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Wednesday, 1 December 1965

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) . - Apparently the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) has not taken the point 1 was endeavouring to establish. All I am suggesting is that the members of this tribunal should adopt the same standards as judges adopt. In the case of the judiciary, this flows from long experience of legal ethics. People appointed as judges have a lot of previous experience of legal ethics.

The point I am trying to make is that judges have this established system of legal ethics. It is not necessary to write into the law as regards judges. There is a body of legal precedent which governs the conduct of judges, who have come up through the legal profession. In the tribunal that we are establishing, especially with the lay members whom we are appointing, there is no established code of ethics as to how they should act on a tribunal. They will not have been on a tribunal before. They will be practised in business, but they will not be practised in acting on a tribunal. This kind of tribunal is coming in de novo. It has no tradition behind it. If it had a tradition behind it equivalent to the tradition of the common law, it would not be necessary to write in this provision. If we were dealing only with judges, then, of course, again it would not be necessary to write in this provision, But since we are dealing with lay members who are going to be appointed to act in a field where they have no experience and where there is no body of ethics relating to the conduct of such a tribunal to guide them, I think we should incorporate this provision. If I remember correctly, earlier in the debate the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) made a statement relating to the conduct of a person who, without disclosing his interest, sat as a member of an import tribunal.

Mr Killen - It did happen.

Mr WENTWORTH - I can well imagine it happening. It may not be so reprehensible if we do not write this specific provision into the law. I have already indicated that I cannot accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton because I do not think it goes far enough in one direction but goes too far in another direction. I think it is impractical to ask these lay members to disclose all their interests in every company and in every organisation in Australia. I do not think it is worth much to ask them to disclose their interests to the Attorney-General, but I do ask for something which although more limited is much sharper - that any person sitting on a tribunal should publicly disclose his interest in the case before the tribunal prior to the tribunal sitting. If he does not want to disclose his interest publicly, he should go to the President and say: " Do not put me on this tribunal because I have an interest ". He then would not be required to sit as a member of the tribunal and this question would never arise. But if he does not say this to the President and, in fact, sits on the tribunal while having an interest in the matter before it, he should disclose that in the public interest, in the interests of justice and in order to be fair.

I cannot support the amendment before the Committee or the further amendment to it, but I suggest to the Attorney-General that something is needed. There is a gap in the legislation, and for the very reasons that he has given I believe that the gap should be closed.

Question put -

That the amendment (Mr. Whitlam's) to the proposed amendment (Mr. Kitten's) be agreed to.

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