Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 6 May 1942


Mr BEASLEY (West Sydney) (Acting Attorney-General) . - by leave - T move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Honorable members are aware that the Commonwealth Government recently decided, subject to His Majesty's approval, that the Honorable Sir Owen Dixon, a Justice of the High Court of Australia, should become His Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America, in succession to the Right Honorable R. G. Casey. The object of this hill is to enable the Government to utilize the services of the Honorable Sir Owen Dixon in that office without his position as a Justice of the High Court of Australia being prejudiced in any way.

Section 8 of the Judiciary Act reads -

A Justice of the High Court shall not he capable of accepting or holding any other office or any other place of profit within the Commonwealth except any such judicial office as may be conferred upon him by or under any law of the Commonwealth.

It is not quite clear whether this section would exclude Sir Owen Dixon from accepting this position while remaining a justice of the High Court. In order to remove any doubt that may exist, provision is made by clause 3 of the bill to override that provision, in the following terms : -

Notwithstanding anything contained in the Judiciary Act 1903-1940, if His Majesty shall see fit to appoint the Honorable Owen Dixon to be Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America, he may accept that appointment and hold the same act well as the office of a Justice of the High Court of Australia and his service as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America shall for all purposes count as service in the office of a Justice.

By section 48a of the Judiciary Act, the pension of a justice of the High Court upon retirement depends upon the number of years during which he has served in that office. It is desirable, therefore, to make it clear that any period during which Sir Owen Dixon may hold the office of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America, and shall perform the duties of that office, shall be included in his period of service as a justice of the High Court of Australia.

Whilst the bill, for simplicity reasons, does not contain any reference to the present war, the necessity for the utilization of Sir Owen Dixon's services has arisen out of the war, and the special significance that is attached at present to the diplomatic relations between Australia and the United States of America renders it vital that the Commonwealth representative in that country shall be a man of the highest attainments and reputation. I feel confident that honorable members will agree that Sir Owen Dixon is eminently suitable for the position. He has had a distinguished career.

After practising successfully at the bar, he was appointed a justice of the High Court of Australia in 1939, a position which he has continued to occupy with great distinction. Sir Owen has, in addition to his duties as a justice of the High Court, performed services for this country as chairman of the Central Wool Committee since 1940, and chairman of the Australian Coastal Shipping Control Board and Marine War Risks Insurance Board since 1941. The Government considers itself fortunate in having been able to obtain the services of an Australian of such outstanding ability to fill its most important diplomatic post abroad. I feel sure that the appointment will commend itself to honorable members and receive the approval of the people of Australia. Events of the last few months have combined to make the position to which Sir Owen Dixon has been appointed one of great importance. I need only refer to the formation of the Pacific Council, the supply of equipment and munitions by the United States of America to Australia, and the presence of American forces in this country in order to show how important is the matter of Australian representation in the United States of America, and how close are the relations between the two countries. With a full recognition of these considerations, the Government has made its choice of a representative, and now deems it necessary that this measure should go through the Parliament as quickly as possible, in order to safeguard the position of Sir Owen Dixon in this country. I commend the bill to honorable members, and trust that it will have a speedy passage through the House.







Suggest corrections