LABOR appointments are once again in the majority in the nation's highest court after Patrick Keane was appointed Australia's 50th High Court judge.
Justice Keane, currently Chief Justice of the Federal Court, will replace Justice Dyson Heydon, who will leave the bench in March when he turns 70, the compulsory retirement age for High Court judges.
The Rudd government appointed Chief Justice Robert French in 2008 and Justice Virginia Bell in February 2009 and the Gillard government appointed Justice Stephen Gageler, who joined the bench last month. Justices Kenneth Hayne, Susan Crennan and Susan Kiefel were appointed by the Howard government.
Justice Keane, 60, has served as Chief Justice of the Federal Court since March 2010, after serving as a judge on the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Queensland. He was Solicitor-General for Queensland for 13 years.
He is married and has three children and three grandchildren.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said Justice James Allsop would replace Justice Keane as Chief Justice of the Federal Court.
When Justice Keane joins the bench, it will comprise four men and three women, two Victorians, two judges from NSW, two from Queensland and one from Western Australia. No South Australian has ever sat on its bench.
George Williams, a professor of law at the University of NSW, said Justice Keane was a "safe, secure appointment" who would likely make a fine High Court judge.
"He's been recognised as one of the nation's leading lawyers and constitutional lawyers for many years," Professor Williams said. "There is no doubt about his qualifications."