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Tuesday, 10 November 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 amend the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949-1.963 to make provision for the office of a senior puisne judge on the Supreme Court of Papua and New Guinea Act 1949-1963 to desirable, having regard to the special conditions of the Territory, and possible future developments in its judicial system, to provide in the Act for the appointment of one judge, who is clearly distinguished by rank and appointment, to act as Chief Justice where necessary.

The Supreme Court bench at present consists of the Chief Justice and three judges. The Chief Justice and the judges are on circuit for a considerable part of each year and it is the practice of the court to sit without the usual recesses for law vacations. Judges receive the usual leave entitlements for Territory service, so that the occasions on which the Chief Justice is absent from duty are more frequent than we might expect in the Australian courts which sit during regular law terms, at the end of which members of the judiciary normally take their vacations.

The second consideration in the proposal for a senior puisne judge is that it would facilitate the establishment of a Full Supreme Court of Papua and New Guinea if provision were made for appeals to be heard in the Territory in the first instance. This would be a logical development in a courts system designed to meet the requirements of a Territory which is being advanced with a view to eventual self-government or independence.

A system of appeals from the decision of a judge to the Full Supreme Court of the Territory would mean that decisions of the Chief Justice could be subject to appeal. An alternative chairman to the Chief Justice would, therefore, have to be available to sit on these appeals, and other appeals on which the Chief Justice is unable to sit.

Referring briefly to the provisions of the Bill, honorable senators will note that the only amendment proposed is contained in clause 3, which provides for the insertion of a new sub-section in section 58 to provide that the Governor-General may appoint a puisne judge to be the senior puisne judge with seniority next after the Chief Justice.

Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.

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