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Tuesday, 15 August 1972
Page: 5


Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) (Attorney-General) - It is entirely fitting that this Senate should pay homage to the late Sir Owen Dixon. He was at no time a member of this Parliament, but he was a great Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia in which is reposed the judicial power which the Constitution establishes. His work as a member of the High Court over a period of some 35 years, for 12 of which he was Chief Justice, has left an indelible impact on the development of Australian constitutional law. There would be few who have engaged in the practice of the law or in the work of this Parliament in the last half century who have not had occasion at some time to recognise the unique prestige which he achieved. He was, as Sir Garfield Barwick said on the occasion of the High Court's tribute to his memory, the most outstanding lawyer this country has produced and one of the greatest judges to sit upon a bench in Australia. He established for himself and for the judiciary of Australia a standing of excellence. His contribution to the law in Australia is never likely to be surpassed. He performed many duties in the service of his country but, above all else, it was in his work as a member of the High Court that he will always be remembered with the highest esteem and with great affection. His legal scholarship was immense; his adherence to the lawyer's approach to the construction and application of the Constitution was unfailing.

On the occasion when he was sworn in as Chief Justice he said that the function of the High Court in constitutional matters was to interpret a constitutional description of power or restraint upon power and to determine whether a given measure falls on one side of a line or on the other. In that, he said, close adherence to legal reasoning was the only way to maintain the confidence of all parties in a federal conflict. He said there was no other safe guide to judicial decisions in great conflict than a strict and complete legalism, lt was the stamp of the man and the quality of his intellect that he adhered to that faithfully. I had, as you indicated, Mr President, the inestimable privilege of working with him as his Associate. I know that all who had that same privilege and the privilege of appearing before him will always treasure their memories of a great man of vast legal intellect and also a towering man of unfailing courtesy and great modesty. He was a profound lawyer and a great Australian.







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