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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Mr McGRATH (Ballarat) (8:13 AM) - I regret that it is necessary to refer to this appointment. With other honorable members who sit on this side I am a great believer in arbitration. I want every industrial dispute to be referred to the Arbitration Court, and its award obeyed by both parties. I feel, however, that if many more appointments of this character are made arbitration will cease to be the means by which disputes will be settled in Australia. It is of no use to tell us, as the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) did, of certain apments that were made in Queensland. We were not responsible for thos appointments. If political considerations were the governing factor, I very much regret it. We can at least say that all previous appointments to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court - and they were made by opponents of Labour - have been above suspicion and were not challenged by Labour. The appointees have been men who stood high in the legal profession and held the respect of practically every class in the community. It remained for this Government to depart from that practice. It must be remembered that the working classes to-day are not ignorant ; they can read, and they know exactly whatis going on. Prior to the last general election, the Government took full advantage of the. shipping trouble and also raised the cry of Bolshevism. At about that time there was a quarrel between the Nationalist and Country parties in. Western Australia, and there was some trouble about the selection of candidates for the Senate. The Country party insisted upon nominating a candidate and, to clear the way, Senator Drake-Brockman, as he was then, decided not to submit his name for pre-selection. His decision made possible the amalgamation of the two parties for the purpose of contesting the Senate vacancies for Western Australia. Almost immediately following his withdrawal, the Government announced his appointment as the representative of Australia at the approaching League of Nations Assembly at Geneva. I asked the Prime Minister in the House if that was Senator Drake-Brockman's reward for withdrawing from the selection ballot, and of course the right honorable gentleman indignantly repudiated the idea. Senator Drake-Brockman returned to Australia to find that his party had been victorious at the polls, and then came what I believe was the fulfilment of the other promise - his appointment to the vacant judgeship to the Arbitration Court. The Ministry has no reason to he proud of its appointment. The honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) mentioned Mr. Drake-Brockman's special qualifications for the position; he did not tell the committee what that gentleman had done in his profession. We know that he could get no work in Melbourne. The Attorney-General suggested that, having served his country during the war, Mr. Drake-Brockman lost his legal practice. I remind him that other "gentlemen of the legal profession also served in the war and upon their return to Australia engaged in practice again. I need only mention the case of the Honorable W. Slater, the present Attorney-General of Victoria. He was qualifying to become a solicitor when war broke out; upon his return he diligently applied himself to his profession and has. since risen high in it.

Mr. A.Green. - Mr. Drake-Brockman had no practice in Western Australia before he left for the front.

Mr McGRATH - He had no practice because he had no. ability. The newspaper that employed him and knew him best was the first to decry his appointment to the Arbitration Court bench. When- Mr. Drake-Brockman came back he could get nothing to do- as a barrister because he was totally lacking in ability. He is now one of our Arbitration Court judges simply because of the peculiar combination of political circumstances in Western Australia. I regret the appointment very much. It will weaken the confidence of the people who have to appeal- before the court. His decisions may be sound enough, but there will always be the- suspicion that they are biased because of the manner in which his appointment was made. The Ministry deserves the severest condemnation for its action. I trust that the- Government will never make another appointment in this way.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Duncan -Hughes). - Owing to- an inexactitude in drafting; the Department of Trade, and Customs has been included' in the portion of the- Estimates which is to be taken up- to 12 o'clock to-day. I am informed by the Prime Minister that with the concurrence of the honorable- the

Leader of the Opposition, it is intended that the Department of Trade and Customs shall not be taken up to 12 o'clock, but that it shall fall into the next section, which has to be taken between 12 noon and 5 p.m. The department mentioned will be the first to be dealt with during that period. .

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