Remembering Bob Baxt AO 1938–2018

By Associate Professor Rosemary Langford

Professor Robert Baxt AO made a remarkable contribution throughout his career in the legal profession, in academia and with regulators. Associate Professor Rosemary Langford (BA 1992, LLB(Hons) 1994, PhD 2013) pays tribute to his service to the legal and education communities.

Bob Baxt
Professor Bob Baxt AO. Image courtesy of Herbert Smith Freehills.

Robert Baxt AO had a distinguished career. He was Dean of the Faculty of Law at Monash University, Chair of the Trade Practices Commission, Partner at Arthur Robinson and Hedderwicks (now Allens Linklaters), Emeritus Partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, Chair of the Business Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, Chair of the Law Committee of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, General Editor of the Company and Securities Law Journal and the Australian Business Law Review, and the recipient of a number of honours. Bob was awarded the Order of Australia (AO) for services to law in 2003 and was also the recipient of a Centenary Medal.

Amongst his many achievements and positions of distinction, Bob had a close connection with Melbourne Law School, where he held the position of professorial fellow from the early 1990s. In this role, Bob was a staunch supporter of, and highly instrumental in, the building of Australia’s leading masters program and centre in the competition and consumer law field (the Competition Law and Economics Network). He was Chair of the Advisory Board for the masters program from 2014 onwards and a long-standing member of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Law Regulation.

Bob mentored and actively supported the research of Melbourne Law School academics. Since 2011 the Law School has held a major public event in Bob’s name and honour each year, the Annual Baxt Lecture in Competition Law. The event attracts a very substantial audience of academics, students, practitioners, business people, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) staff and others, and has been and will continue to be a highlight on the Australian competition law calendar.

Bob was also a prodigious author. As editor of the Company and Securities Law Journal and the Australian Business Law Review he wrote numerous editorials. His style was forthright and his comments on developments and proposals were timely and astute.

Bob took great care to encourage and help younger authors and students. He always had time for people. As was said at his funeral, Bob was a ‘people person’. He was always keen to hear of bright students who might like to work with him and was happy to publish high quality work no matter how junior the writer.

Bob’s great legacies were celebrated at a conference in June this year at Melbourne Law School – ‘Contemporary Issues in Corporate and Competition Law: A Conference in Honour of Professor Robert Baxt AO’. The conference was organised by the Hon Justice Ashley Black (SupremeCourt of New South Wales) and Professor Pamela Hanrahan (UNSW Law

School). It featured a distinguished line-up of contributors including the Hon Chief Justice Thomas F Bathurst AC (Supreme Court of New South Wales), the Hon Dr Robert Austin (New South Wales Bar), Mr Alan Cameron AO (Chairman, New South Wales Law Reform Commission), Professor Caron Beaton-Wells and Associate Professor Julie Clarke (Melbourne Law School), Professor Deborah Healey (UNSW Law), Ms Rebecca Maslen-Stannage (Herbert Smith Freehills), Professor Ian Ramsay (Melbourne Law School) and Dr Benjamin Saunders (Deakin Law School), with the Hon Mr Robert French AC contributing a written paper.

Bob’s friendliness, forthrightness, intellect and humour will be greatly missed by so many people, including many of us at Melbourne Law School. We extend our condolences to Bob’s wife Ruth and to his daughters Simone and Miriam.

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 20, November 2018