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Thursday, 25 October 1973

Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - I rise only briefly- it being some time since I moved the original amendment- to say that I regret that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has not been more forthcoming in explaining why there is a need for an increase in the number of judges. I see advantagewe welcome the Government's acceptance of the principle- in there not being an unlimited number of judges in the Commonwealth Industrial Court. We believe, in terms of past performances, that eight is an adequate number. It appears from the fact that the Government will accept the Australian Democratic Labor Party's amendment that we may expect there to be 10 judges. 1 repeat my earlier statement that the work of the Commonwealth Industrial Court is exceptionally limited. The fact that in times past some of its members have taken advisory or commission roles and have become members of boards of inquiry is because they could be spared without detriment to the work of the Industrial Court. The reason why they are also members of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory and the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory is that they could be spared from the work of the Industrial Court. I am quite sure that the record of work in the Industrial Court does not impose those burdens which would necessitate the additional appointments. Senator James McClelland indicated, I thought, in fact only 6 judges were available and that one of those judges is ill. I am not sure to which judge he was adverting.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Five are available, including one who is ill.

Senator GREENWOOD -Apparently 5 judges are available of whom one- the one to whom he was adverting- is indisposed. I know that a number of the judges are elderly, but they work at their task diligently. It is not a task which requires a great deal of time. On 18 September I asked, by way of a question on notice, the names of the judges, what other appointments they held for each of the last 3 calendar years, the days on which they have been occupied in court and generally what other appointments they have held. I should have thought that as part of the preparation of this Bill some, if not all, of that information would have been readily available to the Department of Labour and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). I know it is available in the Attorney-General's Department. The question was, of course, asked of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy). I would very much like to have seen what the position was because the areas in which the Industrial Court sits at the present time are limited. It is not a very extensive jurisdiction. Be that as it may, the Government has decided that it will appoint 2 extra judges. 1 would welcome a clear exposition from the Government, if only to dispel the rumours that the Minister has committed himself by promising appointments to 2 people and that he desires to honour the promises which have been made. Whilst no explanation is forthcoming one can only suppose that there might be some basis to the rumour, which is fairly prevalent. I must say that, if for nothing else, this debate is to be remembered because I do not think I have heard such fine expositions from supporters of the Government of the work of members of the legal profession and of the duties and obligations of judges and the dedication with which they perform their tasks. That must indicate, of course, that the harsh words which were spoken by supporters of the Government when in Opposition about members of the Industrial Court are now forgotten and are not to be repeated. I am sure the members of the Court will appreciate the recognition that has been given to them, albeit belatedly, by the members of the Australian Labor Party.

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