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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) (7:11 AM) . - I desire to refer to the action of the Government in appointing ex-Senator Drake-Brockman as a judge of the Arbitration Court. If there is one court in which presiding officers should be men who can be depended upon to discharge their duties impartially it is the Arbitration Court, because so much depends upon the confidence which the contending parties have in those who are to adjudicate between them. Judges of the Arbitration Court should not only be fully qualified from a legal point of view, but they' should also be without class prejudice. I regret that I cannot say that Judge Drake-Brockmaniswithout class bias. It is not pleasant to have to refer in this way to a gentleman occupying a high judicial position, but I have a. duty to perform to the community.We cannot expect industrial peace if either of the parties contesting a case before the court lacks confidence in the judge.Will honorable members say that Judge Drake-Brockman has the qualities which inspire confidence in the bench when industrial matters are being decided? I say advisedly that he is not a proper person to be a judge of the Arbitration Court. I shall produce evidence to show that before his elevation to the bench he was strongly opposed to industrialists. On pages 384 and 385 of Hansard of 13th July, 1922," Senator Drake-Brockman is reported as follows : -

I wish to say with regard to the Arbitration Court, that, in ray opinion, arbitration has been a failure in Australia........ ...... there are more industrial disputes, and more industrial unrest in Australia than in any other part of the world...... we are in a worse position to-day under the arbitration system than we were in before.

A man who has spoken about the Arbitration Court in that way should not be appointed to the Arbitration Court bench. There are not more industrial disputes in Australia than anywhere else, nor is there more industrial unrest here than in any other part of the world. Judge Drake-Brockman said that we are in a worse position to-day under the arbitration system than we were in before Is a man who has given utterance to a statement of that kind a fit man to be put on the Arbitration Court bench? Judge Drake-Brockman maligned Australia because of an Arbitration Court system. The Melbourne Herald, of the 14th April, 1927, declared, in dealing with this appointment, " These political appointments must stop." The Age, of the 20th April, 1927, said-

The objections to the appointment of the former Government Whip, and former president of the Employers' Federation; are so substantially based, and have been advanced with such sincerity, thatMr. Bruce cannot dispose of the matter with a shrug of his shoulders and a wave of his hand.

The West Australian, of the 25 th April, 1927, said-

The appointment of Mr. Drake-Brockman ....... is in a sense regrettable. Mr.

Drake-Brockman, when a senator, was actively associated with the Employers' Federation in industrial matters.

The Age, of the 24th April, 1927, made this further statement: -

It was obvious that a grave mistake has been made...... it is impossible to compliment the Government in this matter .... at present the only party which has suffered in reputation through the appointment is the Bruce government.

The Sunday Times, of Perth, in its issue of the 22nd May, 1927, said : -

The perpetrators of this political frame-up are too old at the game not to be fully aware of the hostility and contempt which would be caused by appointing a forensic nobody to the important and highly technical task of interpreting industrial laws.

Here is a further extract from the Sydney Daily Guardian : -

In careful terms the Nationalist paper West Australian objects to Bruce's appointment of ex-Senator E. A. Drake-Brockman as Federal Arbitration judge.

While not doubting Judge Brockman's "zeal, integrity, and capacity," the newspaper, in an editorial, says: -

The appointment is in a sense regrettable. Mr. Drake-Brockman, when a senator, was a whole-hearted supporter of the Bruce government, and was, at the same time, closely associated with the Employers' Federation in industrial matters.

The Guardian last week protested against a judgeship being made a reward of party loyalty; and last year Smith's Weekly wrote up Mr. Brockman as " Bruce's paragon out of a place."

Judge Brockman was formerly manager of the West Australian for his sister, Lady Hackett, widow of Sir Wentrop Hackett.

I said nothing about the appointment at the time, although I strongly resented it, but subsequent happenings have shown that every statement contained in the newspaper extracts which I have quoted were fully justified. Judge DrakeBrockman's actions on the bench have shown that he is absolutely unqualified for the position he holds, and he should not be there any longer. Take, for instance, his attitude in regard to the Mr Lyell dispute. The Age of the 2nd August, 1927, reported the incident as follows : -

Mr LyellDispute - Judge Makes Unguarded Remark - Union Counsel withdraws from Case. - A remarkable attitude was adopted by Judge Drake-Brockman in the Arbitration Court yesterday. When hearing the views of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, he said it was obvious that they had broken thelaw.

He refused the application made by Mr. Menzies, on behalf of the union, for an adjournment to consider affidavits, the contents "of which he had not been informed, and Mr. Menzies declined to continue. He and Mr. Blackburn, who was instructing him, left tlie court.

After Mr. Menzies had spoken, Judge DrakeBrockman said: On the evidence before the court, it is obvious that your people have broken the law. I am satisfied that this is so and that a stoppage of work took place.

Mr. Menzies:If you are satisfied of that there is no need for affidavits.

His Honor: I am satisfied that this is only an offer to obtain more time. I am not going on with it. I am satisfied that it will not embarrass you.

Mr. Menzies: You place us in a very peculiar position. You have heard only one side of the case and yet express an opinion on it...... This is the first occasion I have heard of a case being gone on with where the law has not been complied with. As you have taken this course my instructions are, in the circumstances, not to appear. ,

Mr. Menziesthen withdrew from the court.

Mr. Dixon,K.C. (appearing for the applicants) : There is now nothing for you to do but move for the order absolute.

His Honor said he would make the order accordingly.

The judge's attitude in connexion with that case proved that he is quite unsatisfactory' for the position he occupies. He pre-judged the case. He did not wait to have any affidavits taken or to hear counsel. No man who sits in judgment can do that. His attitude was just what one might expect from a person who has been associated with the employers all his life. His prejudice got the better of him. Everybody knows how this appointment was made. At the time of the last Senate election Senator DrakeBrockman .was abroad at Geneva. Prior to his going there was a dispute between the two political parties, the Country party and the Nationalists, in regard to Senate candidates. There was just a possibility that Senator Pearce would be defeated if Senator Drake-Brockman stood for election, and something had to be done to save the situation. Senator DrakeBrockman was sent to Geneva, and did not return to Australia in time. The elections were brought on hurriedly in his absence. To compensate him for that, something had to be given to him. He had to get some position, and I suppose he wanted a position that was worth while. Justice should always be pure, but whether it is in the Arbitration Court, or in civil, criminal or equity jurisdiction, our judges should be above suspicion, and they have always been so .until the present Government appointed this man, who has been actively identified with the Employers' Association, and is prejudiced against the working man. Yet he remains on the bench. I think we are justified in saying that this was entirely a political appointment. There are many persons in the Commonwealth who are more fitted for this position than the man who was appointed. Everybody knows that he was hanging about Parliament House for months after his return from Europe, living on the place as it were, and waiting on the doorstep for what might be given to him.

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