One of Australia’s most senior judges has voiced his approval of a former Australian Idol contestant’s decision to come out of the closet.

During a speech at the Southern Cross University in Lismore this week, High Court Justice Michael Kirby paid tribute to Idol finalist Anthony Callea.

The judge, who is openly gay, told the audience that the time for hiding the truth about one’s sexuality is over.

The singer was runner-up in Australian Idol and has subsequently had the the highest-selling single in Australian chart history with The Prayer.

“I’m not ashamed of being gay, but it’s not in my nature to go out and promote it,” he told the Herald Sun newspaper last month.

“I want to be known as a singer and as a performer. This shouldn’t change anything.”

Callea said that while making the TV show he felt pressure not to come out – he did not want to be the “gay” contestant.

Justice Kirby said: “Frankly I’d trade 10 judges for one pop star. I think it’s a wonderful thing that he’s expressed the truth and he’s getting on with his life.”

The judge urged all Australians to “face up to the scientific fact that a small proportion of every society are gay, and that’s just part of reality.”

He also criticised federal laws that do not protect gay men and women in the same way that married or de facto couples are protected.

Mr Justice Kirby has served on Australia’s highest court since 1996, and has lived openly with his partner for the last 37 years.

The judge has faced criticism in the past for admitting to a relationship with a man before 1984, when New South Wales decriminalised homosexuality.

In 2002 he was accused of ‘trawling for rent boys’ by homophobic senator Bill Heffernan, but the evidence was quickly shown to be false.

Justice Kirby’s response to the slurs was to say that he hoped his ordeal would “show the wrongs that hate of homosexuals can lead to.”

Pinknews.co.uk reported last year when Justice Kirby urged all gay Australians to come out.

He said “a fear of difference” was behind prejudice against the LGBT community, and did not believe that prejudice would be eradicated in his lifetime.

He compared this prejudice to the apartheid of South Africa and said: “Prejudices and dislike will, ultimately, only recede when gay people themselves break the spell of silence and stand up to be counted.”