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Wednesday, 10 April 1946


Mr MORGAN (Reid) .- The same kind of objections are always raised by honorable members opposite whenever appointments to the High Court Bench are contemplated by a Labour government. They were raised when it was proposed to appoint .the present AttorneyGeneral, Dr. Evatt, and Mr. McTiernan. We know that Mr. Justice McTiernan has given a good account of himself, and that the decisions of Mr. Justice Evatt, were almost invariably upheld by the Privy Council, even when they' differed from those of a majority of the High Court. The fact that he stepped down from the Bench to serve his country during a time of grave crisis showed that he placed the interests of the nation before his own. No criticism was offered by honorable members opposite when it was proposed to appoint to the High Court Bench someone who had taken a part in their own political activities, or ong who has been an advocate of an employers organization. When it was proposed to appoint Mr. Piddington, a prominent King's Counsel in New South Wales, and a well-known humanitarian, to the High Court, the proposal was criticized by the press, presumably because he was not the representative of vested interests. Mr. Piddington, being a man of honour, was not prepared to accept the appointment in view of the clamour which had been raised. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has prejudiced the issue by suggesting that there is something sinister in the Government's proposal, and his attack may have the effect of making prominent lawyers hesitate to accept an appointment. Actually, the position is very simple. The number of judges on the High Court Bench was reduced from seven to six, and it is now proposed to restore the number to seven. This is desirable so that, in all cases brought before the court, there shall be a majority one way or another. As things now stand, it has sometimes happened that an unfortunate litigant, after having convinced three of the judges that his appeal should be upheld, has lost his case because the other three were against him. Some time ago, a man was charged with the murder of

a.   child in Victoria in. particularly horrible circumstances, and the defence advanced in his case was insanity. Had this defence been established, the man would have been committed to an asylum because, in law, an insane person cannot, be held responsible for a crime. The man was convicted of murder, and appealed to the High Court, which was. , evenly divided on the issue, with the result that the man was hanged. An autopsy proved that he was insane,, which meant that he should not have been hanged. I have no doubt that the Government has in mind a very suitable appointment to the Bench, and the matter should not be prejudiced by the intemperate statements of honorable members opposite.







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