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Wednesday, 10 April 1946

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - Some of the remarks of honorable members opposite criticizing the appointment of judges, and certain comments which were directed against the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) cannot be allowed togo unchallenged. In 1335, shortly after I became a 'member of this chamber,, a bitter debate took place on the appointment of a certain Chief Justice, and some of the remarks then made were not unlike certain things .which we have read in the press lately. The then honorable member for Reid,. Mr. Gander, said of Sir John Latham -

I regret that I was not a member of this Parliament when Sir John Latham began his political career; but I accept the statement of the honorable member for East Sydney that the right honorable gentleman is classconscious and class-biased, and totally unfitted for the judicial position to which he aspires. ... I ask members to picture the spectacle of Mr. Donald Grant, or the member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), being taken before Sir John Latham. Would Sir John Latham give a decision in favour of Mr. Ward if he had advised people not to go to war?

That occurred on a motion submitted by the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), that the Supply Bill be reduced by £1. The attack on the Chief Justice was confined to those who, in those days, sat in Opposition and were known as the Lang Labour party. Sometimes they were described in even stronger language. When honorable members opposite criticize the honorable member for Richmond, as they did earlier, I warn them that they cannot go scot-free. One or two of us on this side of the chamber have long and perhaps inconvenient and awkward memories, and, therefore, are able to reply on little matters such as this.

I agree with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) about the appointment of judges, and hope that we shall not' hear about the judiciary statements such as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made to me a few days ago. Replying to a question, he said that he did not think that he should be called upon to state why no position had been offered to Mr. Bruce. The judiciary is one of the most important bodies in the Commonwealth. It is the more important because we function under a written Constitution. Decisions on constitutional cases focus the attention of the public upon the High Court, more than upon the Supreme Courts of the States, or upon the High Court when it acts as a Court of Appeal. For that reason, it is of the utmost importance to this .community that the gentlemen appointed to the Bench shall possess legal qualifications, and shall not be open to attack or even suspicion because of any associations that they may have had. I do not believe that because a man belonged to a, political party, it follows automatically that his decisions on the Bench will be coloured or governed by the political views which he may have espoused in private life. Once he is appointed to the Bench, he should be above the storm of politics. Nevertheless, we must get away from a condition of affairs in .which appointments are made largely because of the political associations of the appointee with the government of the day. I hope that the Government, when making the appointment, will consider all the matters that have been raised in this discussion.

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