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Wednesday, 1 December 1965

Mr BOWEN (Parramatta) .- Clause 10 as it stands permits economists to be appointed as members of the tribunal providing they have a knowledge of, or experience in, industry and commerce. What is suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) is that we should appoint an economist who might be a pure academic who has no knowledge of industry and no experience in commerce, because if a person has such knowledge and such experience he may be appointed as the clause stands at present. I have considerable respect for economists and the contribution which they make towards solving problems of the type with which this tribunal will be concerned, but it must be remembered that the tribunal will be concerned with judging and not with theorising. It will have to make judgments about the affairs of a particular business and I am not persuaded that it would be an advantage to have on the tribunal a pure academic.

There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. Clause 10 (1.) provides that a person shall not be appointed as a presidential member unless he is or has been a barrister or solicitor of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State of not less than five years standing. The AttorneyGeneral has indicated that the Government intends to appoint persons who also have judicial status. It would not be a difficult matter to insert in the Bill a provision to that effect, and I ask the Government to consider specifying that in the Bill. At the time when this matter was first under discussion the business community seemed to favour an informal tribunal. The suggestion was perhaps that lawyers should not have too much say on it. I understand that now there is an increasing desire to have on the tribunal a lawyer of the highest possible standing. The reason for this is not far to seek. Businessmen have come more and more to realise that the decisions which will be made by this tribunal will be of far reaching importance. We know that one can proceed in the High Court as a matter of right if as 'little as £1,500 is involved. It can be expected that matters involving far greater amounts will come before this tribunal. Therefore the business community requires the members of the tribunal to be of the highest standing. They do not want a tribunal that could be described as a second rate quasi-judicial tribunal.

I offer the suggestion that the reference to a person having judicial status might well be written into the Bill because otherwise in the future the course which the Government has said it will observe could easily be abandoned. There is no great difficulty. It is true that judges cannot be appointed to perform the functions set out in this Bill, but a judge could be made persona designate for seven years, and as that designated person he could carry out the duties of a presidential member of the tribunal.

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