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Wednesday, 6 May 1942


Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- I share the apprehension of honorable members on this side who have spoken in criticism of this bill. I have other reasons to advance in opposition to the measure I object to the principle of granting special privileges to High Court judges. They are appointed to the High Court Bench to do a particular job of work and should remain in that position and in no other position during their judicial lifetime; if they retire on pension they should not associate with any activity that would be likely to bring them into conflict with the political parties of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) sacrificed his pension rights and entered the active field of politics. The Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, however, was appointed to Tokyo and his pension rights were preserved. He returned from Tokyo without having fallen out with any of the three governments whose directions he fulfilled while he was there and is now back in his old position as Chief Justice. Sir Owen Dixon has gone to Washington on the same conditions as Sir John Latham went to Tokyo, but no one can say whether he is going to have a happy association with this Ministry or with all Ministers of this Government or with any of their successors. If he should disagree with the Government on a major issue he probably will createa sensation similar to that created by the Right Honorable R. G. Casey when he resigned. The Minister at Washington might even express publicly his disapproval of a decision of the government he represents, in which case he would have to resign and come back to the High Court position. If he were to resign in such circumstances, his position as a judge would undoubtedly suffer some impairment. He would not be so acceptable to the government that he had offended, as he probably would have been had he remained a High Court judge and not stepped down to fill an ambassadorial role. It is possible, in certain circumstances, for Sir Owen Dixon, as Plenipotentiary at "Washington, to be discredited, and that would not be a good thing for the High Court as an institution or for him personally.

The appointment of Sir Owen Dixon presupposes that there are no persons in Australia but High Court judges qualified to fill these high diplomatic posts. 1 refuse to assent to that view. Mr. Casey was appointed by a previous government, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that he represented Australia very well while he occupied his position. The previous Prime Ministers under whom he served spoke equally enthusiastically about him; therefore, it is obvious that somebody other than a High Court judge or an eminent lawyer can, with distinction and profit to Australia, represent us in any diplomatic post. I can see no reason for the appointment of Sir Owen Dixon. Other estimable people in Australia are, in my humble view, equally fitted in most respects to represent Australia, and probably better fitted in other respects than Sir Owen Dixon. Reference has been made to this gentleman's sheltered existence. He probably knows less about men and affairs in Australia than do any members of this House. His forensic skill is famous, his general ability is undoubted, but there is no evidence that he is the kind of man to exchange views with diplomats and statesmen in other countries and to represent Australia as successfully as some who, although lacking many 'of his attributes, have other qualifications for the office to which he has been appointed.


Mr Menzies - Does the honorable member for Melbourne forget that Sir Owen Dixon carried out with conspicuous success two war-time administrative jobs, which involved a great knowledge of men ?


Mr CALWELL - I do not necessarily accept the premises on which the right honorable gentleman's question is based. 1 am not opposed to Sir Owen Dixon on personal grounds, and I have no doubt that he has acquitted himself well in whatever position he has occupied. I consider, however, that chancellories in international politics are for men who have participated actively in politics, or for career men in the Foreign Office. If the American experiment is any criterion, the position could be occupied with success by a man who had a fairly good knowledge of most of life's activities. I am not a strong supporter of any proposal to appoint a business man to a diplomatic position, but President Roosevelt seems to have made excellent choices in connexion with his diplomatic services, as was done also by President Wilson in an earlier war period. ' Why does the Labour Government continually ignore the claims of Labour supporters for appointment to important diplomatic positions? Why was not the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgan Smith, selected in preference to Sir Owen Dixon? Mr. Forgan Smith has been maintained by the Queensland electors in the Premiership for a longer period than any other leader of a political party in Australian history. He has won four elections in succession, and each time his Government has been returned with a substantial majority. He has not lacked support as the present Prime Minister and his immediate predecessors in office have done. Mr. Forgan Smith has maintained a two-to-one majority in the Queensland Parliament at each election since he became Premier.


Mr Rankin - What has the honorable member to say about the redistribution schemes introduced by Labour governments in Queensland?


Mr CALWELL - The electorates of the Queensland Parliament are no more gerrymandered than are the electorates of this House. A former Treasurer of Queensland, Mr. Barnes, is said to have boasted after his redistribution scheme had been adopted, following the defeat of the McCormick Government, that Queensland was safe for nationalism for a long time. Even on the basis of that redistribution the Forgan Smith Government was returned with a two to one majority. A subsequent redistribution scheme made representation in the Queensland Parliament a little more equitable, and again Mr. Forgan Smith was returned with the same majority. His qualifications are outstanding, and I imagined that he would have been the first choice of the Government for the important diplomatic. post in the United States of America, or for some other high appointment within the gift of the Commonwealth Labour Government.

Why was not Mr. Parker Moloney appointed to this position? For many years he was a distinguished member of this House, and for two years he was Minister for Markets. He is quite as capable as Mr. R. G. Casey; in fact, I should be doing him an injustice if I did not say that he is more capable than Mr. Casey. Had Mr. Parker Maloney been nominated for the electorate of Hume at the last general elections, his certain election would have made the position of the Government safer to-day than it is, and undoubtedly his claims for appointment would then have received greater attention. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has suggested by interjection that Mr. John Lang should have been appointed.


