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Thursday, 8 December 1960

Sir GARFIELD BARWICK (Parramatta) (Attorney-General) . - Mr. Temporary Chairman, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has asked me for an explanation, may I say, first of all, that it is quite clear that in every instance a chief justice is regarded as having some functions beyond those of the other justices which require additional remuneration. It is quite inaccurate to say that the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia has not any functions different from those of the puisne justices. For one thing, he has to administer the court. That means that he has work off the bench to a much greater extent than do any of the other justices. He is responsible for keeping the work of the court going, for apportioning the time of the court, and so on. But in addition to that, unlike the other justices, he sits on every appeal. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has had sufficient experience of the High Court to know that you always find the Chief Justice presiding over an appeal, unless he is ill or otherwise absent. But the other justices do not sit on every appeal. If five justices are sitting on an appeal, two of the puisne justices are off the bench, perhaps preparing judgments or doing some other duty. But the Chief Justice must remain with his court.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will bear me out. if he harks back to the days when he took some cases in the High Court, when I say that the significance of the Chief Justice in the deliberations of the court is most apparent. His is a very high and very significant office - the highest judicial office in this community. It is quite true that the salary proposed for the Chief Justice of the High Court is a very large one. It is quite true that the differential between the salary paid to a puisne justice and that paid to the Chief Justice is a matter of some judgment. The difference between the two is a large difference, but the duties which the Chief Justice performs in addition to the ordinary duties of a puisne justice are very significant.

In addition to all this, I do not know that people in this country approach this question rightly when they fail to see - the Opposition completely fails to see it - the importance which the standing of these justices has for the prestige of the community. This evening, I have seen a most dangerous thing done. Once a political group begins to denigrate the judge - to pull him down and depreciate his significance - that political group is on the road to ruin and so is the community.

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