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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1196


Senator DURACK(12.27) —The Attorney-General has just made gratuitous and unnecessary attacks on the Opposition. They may have been of a veiled kind, but in one case they were not so veiled when he cited debate that occurred in another place in relation to Mr Sinclair and Mr Justice Cross and indeed to questions which have been asked quite appropriately in this chamber in relation to some matters that arose from Press allegations not about Mr Justice Murphy as such but about him when he was a Minister and a member of this chamber and about actions he took then. Nobody has ever suggested that the status of the judiciary and its standing in this country depend upon the fact that members of it are not criticised. Indeed, they may be heavily criticised. One might even say that they can be attacked if that is appropriate to the circumstances of the case.

In debates in this chamber earlier this year, I believe I quoted the ringing words of Lord Atkin in a well known case. He said that justice is not a cloistered virtue and that judges do not have immunity from criticism of the decisions they take or, indeed, criticism in relation to any of their conduct. My argument in this case has been that overwhelmingly the Australian judiciary has deserved and earned its reputation because of the standard it has adopted so far as the conduct of its members is concerned, the quality of the work they have performed and their dedication to it. That is why the Australian judiciary has that standing; it does not have it because it is not criticised. Members of the judiciary do not want to be immune from criticism. It is quite justified that they be criticised from time to time. Certainly, sustained or unjustified criticism is not deserved by anybody. I am not suggesting that sort of criticism should be made, but I take exception to and strongly differ from the comment that the Attorney made implying that there had been some actions in this place and in another place which had reduced the standing of the judiciary in the eyes of the Australian people. That is not the case at all. The judiciary does not demand immunity from criticism. Such a principle has never been put forward. The Opposition believes that the judiciary has earned its standing and respect in the eyes of the community and the title that it has is seen to epitomise that standing. We believe that that title should not be misappropriated in the way that this Bill proposes.

Question put:

That the clause stand as printed.