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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) (9:32 AM) . - It is somewhat difficult to express oneself in the temperate language becoming a representative of the people in a deliberate assembly, when one takes into consideration the circumstances in which we are compelled to debate the Estimates. This is the first opportunity that I have had, since the Estimates were brought forward for consideration - I suggest ill-matured consideration - to register my protest against, and indignation at, the way in which the representatives of the people are being deprived of the right to give adequate expressions to the opinions of their constituents. The public will not condone the offence of the Government when it recognizes that no excuse can be urged for not presenting the Estimates at an earlier and more opportune time.

I desire to address myself particularly to the appointment of Judge Drake-Brockman. His was .a most unfortunate selection. Any one appointed to our Arbitration Court Bench must possess the confidence and respect of employer and employee alike, and must be entirely free from any suspicion of partisanship. Those characteristics cannot be applied to Judge Drake-Brockman. 'His earlier active political associations were directly opposed in outlook to organized labour, and must bias his judgment. It is essential that those presiding over our civil, criminal and conciliation and arbitration tribunals should hold the scales of justice evenly, so that our great system of jurisprudence may maintain and even add lustre to its present splendid reputation. One asks oneself what special qualifications Judge DrakeBrockman possessed for the position. It has been advanced by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) that he was a man of some eminence in his profession, and that his extensive practice in Western Australia justified his appointment. From what I can learn his practice was of meagre proportions compared with that of successful practitioners in Western Australia. He certainly did not enjoy the prominence at the bar that the honorable gentleman indicated, andwhichhas been urged as a justification for. his selection. Did it not occur to the Attorney-General that men possessing the qualifications of Deputy Judge Webb and Deputy Judge Jethro-Brown, or even those of Deputy Judge Sir John Quick, were eminently better qualified for the position. A grave injustice has been done to Deputy Judge Webb, in particular. That gentleman while acting in a temporary capacity on our Arbitration Court Bench acquitted himself with great credit. His impartiality was undoubted. He rendered the country extremely valuable service, and it would have been most appropriate to makehis appointment permanent. At great personal inconvenience that gen thuan made himself thoroughly conversant with the details of every action which came before him. In many cases he gave judgments highly in favour of the employees of various industries, but in no case could he be suspected of bias. He proved himself to possess, to an extraordinary degree, the qualifications re-'' quired of an Arbitration Court judge. It is therefore remarkable that his claims were overlooked and that those of such an individual as Judge Drake-Brockman were given prior consideration. Rightly or wrongly, I am prompted to believe that the appointment of the latter gentleman savours of political partisanship - of the principle of " the spoils to the victors." It appears to me to have been a reward to one who rendered the Nationalist Party considerable service in the political sphere. My opinion is that the earlier associations of that gentleman tend to bias his outlook and impair his impartiality. The Attorney-General, in attempting to justify the appointment of Judge Drake-Brockman, explained how that gentleman became associated with the Employers' Federation. He endeavoured to make it appear that it was quite by chance that the Employers' Federation selected him- - that, as trustee for a certain estate, he was brought into touch with commercial activities, where his outstanding ability and impartiality strongly impressed the Employers' Federation. It appears to me that there was something more than meets the eye behind the selection. He was the president of the Employers' Federation, and was appointed to that position in recognition of the valuable services that he had rendered or was likely to render to that organization, and particularly in view of the fact that he had a considerable amount of political influence, and at times was admitted to the counsels of this Government. It is very evident from the organized propaganda that has been instituted by the Employers' Federation throughout Australia, that it is trying to alienate sympathy from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Recently, Mr. Brooks, who is associated with commercial interests, made a speech in Perth. He strongly denounced the Arbitration Court as being a means of unduly increasing the standard of living of the workers. It was not an isolated outburst, because Mr. Bakewell, of South Australia, was equally emphatic in his declaration that innumerable anomalies existed in respect of our system of arbitration, and he doubted the wisdom of continuing the court as it is constituted at present. In addition, Sir David Gordon, of South Australia, has expressed a lack of confidence in the Arbitration Court; in fact he styled it an " irresponsible tribunal." Even honorable members supporting the Government have repeatedly stated that they are greatly dissatisfied with the present system of arbitration. It is very evident that a well organized attempt is being made to depreciate the value of arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. The appointment of Judge DrakeBrockman is calculated to destroy the confidence of the working class in the Arbitration Court and to arouse suspicion and mistrust of those appointed by the Commonwealth Government to fix wages and conditions.

Mr Jackson - Tell us something about the waterside workers.

Mr MAKIN - No doubt tbe circumstances associated with this recent appointment to the Arbitration Court has destroyed the confidence of the water-side workers in that institution as a means to prevent and settle industrial disputes, and to fix fair wages and conditions. It is remarkable that Judge Drake-Brockman was appointed immediately after the court decided upon a working week of 44 hours. Evidently the Government hopes to have that award reviewed and with the aid of Judge Drake-Brockman to upset it. Any interference with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the standards that it has set in respect of wages and conditions, will surely lead to suspicion and unrest. The workmen have a right to expect absolute impartiality from the judiciary. Would any one contend that Judge DrakeBrockman holds qualifications equal to those of eminent members of the legal profession who would have been well pleased to accept a position on Arbitration Court?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Prowse - The honorable member's time has expired.

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