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Wednesday, 1 December 1965

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (AttorneyGeneral) . - I understand the desire of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) to pursue this matter as far as he can. I understand his motives in moving the amendment but there are several reasons why it cannot be accepted. Perhaps the most significant reason is that the honorable gentleman would be putting members of the Tribunal in a situation where they would not know what they had to disclose. Suppose a case came before the Tribunal relating to an agreement as to the price of pencils. Suppose also that a member of the Tribunal had an interest directly in a company manufacturing pens, in a company which owned forest holdings or in a company which sold pencils. How would he know when he had to make a disclosure? About what would he have to make a disclosure? The consequence of it is that the members of the tribunal would find that they were forever in jeopardy in relation to sitting on a matter. The net result would be that the procedures of the tribunal would be seriously interrupted. In this matter the tribunal must act in a quasi-judicial fashion. It must wherever possible be regarded as having a judicial function, although constitutionally it cannot be regarded as a judicial body. For all that it will, in reaching these most important determinations as to wherein lies the public interest and whether or not a particular matter is consistent with or contrary to the Act, act in an objective fashion. To suggest that the tribunal would not do so, or that individual members of it would not do so, does not do them a service.

As it was put to me while I was walking over to this side of the House recently by an honorable member: " It rather sounds like wanting to eat your cake and have it too ". If we want these members to be of such a standard that we can have confidence in them and can regard them in all senses as being objective and behaving in as judicial a fashion as it is possible for them to behave, they must be equated in all ways to holders of judicial offices, especially when we think that the Committee has already negatived the idea of separation of these people as between judicial members and other members. I can understand the anxiety of the honorable member to pursue this matter. He has made his point. It has registered. If I may say to him, with due humility, the same point registered with me months ago and I gave it intensive consideration. I had the benefit of the advice of senior officers of the department who know this matter very well and who have had the opportunity of sitting down and considering the full range of implications. I had the opportunity of discussions with the Parliamentary Draftsman. But most importantly I had tha opportunity of consideration with Cabinet, when the matter was canvassed. The decision which was there reached, is that which is in the Bill. There has been a great deal said. I think that the arguments have been fully and adequately canvassed.

Progress reported.

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