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Thursday, 29 November 1973

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise) - Here we are noting that in the last financial year some $62,900 was paid to Sir Richard Kirby. He had been appointed a judge of the old Court of Conciliation and Arbitration many years ago. After the boilermakers case he was appointed as President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which is a non-judicial office. He continued as a judge of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration which, in the boilermakers case, was declared to be a non-judicial court. So we are not dealing with the independence of the judiciary. That is the point I made. This was an administrative officer beyond any question whatever. I say this because of the red herring of the independence of the judiciary which has been dragged in. This is an officer who gave great service to this country. He performed that service during the period of the previous Government. I think that he was in office under this Government for only some 5 or 6 months. During a good period of that time he was rather ill. So it is absurd and, I think, very wrong to have these suggestions cast around this chamber that somewhere there might be something about special favours for services rendered or all this kind of nonsense.

Senator Wright - That is quite obviously abuse of the position by the Government. It is an obvious case of patronage.

Senator MURPHY - The honourable senator speaks of patronage and abuse. I heard him say worse things on television. Things were said before he spoke about the office. I am informed that in 28 years service Sir Richard Kirby was not able to take more than 3 months long service leave. That was because of requests by the Government that he not take his leave and that he attend to the industrial disputes which were occurring. I am also informed that this information was given by Sir Richard in his letter of 24 July 1972 to the Honourable Phillip Lynch and to Senator Greenwood. I think that Mr Lynch was then the Minister for Labour and National Service and that Senator Greenwood was the Attorney-General. Honourable senators will realise that Sir Richard Kirby informed these Ministers of the Crown what the position was. If they dispute what was said by him they have had ample opportunity to inquire into the matter.

All I am able to tell the Senate now is that the Government accepts what was said by Sir Richard Kirby. Many people well versed in industrial affairs knew what Sir Richard had done over the years. They knew that he had not been able to take his long service leave and they accepted the proposition that he was unable to take leave to which he was entitled and which was in excess of 2 years. This was not because of his own volition but because of the requests of the Government. The principle had been established that where long service leave had not been taken the person- whether a judge, a nonjudicial or quasi-judicial officer but certainly a person in the position of the President- would be entitled to payment in lieu of that long service leave. In view of the statement that he had not taken the amount to which he was entitled because of the requests of the Government it was considered proper to accede to his request that he be paid a sum equal to 2 years long service leave. That has been included in the documents put before Parliament. As I recall the matter, it was covered by a decision of the Executive Council. Certainly the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made the decision on the matter. I think others were consulted and I certainly was consulted. The Government thinks it was right and proper in the circumstances and that it ought not be used as a vehicle for another of the attacks aimed at endeavouring to undermine the judiciary or those occupying quasi-judicial or high administrative offices in this community.

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