George Winterton bigraphy, stories - American legal scholar

George Winterton : biography

15 December 1946 - 6 November 2008

George Graham Winterton (15 December 1946 – 6 November 2008) was Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Sydney. Prior to his appointment to Sydney University in 2004, he taught for over 28 years at the University of New South Wales. He served as a member of the Executive Government Advisory Committee of the Constitutional Commission (1985–87).

Illness and Death

In 1998 he developed a rare sarcoma in his left leg, and in 2001 he was diagnosed with bowel cancer. "He continued to write, teach, and publish, interrupted by operations, chemotherapy and countless investigations and procedures." Only in the last months did he cease to attend his Sydney Law School office where he would arrive around noon, and work late, often until 2:00am. George Winterton died in Sydney on 6 November 2008, aged 61. He was survived by his mother Rita, wife Ros, four children and his brother.

Foundation of the Aboriginal Legal Service in Western Australia

The Chief Justice of Australia, Robert French, wrote of the early 1970s "when we were involved with other Perth lawyers in establishing an Aboriginal Legal Service for Western Australia.":

"George played a leading role, and in 1972 was chairman of the committee that became the service. In that year he sent a letter to the then Coalition government asking for a modest grant to establish a duty counsel service. The election intervened."
"The response, when it came, was astonishing. Gordon Bryant, the new minister for Aboriginal affairs, asked how much money we would need to provide representation for Aboriginal people throughout the state."

Also involved with George were "a future federal minister, Fred Chaney; High Court judge Ron Wilson; the present Chief Justice of the High Court, Robert French; future state premier Peter Dowding; and others...."Tony Stephens 'Key figures in republic debate' The Age 20 November 2008 p 18

Public affairs and constitutional reform

George Winterton provided legal advice to Commonwealth and state governments, other public bodies and law firms.

Winterton criticised Sir Garfield Barwick and Sir John Kerr for not having paid closer attention to the constitution before Kerr, the governor-general, sacked the Whitlam government in 1975, with Barwick's advice. Winterton said Barwick had invented a convention that "a prime minister who cannot obtain supply ... must either advise a general election or resign", pointing out that, although section 83 of the constitution forbids the expenditure of unappropriated funds, appropriated funds had not been exhausted. The sacking, he said, diminished respect for conventions.

He served as a member of the Executive Government Advisory Committee for the Constitutional Commission in 1986 and 1987, chaired by Sir Zelman Cowen.

His Monarchy to Republic helped reignite debate over the issue of Australian republicanism. In 1993, he served as a member of the Republic Advisory Committee. He was appointed as a delegate to the 1998 Constitutional Convention. He wrote the original bi-partisan appointment model.

Chief Justice Robert French has written:

He also proposed a new preamble for the Constitution and amendments necessary to reflect a minimalist Republican model. George spelt out certain principles which should guide the formulation of a new constitutional preamble. They were reflective of his own personality and approach to legal issues. Shortly they were: 1. A conservative principle -- the existing preamble should be retained as far as possible for constitutional continuity and social harmony. 2. The preamble should be honest. It should not make promises about rights which the Constitution itself would not deliver. 3. The prose should be pithy, avoiding jargon and platitude. 4. It should embody only the most fundamental, uncontroversial and universally acceptable values. 5. It should avoid provisions likely to have legal effect. They should be found in the body of the Constitution. His proposed preamble was founded upon the notion of popular sovereignty and ended with the words: "We, the people of Australia, do hereby enact and give to ourselves this Constitution."

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine