) by Peter Menadue (2011), Kindle eBook. It is political thriller about a Canberra journalist in big trouble. Peter is a Sydney barrister. 

What's your favourite film?

Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner", 1982. 

Who has been the most influential person in your life? 

John Robinson, my father (in life) and Mason (in my work) - Keith Mason QC, former president of the NSW Court of Appeal; and Sir Anthony Mason, former chief justice of the High Court. I worked with both Masons for several years.  

What is your favourite piece of music? 

"One More Time to Live", The Moody Blues, from the album Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, 1971. 

Mark Robinson in Budapest

What is in your refrigerator? 

Vegetables, yoghurt and more vegetables. From living with two vegetarians and a vegan. No room for steak.

What is your favourite website?

Lawlink. (Sad but true.) 

What is your most recognised talent? 


What words or phrases do you overuse? 

"Absolutely ... I know ... Do you know?" 

What is your greatest weakness? 

I like my clients and their solicitors, sometimes.

What career would you have liked to pursue if you hadn't become a barrister? 

A journalist in the popular music industry.  

What comfort can we draw from the outcome of your triumph in the High Court bikie-gangs decision, Wainohu v NSW 

That in future the Supreme Court might not be asked by state parliament to do wicked things (such as infringe upon our rights or civil liberties). 

Of the cases you have fought or brought which one makes you proudest?

In 2002, I successfully argued one of the largest administrative law class-actions in the High Court.  I acted for about 6,700 refugee plaintiffs. The case concerned systemic denial of natural justice by the Refugee Review Tribunal - Muin v Refugee Review Tribunal (2002) 76 ALJR 966.

And what about your win last week in the Medicare tribunals' case - what was that all about?  

The lesson there is for ministers to strictly comply with the terms of the enabling legislation, and to do so before building significant Commonwealth organs, such as Medicare disciplinary tribunals that can readily wreak havoc on the lives and reputations of Australian medical practitioners. 

What personal possession would you never surrender? 

My gold (plated) oratory trophy from high school in 1973.

If you were a foodstuff, what would you be? 

A stuffed zucchini. 

What human quality do you most distrust? 

A smile and a handshake.

What would you change about Australia? 

The idea that refugees are evil queue-jumpers.

Whom or what do you consider overrated?

Cable TV and hand-held telephone/computer devices, iPods or iPads. 

What would your epitaph say? 

He came, he saw, he caused some trouble.

What comes into your mind when you shut your eyes and think of the word "law"?

That cute woman with the scales (and the blindfold).

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (
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