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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1196

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(12.24) —The Opposition's reaction is unfortunate, extravagant and unjustified either in principle or in practice. I have probably said almost everything I can appropriately say about this matter in the second reading reply and I do not wish to retrack over that ground. I simply add this: Neither the Government nor I believe it will in any way erode the status and standing of the Australian judiciary to have someone being vested with the title of Justice if he is doing a job which it is appropriate for a judge to do, albeit not a strictly speaking judicial job. The Opposition has always acknowledged, as we heard earlier in this debate, that it is appropriate for a judge to be Chairman of the National Crime Authority.

It will not, secondly, erode the status and standing of the judiciary if the person vested with this title performs that task with the dignity and the competence which Mr Justice Stewart is bringing to the chairmanship of the Crime Authority. What erodes much more seriously the standing of the judiciary in this country is the kind of campaigning against individual members of the judiciary that lacks, and is subsequently proved to lack, substance, but which is undertaken for reasons of short term political expediency. I refer to the kind of campaigning we saw with Mr Sinclair's attacks on Mr Justice Cross in New South Wales, the kind of campaigning we have seen in the attacks which have so far been made on Mr Justice Murphy on a whole number of matters which I referred to yesterday as having nothing to do with the present proceedings of the Parliament. I refer in particular to the Sala matter, the Saffron matter and the Moll matter-proceedings, or rather campaigning, undertaken for motives which can at best be regarded only as suspect. I do not want to open up that whole debate again, but it would set us off in other directions.

I simply make the point that before people attack members of the judiciary, before they raise allegations, before they bring alleged peccadilloes, defaults or misbehaviour into the public domain, it is terribly important for them to be a lot more sure of the foundations on which they make those attacks or allegations than has been the case in so much of the public debate in this area over the last few months. It is that kind of thing, not what is being proposed here in relation to Mr Justice Stewart, that really does give rise to the kinds of concerns which Senator Durack quite legitimately raises.