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Thursday, 29 October 1964


Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to alter the number of judges who may be appointed to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The amendment proposed to be made by clause 3 will enable the number of judges, apart from the Chief Judge, to be increased from three to four. Clause 4 deals with an associated matter to which I shall refer in a moment. When the Commonwealth Industrial Court was established in 1956 provision was made for a Chief Judge and not more than two other judges. This number was, however, soon shown to be insufficient. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act requires that, in general, not less than two judges must sit to constitute the Court. In the early days of the Court, it was the practice to assemble a court of three judges, and the Chief

Judge should be in a position to do this whenever occasion calls for it. Unavailability of a judge because of other judicial work or for any other reason can make this impossible and indeed, at times, has caused difficulty in assembling a court of two judges. In 1960, one of the judges went abroad on extended leave of absence. In the same year, the judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory resigned. Rather than appoint a successor to him at that stage, it was considered preferable to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to enlarge the Industrial Court by one judge so that the Industrial Court judges could between them carry out the functions of the Australian Capital Territory judge as well as their own f- motions.

Since 1960, therefore, and until recently, the three judges of the Industrial Court, other than the Chief Judge, have done the whole of the judicial work of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, but this work so increased that it became necessary, in July of this year, to appoint a judge specifically to that Court. The Industrial Court judges are still required to assist with the judicial work of that Court, and with the rapid growth in population it is clear that that assistance will increasingly be necessary.

The Industrial Court judges are also additional judges of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, and, as such, afford relief, when necessary, for the judge of that Court. They are also the judges of the Supreme Courts of the smaller external Territories, Cocos Island, Christmas Island and Norfolk Island. The Chief Judge has, in addition to his strictly judicial duties, undertaken a number of quasi-judicial assignments. Since 1961, he has been the judge appointed under the Navigation Act to conduct courts of marine inquiry; on a number of occasions he has presided over boards of accident inquiry under the Air Navigation Regulations; in 1958 and 1959 he was chairman of the committee appointed to review the copyright law of the Commonwealth, and recently he acted as arbitrator under section 13a of the Copyright Act 1912-1963. He was of course the Royal Commissioner who inquired into the collision between H.M.A.S. "Melbourne" and H.M.A.S. " Voyager ". An example of other calls on the time of one or other of the judges of the Industrial Court is the inquiry at present being undertaken by Mr. Justice Eggleston with a view to recommending standard rates of professorial and other academic salaries as a measure for the purpose of recommending grants to be made to universities. Another example is a recent request from the Government of Fiji for one of our senior judges to be made available to sit as a member of its Court of Appeal, perhaps three times a year and for two or more weeks on each occasion.

The Government thinks the Industrial Court judges, apart from the Chief Judge, should be increased in number from three to four. The industrial cases in their nature and consequences, are such that they must frequently come on without delay. The Chief Judge has been unable on many occasions to assemble a court of three judge-s, and the court has had to sit with only two judges. The Chief Judge should be in a position after allowing for the absence of judges due to illness, or on leave, or on duty elsewhere, to assemble, with little or no notice, a court of three judges. It is further necessary to be able to do this while still giving assistance in the increasing judicial work of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, and the judges must still be able to cope expeditiously with demands made on them to undertake other judicial assignments such as I have referred to.

Clause 4 of the Bill was included, originally, to place it beyond doubt that acceptance of judicial office in Fiji, which of course is outside the Commonwealth and its Territories, will not create any inconsistency with a judge's position as a judge of the Industrial Court that might conceivably affect the validity of his commission as such a judge. It was thought proper to state expressly that a judge will receive no remuneration in respect of appointment as to Fiji. This, of course, is already the position in regard to Territory commissions a judge may hold. It was also necessary to say, for the purposes only of section 101 of the Act, that a judge absent from Australia performing the duties of an appointment such as to Fiji, would be deemed to be absent on leave, so that, if the powers and functions of the Chief Judge would otherwise devolve on him, they would then devolve on the judge next below him in the order of seniority.

These were the original considerations behind clause 4. But, in drafting the clause, it appeared undesirable to refer to appointments like Fiji without also referring to judicial appointments in our own Territories, because the judges of the Industrial Court do hold commissions in the various Territories, and the Bill should exclude any possible inference of inconsistency between those commissions and the Industrial Court commissions. As the Territory commissions have been effective for some time, the clause is retrospective in relation to them. I commend the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Senator Cohen) adjourned.







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