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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 1026

Mr SNOW(9.03) —The National Crime Authority (Status and Rights of Chairman) Bill was made necessary by the public controversy which erupted over the appointment of Mr Justice Stewart as Chairman of the National Crime Authority and his subsequent decision to resign from the New South Wales Supreme Court when he completes the Nugan Hand inquiry. The honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) mentioned the opposition to Mr Justice Stewart's appointment. That opposition was led by the Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir Laurence Street. His opposition was based on the argument that a judge should not be appointed to a post so closely associated with the police and prosecution authorities. It should be mentioned that Sir Laurence Street sat in on an inquiry into the activities of the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Neville Wran. Jean Giraudoux said that there is no better way to exercise the imagination than the study of law and that no poet ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets truth. Perhaps that trait can be a strength and perhaps the judges are finding the welter of royal commissions, many of which have led to nothing, increasingly uncomfortable.

The Bill provides that Mr Justice Stewart shall have the same designation, rank , status and precedence as a judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory while he is Chairman of the National Crime Authority and during any period of service by him in another full time office under the Commonwealth. Clause 6 provides that Mr Justice Stewart shall be paid the same remuneration as is payable to a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. I think the honourable member for Dundas would have to agree that any one of us prefers to have job security and that any one of us prefers to have the advantages of retirement provisions. I have never heard the reasons given by Mr Justice Stewart for maintaining his position as a justice. I believe that anyone involved in a five-year appointment can be justified in saying: 'I should like to continue with the retirement provisions to which I am entitled at the moment' .

Mr Justice Stewart was appointed as Chairman of the National Crime Authority on 25 June 1984. He was an ideal choice for the position, because of his extensive experience in investigating organised crime. He was appointed on 25 June 1981 by the Commonwealth Government and the governments of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland as a royal commissioner to inquire into drug trafficking. On 3 November 1982, the New Zealand Government also gave him a commission to report on matters associated with drug trafficking. Following lengthy investigations, he presented his final report to Parliament on 25 February 1983. At present he is completing the Nugan Hand royal commission which has given him even greater expertise in this area. I do not think anyone can deny the fact that Mr Justice Stewart has the expertise and that he is entitled to the present provisions which judges enjoy.

Clause 7 provides that Mr Justice Stewart, during his term of office as Chairman, shall enjoy the conditions of service, including entitlement to leave, which apply to a judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. Sub-clause 7 (2) entitles Mr Justice Stewart at the expiration of his term to long leave in accordance with arrangements for long leave which apply in relation to judges of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. The Bill ensures also that Mr Justice Stewart's service as Chairman of the National Crime Authority is taken into account for the purposes of the Judges' Pension Act 1968 . He may be appointed under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 as a full time Deputy President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. However, if he is so appointed, he is not entitled to remuneration as Deputy President of the AAT, except to the extent, if any, the remuneration for that position exceeds remuneration payable to him as Chairman of the National Crime Authority. The legislation, so far as it concerns judicial title, follows the precedent that was set in 1975 when Mr Justice Else-Mitchell was appointed Chairman of the Grants Commission, following his retirement as a judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court.

It was always contemplated that a judge would head the Authority. The argument for a judicial chairman was based on the wide-ranging coercive powers which are available to the Authority, the sensitivity and difficulty of its task and the need for public confidence in it. Mr Justice Stewart, perhaps the most experienced judicial investigator of organised crime in this country, was asked by the Commonwealth, with the concurrence of the New South Wales Government, to become the inaugural Chairman of the National Crime Authority, following his highly regarded service as a royal commissioner into drug trafficking. He is continuing as a Nugan Hand royal commissioner. It is most unfortunate that the need for this legislation has arisen; however, the Government's view is that, having enacted the National Crime Authority Act 1984 on the basis that the Authority may be headed by a judge, the Parliament should now ensure that Mr Justice Stewart's rights are safeguarded.