Mr Harrison - Or Mr. Theodore.


Mr CALWELL - Australia would be better served by Mr. Lang or by Mr. Theodore, if the choice had to bo made between those two gentlemen, than by the honorable member for Wentworth. Why did this Labour Government overlook the claims of Mr. R. S. Richards, a former premier of South Australia, and the leader of the Labour party in that State?


Mr Menzies - Why this modest suppression of the honorable member's own name?


Mr CALWELL - My desire is to serve democracy in Australia and not to secure advancement or a position of tinselled glory. Unlike the claims of the right honorable member, any claims I may have had were not likely to be prejudiced by the support of the capitalistic press of Australia. The right honorable . gentleman's claims were strongly canvassed by the Murdoch press. If rumour be correct, his claims were equally strongly advocated in the right quarters, but were rejected. I should prefer to see Australia represented in the United States of America at thisjuncture by a Labour man, not a non-Labour man.


Mr Rankin - The honorable member is a firm believer in spoils to the victor.


Mr CALWELL - My complaint is that the Government apparently believes in spoils to the vanquished. I can see no reason why three or four Ministers whose names I could mention as eligible for appointment, were not considered by the Government for the position.


Mr Fadden - At least the appointment of one of them would have madea vacancy in the Government.


Mr CALWELL - It would not have made a vacancy that would permit the right honorable member for Darling Downs to return to the position of Prime Minister - and that is all to the good. Some years ago, when Sir William Irvine, a former member of this House, was Chief Justice of Victoria, he decided that no Supreme Court judge in Victoria would be made available for appointment as a royal commissioner. In his view, judges should be above being used for party political purposes, and their positions on the bench should not be endangered by their appointment to conduct inquiries which might possibly bring their impartiality into question with contending parties. His view was accepted by many governments. I am sure that the State Government of which the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was formerly a member, did not press the Chief Justice of Victoria to release judges of the Supreme Court to make inquiries which could be made just as well by members of the bar, if legal learning were required, or by other citizens if general knowledge were a sufficient qualification. This Government should not- be so anxious to dazzle every one in the community by the absolute impartiality of its appointments. The Government should not be unduly afraid of charges of political prejudice. Apparently it desires members of the public to say: "Here is a government which considers capacity and ability above everything else, and does not intend to allow itself to be blinded by political prejudice or to be affected by political associations". The Government should not be faint-hearted about these things, for its opponents will think just the same of it, irrespective of its actions in matters of this description. Its opponent? will still have plenty of ammunition to fire at it, whether it makes or does not make appointments in accordance with Labour wishes. Who knows when we shall have another general election? Rumours have circulated that this Parliament will not be dissolved during the period of the war. In any case, a general election is a long way off. A Labour supporter should not be discriminated against by this Government merely because he is a Labour supporter. A feeling is abroad that Labour supporters are ineligible when appointments of this description are under consideration. I offer no objection to the selection of Sir Owen Dixon on grounds of personal fitness, but from my association with the Labour movement - and I maintain a personal and intimate association with it - I am able to say that the appointment was not popular with the average working man. If the Government continues to make such appointments the rank and file of the Labour party will conclude that Labour men are not being given fair consideration.


Mr Rankin - How does the honorable member know that Sir Owen Dixon is not a Labour supporter?


Mr CALWELL -I do not know Sir Owen Dixon's politics, but his education, training, and legal and social associations can hardly have given him a prejudice in favour of the Labour party. The lawyer who joins the Labour party is an extremely rare bird. Most lawyers believe in the maintenance of the existing capitalist order of society, and their services arc usually retained by persons interested in capitalism. Their arguments, as a rule, before judges and magistrates, and in the deliberative chambers of this country, are directed towards the maintenance of things as they are. Not many university professors or graduates strive to improve the interests of the common people, although most universities are maintained largely by public funds. From the number of university professors on the pay-roll of this Government and other governments, it would appear that Ministers are more concerned to receive advice on everyday affairs and on problems of government from university professors than from people in touch with the rank and file. Speaking generally, university professors are hopelessly prejudiced against the Labour move ment. I have no inferiority complex in discussing this subject. In the new order which we hope to establish after the war university professors and graduates may find that they will have to change their views on many subjects. Many people who invested their money in small businesses are suffering heavy losses to-day because governments have followed the advice of university-trained individuals. Lawyers may find, after the war, that their talents will need to be put to better use than in prosecuting the claims of big business in the law courts of this country. Nothing that we can do will prevent Sir Owen Dixon from taking up his new duties in the United States of America, for he has been appointed and has actually left Australia. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that on his return to Australia he shall be able, if he so desires, to resume his duties as a High Court judge. 1 offer no objection to that proposal. In fact, I hope that he may be able to resume his duties at an early date. Appointments of this kind cannot be expected to win the approbationof supporters of the Labour party, and it is time the Government took cognizance of this fact, and endeavoured to give expression to the wishes of the mass of the people of the country.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.







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