Leslie Ronald Zines

Yesterday I rose in the Chamber to remember Leslie Ronald Zines, an oustanding member of the legal fraternity.


June 17, 2014

I rise today to speak about the passing of Leslie Ronald Zines, a great constitutional scholar and teacher. Of Leslie Zines it was said by Anthony Mason, the former Chief Justice of the High Court.  With the retirement of the eminent constitutionalist Geoffrey Sawer, Professor Zines became the leading commentator on the Australian Constitution.


Geoffrey Lindell and Oliver Mendelsohn noted in their obituary in The Australian:

Zines rightly belongs in the company of eminent Australian constitutional scholars before him, particularly William Harrison Moore, Kenneth Bailey and Sawer.

Leslie Zines was born in Sydney on 12 December 1930, the son of a Jewish tailor who migrated to Australia from Palestine. He attended state primary schools and Sydney High School and graduated from the University of Sydney in 1952, with first-class honours in law. In 1956 he received a master of laws from Harvard University and, while attracted by the bar, ultimately found his way into the teaching profession. He believed, as I do, that law is not a set of abstract and arid rules set in aspic by past generations but develops through courts taking into account values and policy considerations. He was a tough but admired teacher over three decades at the ANU and a great exponent of the Socratic method of case teaching.

Of course his best known scholarly work is The High Court and the Constitution, which went through five editions since it was first published in 1981, a book which I am sure has been the bane of many a law student but which ended up being a fundamental text for so many Australian lawyers. He was a barrister in several important High Court cases, most notably the Franklin Dam case. Of Leslie Zines it was written in the Federal Law Review by Geoffrey Lindell that his style of legal analysis was best summed up in the way in which he marked Lindell's LLM thesis. Lindell said:

Although difficult to decipher I soon realized that they—Zines's marginal notes—all signified, in relation to views and propositions I was expressing an advancing, an all-important word—'why?'

This not only taught me much about the art and skill of how to supervise, but also went to the heart of the academic endeavour.

I pay tribute to Professor Zines and to his partner, Judith Wilson, who survives him.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.