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Wednesday, 10 April 1946

Mr WILLIAMS (Robertson) .- In reply to a point which I made in my second-reading speech, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) suggested that it. might be argued that the Government intended to coerce judges ' if it provided for their compulsory retirement. 1 should like now to deal further with that point. Under the Constitution, justices of the High Court are appointed for life ; and that is the end of the matter. The Parliament should conform to public opinion with regard to the retirement of justices at the age of 70 years.. On that matter I refer to what is being done in the United States of America. I take the following quotation from the United States Code -

When any judge of any court of the United States, appointed to hold his office during good behavior, resigns his office after having held a commission or commissions as judge of any such court or courts at least ten years, continuously or otherwise, and having attained the age "of seventy years, he shall, during the residue of his natural life, receive the salary which is payable at the time of his resignation for the' office that he held at the time of his resignation.

In the United States of America justices of the Supreme Court retire ' on full salary; but, whilst under the Constitution justices of our High Court are appointed for life, the Judiciary Act pro;vides that when they -retire voluntarily they shall receive half of the amount of the salary they were receiving at the date of retirement. If a judge knew that when he had reached the age of 70 years he could retire on a full salary, he might do so and make way for a younger man. The AttorneyGeneral will answer the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) perhaps better than I can. Nevertheless, 1 am bound to say that the remarks of that honorable member were most irresponsible. I was astonished to hear an intelligent man make the statements that, he made. We did not hear any protest from honorable members who now sit opposite when Sir John Latham, who had been Attorney-General in a government which they supported, was appointed to the High Court Bench. Many other gentlemen who had had honorable careers in politics, and had served their country well, have been placed on the High Court Bench without protest by honorable members opposite. Yet, now that it is believed that a gentleman allied in some way with the Labour party may be appointed to the High Court Bench, they clamour against such an appointment, and even suggest that if it be made the gentleman chosen to fill that high office will so prostitute his abilities as to dishonour his oath. No other interpretation can be placed on what was said by the honorable member for Richmond. I am certain that any man appointed to the judiciary by this Government will conduct himself with great ability, and will do honour to his profession. I hope that there will be no further protests, and that honorable members opposite will view fairly any appointment that may be made. 'It is necessary to have seven justices on the High -Court Bench. I arn entirely in favour of the bill, and trust, that an appointment will be made at an early date.

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