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Wednesday, 6 May 1942


Senator ASHLEY (New South WalesPostmasterGeneral and Minister for Information) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

As honorable senators know, the Commonwealth Government recently decided, subject to His Majesty's approval, that the Honorable Sir Owen Dixon, K.C.M.G., 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 bill 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 be 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 appointment, while remaining a justice of the High Court; but, in order to remove any doubt, provision is made by clause' 3 of the bill to override that section by providing -

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 as 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.

Under section 48a of the Judiciary Act the pension of a justice of the High Court on retirement depends upon the number of years in 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 Commonwealth Minister in the United States of America and perform the duties of that office shall be regarded as included in his period of service as a justice of the High Court.

Whilst the bill, for simplicity, contains no reference to the present war, the necessity for the utilization of SiT Owen's services has arisen out of the war, and the special significance attaching to the diplomatic relations between the two countries at the present time renders it vital that the Commonwealth's representative should be a man of the highest attainments and reputation. I feel confident that honorable senators will agree that Sir Owen Dixon is eminently suited for the position. He has had a distinguished career. After a successful period at the bar, he was appointed a justice of the High Court of Australia in 1929, a position which he has continued to occupy with great distinction. Sir Owen lias, in addition to his duties as a justice of the High Court, performed services Cor 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 this appointment will not only commend itself to honorable senators, but also receive the approval of the people of Australia. [ trust that the bill will have a speedy passage.







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